Science Thursday Volume 3: in which I lie to you about what recipe I am going to bake and refuse to make eclairs – Supporting the Canadian Red Cross



First a little back story:  a few weeks ago I gave you a voting option to choose between brownie cups and eclairs.  There was a pretty even split in the vote.  The vast majority of in person votes going for the brownie cups and the internet community decisively favouring eclairs.  Here’s the thing, when it comes down to choosing between online votes and in person votes the internet always looses.  I promise there is a logical reason for this.  The social media community is very vocal, and I do greatly value its insight, but a great many of our followers are not Yukon residents.  Also, regular customers have a habit of coming in to talk to me face to face, so even if they follow us online they vote in person.  My regular customers know that I am busy in the kitchen and my phone is often relegated to my office, which means I check it sporadically at best (this is why I tell you never to try and order online).  Therefore, when they want to make a request or give feed back they just holler at me from the front end until I come up and chat with them.  They know this is the best method for getting my attention because of how often they are at the bakery.  My best regulars I see almost everyday, they come for coffee and to say hi.  The really good regulars come every few days and at least once a week.  Both of these groups drag in their friends, acquaintances, family members and business associates.  They are the type of customers that keep the doors open and make my life easier and more joyful.  There is a bit of overlap between the regular customers and our social media followers (please see my very scientific Venn diagram) and so the groups often agree, but if they don’t I always side with the regulars.  To put it bluntly, if I somehow manage to capture the attention of the Facebook algorithm and thus the fascination of the social media community then I have a really great, extra-profitable day, but if I don’t have those regulars that I depend on here everyday then my doors don’t stay open.  Generally, in business it’s a good idea to favour the people that keep your doors open.


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Long story short: I chose to make brownie cups.


Then I was struck with one of the ongoing perils of northern living:  what I needed was out of stock.  Superstore had no cherries.  As I write this there is probably a wonderful display full of gleaming fresh fruit, but my grocery shopping time is a limited window, so my plans were defeated.

I thought about making eclairs instead, but I’ve recently discovered I hate making eclairs.  Choux pastry is not fun, piping pastry cream into choux pastry is quite possibly the least fun thing I’ve ever done in a kitchen.  Also, part of the fun of Science Thursday is sharing recipes.  Ideally, new recipes that I have made up, or at least a new version of a traditional recipe.  Choux pastry is choux pastry and the variations in recipes are so miniscule they might as well be non-existent.


I am not going to make eclairs but hopefully next month we’ll make brownie cups


In the end, the simple fact is that I lied to you before when I gave you your options.  With lying as a theme, I decided to choose a dessert that is lying with it’s very name: Boston Cream Pie.  Its not a pie it’s a cake (I know it’s really just a quirk of how words in English change their meaning over time but its more fun to accuse a cake of lying than it is to break down the etymology, very few people are interested in the origins of words, if you are one of them here is the Wikipedia article.)  Also, Boston Cream pie is tenuously related to eclairs in that both are filled with pastry cream and topped with chocolate.  However, Boston Cream Pie has a leg up on eclairs in that I don’t loathe making it.  Also, unlike eclairs I can make up a fairly new variation on the recipe.  I know in the world of food there really isn’t anything new under the sun and everything I come up with has probably been done by someone somewhere at sometime, but this version of Boston Cream Pie is at least new to me.

red cross logo

This months Science Thursday will be supporting the Canadian Red Cross.  It’s forest fire season around Canada and there are many families depending on the Red Cross to help them in times of crisis.  If you’d like to make a donation you can do so HERE


Before we get started with the recipe I want to include a note on alcohol in baking.  We will be using liquor today in our recipe.  This often makes people angry, because they fear it’ll get their kids drunk.   No one ever thinks this about vanilla.  Everyone uses vanilla in baking.  Vanilla is typically about 35% alcohol.  Yes, even artificial vanilla contains more alcohol that your average liqueur.  There are two things to consider when it comes to alcohol in baking.  The first is that alcohol breaks down when heat is applied to it.  Though not all of the alcohol evaporates in the baking process a good chunk of it will and in doing so it will leave behind a delightful flavour.  The second thing to consider is the volume.  A standard drink contains 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits.  1.5 ounces is equivalent to nine teaspoons.  The recipe we are making today calls for three teaspoons total.  We will then split this into 12 cupcakes or 10 slices of cake.  Which means that even if none of the alcohol cooks off each serving only contains .03 of the typical standard drink.  However, if you follow a Halal diet or can not consume alcohol because of a dietary limitation then even the smallest and safest quantity of alcohol is not acceptable.  In that case feel free to substitute vanilla beans or vanilla bean paste in the following recipes.


