Have you ever wondered why Boston Cream Pie is called a pie when it is, in fact, a cake? Me too. Guess we’ll never know. I’m just kidding. I did the Googling on your behalf and found that back when the Boston Cream Pie was the new dessert on the block, bakers baked both cakes and pies in the same pans. The common bakeware led bakers to use the terms “cake” and “pie” interchangeably. And that’s how you get the Boston Cream Pie, which is most certainly not a pie. When and why we decided to differentiate between pies and cakes, I don’t know – that would’ve required a rather more extensive Google search. Instead, I’ve decided to make this pie/cake business more complicated by turning the pie/cake in question into a macaron. In my defense, these Boston Cream Macarons are, in fact, macarons. Progress?
Fun fact: the first cake I ever made was a Boston cream pie…cake…whatever. I was 6 or 7 and my sister helped. It tasted very good, but sadly, I made a poor stylistic choice near the end of the cake’s construction. I chose to draw a smiley face in green gel icing. The “face” was off center and, well, green gel icing on chocolate ganache is a hard (impossible) look to pull off. I do remember being genuinely surprised when I realized I had created a pie-cake monster. If at any point you make something that isn’t a screaming success, I invite you to visualize my cake atrocity. I promise you’ll feel better about yourself, and yes, the cake was just as bad as you’re picturing it.
If you haven’t had a run-in with a Boston cream pie before, let me explain it to you. A Boston cream pie features layers of golden sponge cake on either side of a rich custard center. The whole affair is then covered in a glossy chocolate ganache glaze. If you happen to be Canadian or live somewhere else rich in doughnuts, think of the Boston cream doughnut. Same flavor profile, different dessert. So really, turning the Boston cream pie into Boston Cream Macarons isn’t that revolutionary. The Boston cream profile seems capable of superimposing itself on countless desserts.
But regardless of the potential ho-humness of these Boston Cream Macarons, they are spectacularly delicious. I serve them at a dinner party this past weekend and they were greeted with applause. Applause! Granted, most of my guests were a couple of cocktails and a few glasses of wine deep at the time. But, I mean, I’ll take drunk applause over silence any day.
I’m not going to lie to you, these Boston Cream Macarons are a bit of a project. They’re also a little panic-inducing, but what macaron isn’t? I will say that if you take your time and follow every step to the letter, you will wind up with pretty pretty macaron. Also, note that the ingredients for the macarons themselves are listed by weight. This is because the secret to a great macaron is about striking the right balance of ingredients. With delicate batters such as macaron batter, it’s better to leave less accurate measurements behind. That means no cups and no tablespoons. On the plus side, when you keep your recipes ratio based, they are infinitely scalable. This is perfect when you only want a few or when you want to feed a very fancy army.
The directions for these Boston Cream Macarons are extremely detailed. Some of them may seem superstitious, silly or read like a lost line from the Hokey Pokey. But I promise you they all serve a purpose. At least, I think they do. Every time I omit one of the macaron tips I’ve picked up along the way, disaster strikes. I don’t like disaster, so I always do all the finicky stuff and you should too.
The sunny yellow custard center is a bare-bones version of my favorite pastry cream. You can see it in action here, here, and here. Yeah, I like it a lot. It’s also dead simple and it works its way further into your muscle memory everytime you make it. At this point, I can make it with my eyes closed and that’s not talent, that’s just a good recipe and a whole lot of repetition…there’s probably a little obsession in there too.
Anyway, that about does it for these Boston Cream Macarons. They take a fair bit of patience and a little bit of nerve but they might just earn you a round of applause. And if not, I recommend you serve them to drunk people.
Boston Cream Macarons
- Large Piping Bag
- ½ inch round pastry tip
- 2 ½ cups half and half
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ tsp salt
- 5 large egg yolks
- 3 tbsp cornstarch
- ¼ cup unsalted butter cold, cut into cubes
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
Golden Macaron Shells
- 215g (7.5 oz) confectioner's sugar
- 115g (4 oz) superfine almond flour
- 30g (1 oz) graham cracker crumbs
- 5 large egg whites room temperature
- 45g (1.5 oz) granulated sugar
- ¼ cup dark chocolate chips
- 1 tsp coconut oil
- Gold sanding sugar to decorate
For the Pastry Cream
- Pour the half and half, sugar and salt into a small saucepan and place over medium-low heat. Heat the cream until just steaming.
- While the cream is heating, place the egg yolks and cornstarch in a medium-sized bowl. Whisk until thoroughly combined.
- When the cream comes up to temperature, pour 1/2 cup of the cream mixture into the egg mixture and whisk to temper the eggs.
- Pour the egg mixture into the saucepan with the rest of the cream and return the pan to the heat. Cook over medium heat until the pastry cream thickens to the consistency of warm pudding. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and vanilla extract. Stir until the butter is completely melted.
- Transfer the finished cream to a bowl and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least three hours before using.
For the Macarons
- Pour the confectioner's sugar, almond flour and graham cracker crumbs into a large food processor and blitz until well combined.
- Using a fine mesh strainer, sift the mixture into a large bowl, then sift the mixture once again into another bowl. Set aside.
- Pour the egg whites and sugar into a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whisk the whites on medium until slightly frothy, about 2 minutes. Increase the speed slightly and whisk until the whites resemble a shampoo-like lather, about 2 minutes more. Increase the speed to the highest setting and whisk until stiff peaks form - about 2-3 minutes.
- Sift 1/3 of the almond mixture into the egg whites and, using a rubber spatula, fold the mixture into the egg whites. Repeat until all of the almond mixture is integrated into the egg whites and the batter runs like lava.
- Transfer the batter to a piping bag fitted with a round 1/2-inch tip. Pipe four dots on a baking sheet and place a piece of parchment paper over top. Repeat the step with another baking sheet and piece of parchment.
- Pipe a little of the batter into a small bowl and dip a 1 1/2-inch round cookie cutter (I used a shot glass) into the batter. Press the cookie cutter into the parchment paper to make batter outlines. Be sure to make 24 per sheet.
- Pipe the batter onto the baking sheets, using the outlines as a guide. Lift the baking sheets a little off of the counter and drop them. Rotate the sheets 90° and repeat the step. This will eliminate any air bubbles in your cookies.
- Leave the piped macarons to air dry for 30 - 40 minutes. While the macarons are drying, preheat the oven to 325°F.
- Once the macarons are no longer tacky to the touch, place them in the oven. Bake the macaron for 12-15 minutes. Let the macarons cool on the baking sheets for 10 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack. Let cool completely.
For the Chocolate Dip
- Place the chocolate and coconut oil in a small microwave-safe bowl. Melt the chocolate and oil in the microwave in 20-second intervals, stirring in between.
- Once the chocolate and oil are melted and well-integrated, take half of the macaron shells and dip the tops in the chocolate.
- Sprinkle the chocolate-coated macaron tops with gold sanding sugar and transfer the macarons to the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes.
- Transfer the chilled pastry cream to a piping bag fitted with a large fluted tip. Take the naked macarons and place them bottom-side up. Pipe the pastry cream on top of all of them.
- Place the chocolate dipped macaron shells on top of the pastry cream and transfer the finished macarons to the fridge.
- Chill until ready to serve.