I Love Chocolate

by Stephanie Zonis


Boston Cream Pie (for my Dad)

8 to 10 servings.


A typical Boston Cream Pie consists of two spongecake layers (or one thicker layer, split in half), sandwiched with a vanilla pastry cream or pudding, and a chocolate glaze. There's nothing fancy or chic about it, and it is a "comfort food" for me, because my mom made it when I was a child. It has always been a favorite dessert of my father's. This is a slightly more grown-up version; the spongecake is replaced by two thin layers of orange chiffon cake, and the layers are sprinkled with a bit of orange liqueur (which can, of course, be omitted if you wish). I tried sandwiching the layers with a chocolate pastry cream, but it overwhelmed the fresh citrus flavor of the cake (some things just can't be improved upon).

Make the pastry cream first, as it must be well-chilled before you use it. The layers go together quickly, have a short baking time, and don't take long to cool. I think this is at its best between about two and twenty-four hours after assembly. The flavors need a little time to blend, but this dessert isn't a long keeper, either, and it will not freeze well. It can also be a bit on the messy side, but is nonetheless delicious. By the way, no one knows why this is called a pie. Happy Father's Day, Dad.


Pastry Cream:
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
Few grains salt
3 egg yolks, from eggs graded "large"
1 cup whole milk, divided
4 Tbsp. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small bits
2 tsp. vanilla

Orange Chiffon Layers:
1-2/3 cups sifted cake flour
1 cup granulated sugar, divided
2 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt
4 eggs, graded "large",
   separated and at room temperature
1/2 cup orange juice
   (if freshly-squeezed, strain before measuring)
1/3 cup corn oil
   (or other tasteless vegetable oil)
Grated zest of 1 large orange
2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

Chocolate Glaze:
3 ounces best-quality semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
Few grains salt
1/3 cup heavy cream

For Assembly:
4 Tbsp. Triple Sec or other orange liqueur, divided


For Pastry Cream:
Have ready a fine-mesh strainer, a heatproof liquid measuring cup or small pitcher of 2-cup capacity, and a pot holder. Set the potholder on the kitchen counter near the stovetop. Place the liquid measuring cup on the pot holder, then place the strainer into the measuring cup. Have ready a piece of plastic wrap pierced with a knife tip in at least 6 to 8 places.

In small, heavy-bottomed pot, combine sugar, flour, and salt. With small whisk, whisk well to blend thoroughly. Set aside near stovetop.

Place egg yolks in small bowl. Measure out 1 Tbsp. milk (reserve remainder) and add it to the yolks. With fork, beat to blend well. Set aside near stovetop.

Still off the heat, add 1 to 2 Tbsp. Of the remaining milk (reserve remainder) to the sugar-flour mixture. Whisk in well to form a thick, smooth paste. In another small saucepan over low heat, heat remaining milk until very hot, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; gradually add to sugar-flour paste, whisking in each addition before adding the next. When all hot milk has been added, scrape pot bottom and sides with rubber spatula.

Place saucepan over medium heat. Whisk gently but constantly until mixture comes to a boil. Lower heat; simmer milk mixture for three full minutes, whisking constantly to prevent lumping. Remove from heat. Mixture will probably be slightly lumpy despite your best efforts— OK.

Beating yolks constantly with fork, very gradually add about half of hot mixture to them. Gradually return heated egg mixture to saucepan, stirring constantly with whisk. Scrape pot bottom and sides with rubber scraper. Set pot over low heat; stir constantly with whisk for about 2 minutes (this mixture should be steaming hot, but do not let it boil or it will curdle). Remove from heat. Immediately add butter bits. Allow to stand for a minute or two, then stir gently until butter melts and is incorporated. Stir in vanilla.

Pour pastry cream through strainer into measuring cup. To prevent formation of a "skin" on top, immediately place pierced piece of plastic wrap right down on surface of pastry cream. Cool briefly, then chill at least 4 hours, until needed.

