We all have friends we don’t keep in touch with properly but can pick up where we left off without any resentment or hard feelings. And we have other friends: people we spend time with because circumstances put us together. When circumstances change and you realise you haven’t been in touch for months you reach a point where re-establishing contact would be weird. It’s been too long. Too awkward.
My blog was always a friend that I could depend on whenever I needed it, even after periods of neglect. Until last summer when my self-confidence (never my greatest strength) was seriously dented. Instead of reminding myself it was a one-off, not a pattern, I took some criticism very personally. My blog was collateral damage.
No one criticised my baking or my writing and yet I lost all confidence in both. So I didn’t post anything for a while and then a while became a long time and then a long time became a year. Suddenly my blog and my readers were acquaintances I was afraid to get back in touch with. It had been an embarrassingly long time.
A few days in Boston recently with some very lovely friends—two of whom I neglect terribly since they moved to the US years ago, preferring to let Facebook and another friend keep me up to date with their news—reminded me that good friends will always be good friends.
And so, blog, I’m ready to get back in touch.
After my recent trip to Boston, where better to start than with the official dessert of Massachusetts? You may have heard of Boston Cream Pie and, like me, imagined it to be a cheesecake or Mississippi Mud Pie type dessert. It is in fact a cake. A vanilla sponge (a ‘hot milk’ method of making a cake which I don’t think I’ve tried before), crème patissière filling and ganache topping. It was named when both pies and cakes were cooked in the same pans and the words were used interchangeably.
You can easily make this dairy-free and you shouldn’t even taste the difference. I used soya milk, soya cream and dairy-free margarine. If you use 7″ tins you’ll get deeper layers but if you only have 8″ tins that’s fine too, they will just be shallower. So give it a try and share it with some good friends!
120g milk or dairy-free milk
55g butter or dairy-free margarine
200g caster sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
125g SR flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
250g milk or dairy-free milk
½ teaspoon vanilla essence
35g caster sugar
1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk
100g dark chocolate
50g cream or non-dairy alternative
Make the cake:
Set the oven to 175ºC and grease, and line the bases of, two 7″ or 8″ cake tins.
Heat the milk and butter together until the butter has melted.
Whisk together the eggs and sugar until thick and frothy. It should take several minutes to get to this stage.
Mix the milk mixture into the eggs and sugar along with the vanilla essence.
Sift the flour and baking powder into the mixture and mix in, making sure to get rid of any pockets of flour.
Pour the mixture into the cake tins, dividing it equally between the two.
Bake for around 20 minutes or until well risen and firm to the touch.
Allow to cool completely in the tin before removing carefully.
Make the crème patissière:
Heat the milk until just below boiling point and add the vanilla extract.
Whisk together the eggs, sugar and cornflour until well combined.
Pour around a third of the hot milk mixture over the egg mixture, whisking all the time until properly combined.
Pour the mixture into the saucepan containing the rest of the milk and whisk over a medium heat until it thickens and becomes smooth, thick and glossy. Continue cooking for a couple of minutes.
Remove from the heat and cover the surface with some cling film to stop it forming a skin.
Allow to cool completely.
Make the ganache:
Break the chocolate into pieces and put into a heat proof bowl along with the cream. Heat over a pan of boiling water (making sure the water does not touch the bowl) or in the microwave.
Take care not to overheat the chocolate and stir until melted.
Spread the crème patissière over the base layer of the cake and top with the other layer.
Pour the ganache over the top of the cake, allowing it to drip down the sides.