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 mostly likely came about because pie tins were more common then than cake pans in the early days when this dessert was being made.
When I was looking for a gluten-free version to try, I found this recipe from the Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Cookbook. If you are new to gluten-free cooking and baking, it is wise to start practicing with tested gluten-free recipes rather than adapting a regular recipe. A few successes under your belt and you’ll be confident enough to try anything!
The original recipe is from Silvana Nardone, the author of Cooking for Isaiah, her cookbook 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. She is one cookbook author and baker whose recipes always work because they are well tested and virtually foolproof. I always have a batch of her basic gluten-free all-purpose flour on hand and almond flour in the freezer, so I knew I had the right combination of gluten-free ingredients to make this cake.
If you want to see how beautiful this cake can be, check out the website of one of my wonderful friends that I met on my trips to Ohio. Brian Samuels, photographer extraordinaire, author of A Thought for Food blog, and one heck of a great guy, is from Boston and recreated his hometown dessert. Click here to take a look at his incredible photographs! Every time I visit Brian’s website I learn something new about the way he looks at food, sets the scenes, and creates emotion in his camera. I am always in awe.
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 whole 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 your family’s 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 my favorite recipe from Silvana) and store it in an airtight container. I have mine in a food-safe plastic bucket with a tight lid. Then whenever the mood strikes you, you can bake to your heart’s content, creating delicious treats for your family or just for yourself. Just remember to shake the container vigorously or whisk thoroughly before measuring.
- 1-3/4 cups almond flour (or hazelnut meal)
- 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour or Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour Blend
- 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 gluten-free 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.
- Prepare 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. Store leftover cake, covered, in the refrigerator.
- Yield: about 16 servings
- Almond flour contains zinc, a mineral that helps us taste and smell. No wonder this cake tastes so good! 🙂
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