We will be using a variation on the buttermilk sponge cake I use for the coconut sparkle.  I’ve opted to flavour it with a bit of rum instead of the traditional vanilla sponge because once upon a time the layers of Boston Cream Pies were brushed with a simple syrup containing rum.  I’ve opted to skip the simple syrup and just add a bit of rum to the cake.  It adds a nice depth and a subtle flavour.  After that I am going to play around with the traditional flavour of Boston Cream pie a bit.  I’ve chosen to add a bit of Amarula cream liqueur to our pastry cream.  Before you question the presence of South African Liqueur in a Boston Cream pie, I will point out that there is a Boston in South Africa.  I’ve decided that’s enough of an excuse to reach for the Amarula because I think the slight caramel, fruity flavour will go beautifully with Boston Cream.

Step 1:  Buttermilk Sponge



1 2/3 cups of flour

½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

1 egg

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 ½ TBL spoons melted butter

1 cup sugar

2 tsp Rum

1 cup buttermilk


  1. Preheat oven to 325
  2. Prepare a nine inch pan by spraying it with non stick spray, dusting it with flour and lining the base with parchment or line a 12 cavity cupcake pan with cupcake liners.
  3. Sift all your dry ingredients together
  4. Whisk your egg
  5. Add the oil, melted butter sugar and extracts and whisk thoroughly.
  6. Using your whisk and a gentle folding motion (down the side up the middle) mix in one third of your dry mix, followed by half of the buttermilk, an additional third of your dry mix, the remaining buttermilk and then the remaining flour. Mix well after each addition.
  7. Pour your batter into your prepared pan and bake 17 minutes for cupcakes or 35-40 minutes for the cake
  8. Allow the cake or cupcakes to cool completely


Step 2: Pastry Cream




11/2 cups of whipping cream

1 tsp of Amarula or to taste

(substitute two teaspoons of vanilla paste or the scrapings of one vanilla pod if you can not have any alcohol)

4 egg yolks

½ cup sugar

¼ cup flour

  1. Set up a pot of water on the stove and bring it to a boil, you will use this as a double boiler later.
  2. In one bowl whisk together your eggs, sugar and flour until they are smooth.
  3. Pour your cream and amarula into a second pot and bring it to a gentle boil.
  4. Pour half of the hot cream into your egg mixture while whisking vigorously, then whisk in the remaining cream.
  5. place the bowl containing your custard over the pot of boiling water and whisk it continuously until it thickens.  This will take forever, emotionally prepare yourself to stir for a long time.
  6. remove from heat and force your custard through a fine mesh sieve
  7. place a layer of plastic wrap on top of the pastry cream so that it is touching the top of the cream.
  8. Allow to cool completely


Step 3: Ganache


3.5 oz chopped dark chocolate or dark chocolate chips

2.5 oz whipping cream

  1. Place the chocolate and cream in a microwave safe bowl and heat for 30 seconds.  Whisk the chocolate mixture until it is smooth and creamy.  Depending on your microwave you may need to heat it further, do so in ten second increments until the chocolate is just melted.


Step 4: Assembly


  1. Cut off the top dome of the cake to level it
  2. Flip the cake upside down and cut in half to create two layers
  3. Scoop the pastry cream onto the bottom layer

We opted to pipe a thin rope of vanilla frosting around the edge of the bottom layer, we then chilled this so that it would create a nice stable dam that we could use to fill our cakes extra full with pastry cream.


  1. Place the bottom of the cake (now the top layer) on top so the flat bottom crust of the cake is facing up
  2. Pour half of the ganache onto the top of the cake and using the back of a spoon gently push it towards the edge of the cake so that only occasional drips tumble over the edge
  3. Pour the remaining ganache into the centre of the top of the cake and allow it to spread out on its own, it will create a nice smooth top layer.
  4. For cupcakes cut a small well into the centre of the cupcake, fill with cream and put the top back on, then spoon some ganach on top


8. EAT


(no the good dog didn’t get any, she got a good sniff in, but knows better than to steal human food, especially human food that’s bad for her)