My birthday was on Monday and Josh's was Tuesday. Because our birthdays are back to back we take turns picking the cake we will have that year because we definitely don't need two birthday cakes in our house. This year was Josh's turn and he always picks Boston Cream Pie. If you aren't familiar with this dessert, it isn't a pie at all. It is actually a yellow cake with a custard filling and a ganache on top. Over the years I have tried many different recipes and have been let down by at least one component of each of them. I finally found one that works and the best part of all is that it is sort of a cheater recipe.
I use a boxed cake mix and doctored vanilla pudding for the custard filling. The only part that is truly from scratch is the ganache which only has two ingredients. I was able to make this cake on a day when I was running on hardly any sleep and I had my 5-year-old and my VERY fussy 3-week-old on my own, so don't be intimidated by the number of components. It is very easy.
I like to use the vanilla cake mix from Trader Joe's. It has little flecks of vanilla bean throughout and never turns out dry. It looks and tastes like a from scratch cake even though it is really from a box. Mix up the batter according to the directions on the box, but then pour them into two springform pans and bake for about 30 minutes.
I was distracted by the previously mentioned fussy baby so I forgot to use my baking strips. This meant that my cake layers weren't perfectly flat. Luckily, once you layer on the custard and the ganache, no one cares. If you haven't seen these bake even strips before, they are amazing! They are more than worth their price, plus you can use a coupon at Michael's or Joann's to get them for even less. You soak them in water, wrap them around your cake pans before baking, and voila, perfectly flat cake layers. (Obviously this is an example of a cake baked without them.)
Once the cakes are cooled, put one on the serving plate, then put the springform pan side back around it. This will keep your custard filling and ganache topping in place while it sets.
While your cakes are cooling, mix up the custard layer. In a bowl, beat a package of instant vanilla pudding with some milk and some extra vanilla with a hand mixer for a couple of minutes. Then stick it in the fridge for about 15 minutes.
Once it is nice and thick spread it over the cake layer inside the springform pan sides. Personally, I would double the custard layer but this wasn't my birthday cake and Josh likes it as is. *Update: After eating the cake this time, Josh has finally agreed with me that while it is great as is, double custard would be even better.
Then carefully put the second cake layer on top and stick it in the fridge.
Now for the ganache. Chop up some dark or semisweet chocolate. I used Trader Joe's dark pound plus bar. If you want to, you can use chocolate chips but it won't come out as smooth because of the stabilizers in the chocolate chips.
In a small pan, heat some heavy cream over medium heat until bubbles form around the edges. Don't let it boil. Once you see those little bubbles, take it off the heat, add in your delicious chocolate, and whisk until the chocolate is melted and completely combined with the cream.
Take your cake out of the fridge and pour the ganache on top, being sure to leave the springform sides on. Put the whole thing back in the fridge until the ganache has set.
About 20 minutes before you are ready to serve it, take it out of the fridge. Then carefully remove the springform sides (you may need to use a hot knife around the edges) and you are ready to go. Cutting the cake with a hot knife will make it cut more smoothly.
Boston Cream Pie
Adapted from Sandra Lee's Boston Creme Cupcakes
For the cake layers:
- 1 box vanilla cake mix and ingredients it calls for; mine needed:
- 1 stick butter melted
- 1 cup milk
- 2 eggs
- 1 3.4 oz. box instant vanilla pudding mix
- 1 1/4 cups cold milk (whatever you have, I used skim)
- 1 tbls. vanilla paste (can substitute vanilla extract)
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 9 oz. dark chocolate, chopped (you can substitute with semisweet chocolate chips but the ganache won't be as smooth)
- Mix the cake according to package instructions and pour into 2 springform cake pans sprayed with baking spray.
- Bake at 350 for about 25-35 minutes (until the cakes come away from the edges of the pan and the top springs back when lightly pressed).
- Cool cakes completely out of the pans.
- Place one cake layer on your serving plate, then put the sides of one springform pan back around it.
- While the cakes cool use a hand mixer to beat the pudding mix, milk, and vanilla paste for about 2 minutes, or until it is starting to thicken. Then refrigerate for about 15 minutes.
- Use a spatula to spread the custard over the bottom cake layer then put it back in the fridge.
- Put the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until small bubbles form around the edges.
- Remove the pan from the heat, add in the chopped chocolate, and whisk until the chocolate is melted and fully incorporated.
- Remove the cake from the fridge. Carefully place the second cake layer on top of the custard. Then pour the ganache over the top, spreading it to the edges with a spatula if needed.
- Refrigerate until ganache is set (at least an hour). This can be made the day before. Once the ganache has cooled cover with plastic wrap and keep refrigerated.
- Remove from the fridge about 20-30 minutes before serving. I recommend using a hot knife to cut.