I used to jump up and down when I looked outside and saw fresh snow on the ground. Once I got old enough to shovel and drive through snow it lost a lot of its charm for me. I still like being reminded that it can be a source of joy and play, however.
My mother and I are visiting my brother, sister-in-law, and nephew in northern Virginia to get away from the ice and snow. Last week the snow followed us here for a couple of days, much to the delight of young Michael and his friends.
Unplanned snow days are perfect holidays for kids. The kids don’t have anywhere to go. (In fact, in many cases they CAN’T go anywhere.) They don’t have any extra homework. And they have mounds of cold, malleable snow to slide around in and hurl at each other.
Michael and his friends spent most of the morning last Wednesday outdoors trading sleds, throwing snowballs, and generally frolicking. By mid-afternoon some of them were beginning to long for a little indoor activity. I asked for volunteers to help make Boston Cream Pie. Several kids offered to EAT the pie (and in fact they all ended up getting some), but my most stalwart helpers were Michael’s neighbors and friends Anna Aguto and Mavourneen Carr.
The girls signed up, of course, to bake a “pie”—and they did look a little surprised to discover that Boston Cream Pie is a cake (so named because pie pans were more common than cake pans in the 19th century, and because the recipe supposedly originated in Boston’s Parker House Restaurant). They were terrific sous chefs nonetheless.
I had made the filling (which has to chill) the day before, but the girls helped with every other step of the process—mixing, baking, filling the pie, creating the glaze, and applying the glaze. With Valentine’s Day just around the corner they went just a little wild with heart-shaped sprinkles on top, but the final product was lovely, festive, and consumed before sundown.
I hope we cook again soon. In the meantime, here is our recipe. The filling and glaze are from Dede Wilson’s fun new Birthday Cake Book (published by Harvard Common Press).
Boston Cream Pie
for the filling:
1-1/4 cups milk (whole milk or lesser milk mixed with cream)
1/4 cup sugar
3 egg yolks, at room temperature
2-1/2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 pinch salt
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
for the cake:
1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
for the glaze:
3/4 cup heavy cream
1-1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup
7-1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate, VERY finely chopped
for the filling:
Place the milk in a medium nonreactive saucepan. Bring it to a boil over medium heat; remove it from the heat and keep it warm.
Meanwhile, whisk together the sugar and egg yolks in a medium-size bowl until creamy. Whisk in the flour, cornstarch, and salt until smooth.
Pour about 1/4 of the warm milk over the egg yolk mixture, whisking gently. Add the remaining milk, and whisk to combine. Immediately pour the mixture back into the pan, and cook over low-medium heat. As soon as the mixture begins to boil, whisk vigorously and cook for 1 to 2 minutes to keep the filling from scorching. It should be thick enough to mound when dropped from a spoon. Remove from the heat and whisk in the vanilla.
Allow the filling to cool, stirring occasionally to release heat. When it is almost at room temperature, scrape it into an airtight container, press some plastic wrap on the surface to keep a skin from forming, snap on the cover, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, until thoroughly chilled.
for the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 2 9-inch-round cake pans.
In a large bowl, cream the butter until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the sugar, mixing well. Beat in the yolks, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla.
In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Add them alternately with the milk to the butter batter, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.
Wash your beaters so that they are clean for the egg whites! In a small bowl, beat the whites until soft peaks fold. Fold them into the batter, and pour the batter into the pans.
Bake the layers for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on racks for 10 minutes before removing from the pans. Cool the layers completely.
for the glaze:
Place the cream and corn syrup in a large saucepan, and bring them to a boil over medium heat. Remove the pan from the heat. Immediately sprinkle the chocolate in. Cover the pot and allow it to sit for 5 minutes. The warm cream will melt the chocolate. Gently stir the ganache until smooth.
Place one cake layer on a large serving platter. Spread the filling evenly over the layer, and top it with the other layer.
Pour the chocolate glaze on top. Gently spread it toward the edges. Allow it to drop down the sides. You will have a little too much glaze, but your helpers will help you eat it.
Refrigerate the cake for at least 1 hour (up to 6 hours) before serving. It is best eaten on the day on which it is made. Serves 8 to 10.