Have you ever had a Boston Cream Pie? This New England classic is a combination of yellow sponge cake layers with vanilla custard in between and then covered with a chocolate glaze. It is the best of two favorite desserts, cake and pudding. Around since the mid-1800’s, this dessert is literally a piece of American history. The title is confusing but mostly likely came about because pie tins were more common then than cake pans.
When I was looking for a gluten-free version to try, I came upon this recipe from the Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Cookbook, posted on the Easy Eats website. Easy Eats is a digital food and lifestyle magazine dedicated to gluten-free cooking with community-tested recipes and expert advice. If you are new to gluten-free cooking and baking, this is an excellent place to find resources.
The Editor-in-Chief of Easy Eats is Silvana Nardone, the author of Cooking for Isaiah, a book full of gluten-free, dairy-free recipes she created for her son. If you saw last week’s Chocolate Monday recipe, Chewy Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies, it was also one of Silvana’s recipes. I had made a batch of her basic gluten-free all-purpose flour and still had some leftover so I knew I had the right combination of gluten-free flours to make this cake.
As I read through the article, imagine my surprise when I realized that one of my wonderful friends that I met on my trips to Ohio had written it and made the recipe for the publishers. Brian Samuels, photographer extraordinaire, author of A Thought for Food blog, and one heck of a great guy, is from Boston and had been asked to recreate his hometown dessert. Click Here to go to his site and see his incredible photographs so you can see how good a real pro can make this cake look!
Gluten-free cakes differ significantly from those made with regular wheat-based flours. Gluten-free flours do not have the same lift and structure as regular wheat flour so the batter will be a bit looser and the layers will be thinner than you are used to. The addition of almond flour in this recipe adds a lot of flavor and a texture similar to wheat. I was delighted with the airiness of the cake and I’m sure you will be too.
When I was cooking the custard I was swept back in time to my childhood. It smelled just like the tapioca pudding my mother used to make me as a special treat and I fell in love with it all over again. Smooth and creamy with the aroma of vanilla wafting through the room, I could almost hear her voice talking to me, telling me about her day. It was a sweet moment in my busy day.
The glaze couldn’t be easier. Just throw all the ingredients in a heatproof bowl (I used a Pyrex measuring cup) and zap them in the microwave. Then a little whisking and the clumpy mess becomes a smooth, shiny chocolate glaze. I love the little miracles that happen every day in the kitchen.
Have fun recreating this New England classic and who knows, maybe it will become a family favorite that you pass down through the generations!
Happy Chocolate Monday and have a wonderful week!!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
If you want to make gluten-free baking simple, mix up a big batch of a neutral-flavored flour blend (like the one below from Silvana) and store it in an airtight container. I have mine in a plastic bucket that I bought from King Arthur Flour Then whenever the mood strikes you, you can bake to your heart’s content, creating delicious treats for your family or just for yourself!
Boston Cream Pie (GF)
Adapted from a recipe in Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Cooking
Yield: 16 servings
Note: Almond flour (made from finely ground almonds) contains zinc, a mineral that helps us taste and smell.
1-3/4 cups almond flour
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour or Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour Blend (recipe below)
2 tsp gluten-free baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1/2 cup butter, melted
3 whole eggs
2 tsp pure vanilla or vanilla paste
1-1/4 cups whole milk
1/4 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp butter, cut into small pieces
1 tsp pure vanilla or vanilla paste
4 oz dark baking chocolate, chopped
3 tbsp butter, cut into small pieces
1 tbsp light corn syrup
Heat oven to 350°F. Spray 2 (8-inch) round cake pans with cooking spray (without flour) or butter them.
Make the Cake Layers: In medium bowl, mix almond flour, flour blend, baking powder and salt; set aside.
In large bowl, beat 1-1/2 cups sugar, the water, melted butter, the eggs and vanilla with electric mixer on low speed 1 minute. Gradually add flour mixture, beating on medium speed 2 minutes. Divide the batter evenly between pans. Use an offset spatula to smooth the tops.
Bake 27 to 30 minutes or until golden on top, the cake pulls away from the sides, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack 15 minutes, then invert cakes and flip back right side up to finish cooling on the rack. Cool completely.
The cake layers can be made a day ahead. Once thoroughly cooled, wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate. Return to cool room temperature before assembling cake.
Make Custard: While cakes are baking, in a heavy 2-quart saucepan, whisk together the milk, sugar, egg yolks, cornstarch and salt until smooth. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking constantly. Boil 1 minute or until thickened and mixture coats back of spoon.
Remove from heat; whisk in the butter pieces and vanilla, mixing until smooth. Transfer to a medium bowl (aluminum will help it cool faster), cover surface of custard with plastic wrap (press it onto the surface to keep a skin from forming). Refrigerate until set, 1 to 2 hours.
The custard can also be made a day ahead. Press plastic wrap on the surface and top the bowl with another piece of plastic wrap to seal it. Let it sit at room temperature about 20 minutes before proceeding so it will be easier to spread.
Make Glaze: When you are ready to assemble the cake, make the glaze. In a small microwavable bowl, combine all the glaze ingredients and cook uncovered on High for 1 minute. Whisk until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.
To Assemble: Invert one cake layer onto serving platter (rounded side down). Whisk cold custard to smooth consistency. If needed, let it warm up a little so it will be easier to work with. Spread it evenly on top of first layer, making sure it goes all the way to the edges. Top with the second cake layer, rounded side up. Slowly pour glaze in the center of the top layer, and using an offset spatula, nudge the glaze to cover, encouraging it to drip down the sides. Smooth the top.
Let the glaze solidify slightly before cutting the cake. Slice the cake gently with a serrated knife for the best results, wiping the blade with a damp cloth between each cut.
Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour Blend
Yield: 4 lb (13 cups)
3-3/4 cups brown rice flour
3-3/4 cups white rice flour
3-3/4 cups tapioca flour
1-3/4 cups plus 2 tbsp potato starch flour
2 tbsp plus 1-1/2 tsp xanthan gum
3-3/4 tsp salt
In large bowl, mix all ingredients with whisk until fully incorporated. Transfer to storage container; seal tightly.
Store in cool, dry place or in refrigerator. Before using, stir (or shake) to blend the flours and xanthan gum thoroughly.
If you want a feather-light blend, swap out some of the brown rice flour for more white rice flour.
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