For Orange Chiffon Layers:
Cut wax paper or baking parchment rounds to fit the bottoms of two 9-inch round layer pans (the pans may be 1-1/2 inches deep or deeper). Place one round in the bottom of each pan; do not grease the pans. Set aside. Adjust rack to center of oven; preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Into medium bowl, sift together cake flour, 1/3 cup sugar (reserve remainder), baking powder, and salt. With large whisk, blend well. Add egg yolks, orange juice, oil, zest, and vanilla. With whisk, beat until well-mixed and smooth, scraping bottom and sides of bowl as necessary to combine thoroughly. Set aside.

In large, grease-free, non-plastic bowl, combine egg whites and cream of tartar. With sturdy hand-held electric mixer, beat at high speed until white, foamy, and increased in volume. Gradually add remaining 2/3 cup sugar in about 8 additions, beating after each addition until incorporated before adding the next. After all sugar has been added, continue beating to just before stiff peak stage.

Add a large spoonful of the beaten whites to the egg yolk mixture; whisk in to lighten. Add another large spoonful of the beaten whites to this mixture, and fold it in (not too thoroughly).

In about three additions, add the lightened egg yolk mixture to the remaining beaten whites. Do not be too thorough folding in the first couple of additions; fold in the last addition only until the two mixtures are combined and the batter is an even color. The batter will be pale and very light in texture.

Divide batter evenly among prepared pans. If necessary, spread gently with back of spoon to level in pans. Bake in preheated oven 17 to 21 minutes, switching positions of pans on rack about halfway through baking time. When done, a toothpick inserted into center of a layer will emerge with a moist crumb or two still clinging to it; layers will have browned slightly on top and be a slightly darker color on edges. The layers will not pull away from the edges of the pans during baking. Do not overbake. Remove to cooling racks.

Allow to stand on cooling racks 3 to 4 minutes. During this time, layers may pull away from sides of pans slightly. Loosen layers gently from pan sides; invert onto other cooling racks. Gently peel wax paper from layer bottoms, then re-invert each layer to cool right side up. Note: it is helpful to have nonstick cooling racks for these layers. If you do not, you can spray racks lightly with nonstick cooking spray. Allow layers to cool completely before using (that is usually a maximum of 45 minutes for me, although I suspend the cooling racks on baking pans so they'll be higher off my table).

When layers are still slightly warm, start the Glaze: In small heatproof bowl, combine chopped chocolate and salt. In small saucepan over low heat, heat cream until very hot, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; pour about half of hot cream over chocolate. Allow to stand for a minute or two, then stir or whisk gently until smooth. Gradually stir in remaining cream. Set aside to cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.

When layers have cooled completely, assemble dessert. Choose a serving plate with shallow sides; it should have a flat bottom that is 9 to 10 inches in diameter. If the cooled layers are not flat, use a large, sharp, serrated knife to level them (my layers flatten themselves during cooling). Invert the first layer onto the serving plate and leave it upside down. With a teaspoon, gradually drizzle the flat top of the layer with 2 Tbsp. Of the orange liqueur.

Remove chilled pastry cream from refrigerator. Do not stir. By large spoonfuls, place all of the pastry cream in a small circle on top of the first layer. With back of spoon, gently spread pastry cream to within about 1/2 inch of all edges; the circle of pastry cream should be thickest in the center and thinner toward the edges. Again with a teaspoon, drizzle the remaining liqueur all over the top of the remaining layer. Place this layer, right side up, on top of the pastry cream. If necessary, press down gently on the top layer until the pastry cream has spread almost to the edges of the layers.

Check the glaze. If it has cooled to room temperature (test a bit on the inside of your wrist), use it now. Otherwise, refrigerate the pie until the glaze is ready. When cooled, a bit of the glaze dropped from a spoon should mound slightly.

Remove pie from refrigerator; if any pastry cream has leaked out from between the layers, scrape it off. Slowly pour glaze onto center of top layer; the chilled pie will start to set it quickly. Spread glaze, preferably with a small offset spatula, just to top edges. A bit may drip down over the edges; that's fine. Chill the Boston Cream Pie until serving, at least 2 hours. When glaze has set, cover (preferably with a cake safe, so you don't squash this delicate dessert). Serve within 24 hours.


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This page created June 2000