Latest Recipe Testing

sponge cake in a cake pan

A very happy Saturday to all! It’s been awhile since we chatted about my latest kitchen adventures. I started this recipe testing series earlier this year because I know many of you are also fascinated by how and why baking recipes work.

So far this year:

I haven’t been deep in recipe testing since my work on croissants. There’s been some cookies, bread, and cheesecake— but nothing zapping my energy or stealing my soul like those 81 layers of butter and dough.

But there’s two recipes I want to discuss today. First… Boston cream pie. This recipe was in partnership with America’s Test Kitchen and comes from their new cookbook The Perfect CakeI didn’t test this recipe myself, but HAVE to share my experience baking the recipe. (Which, by the way, is utterly fantastic. Look at it!!)

Boston cream pie on a wood and marble cake stand

The first time I baked the sponge cake layers, I waited patiently for them to cool. My pastry cream was chilling in the refrigerator, my chocolate was chopped and ready to melt into glaze, and my cake stand was sparkling clean. Once cool, I ran a thin knife around the edges of the sponge cake layers, just as the recipe instructs, but my cakes would not budge. My heart slowly shattering in a million pieces, I tried everything I could to salvage the cake layers as well as the time, ingredients, and energy I just spent baking them. I quickly blamed it on forgetting to grease the cake pans, had a few choice words about my silly mistake, closed the cookbook, and decided to try the recipe again the next day.

The next day came and the lighting was perfect. I was going to photograph this very cake today! Determined and refreshed, I prepared the sponge cake batter, used different cake pans, GREASED THE PANS, and baked the cakes. I threw the slightly cool cakes into the freezer because I definitely didn’t want to miss this beautiful lighting! The cakes cooled quickly, I ran a thin knife around the edges of the sponge cake layers, just as the recipe instructs, but again… my cakes would not budge.

Heartbroken, frustrated, tired, and about every other annoyed emotion, I locked myself in the pantry to scream, then grabbed the cookbook to reread the recipe because surely ATK wouldn’t steer me wrong.

And I was right. I glanced over the recipe directions where I found the words “line pans with parchment.” I realized that I had greased the pans on the first day and it wasn’t my mom brain being forgetful. Friends, if you try the Boston cream pie recipe– and I remind you of this about 45 times in the recipe directions– line your cake pans with parchment paper. This direction isn’t in the recipe just for fun; it’s very real and if you skip it, it’s very not fun.

By the way, I saved all the sponge cake scraps in large ziplock bags and froze them. I’ll thaw and make cake pops one day this summer. I’m thinking with strawberry frosting instead of vanilla!

shrunken angel food cupcakes in cupcake pan

Onto my next kitchen adventure, which is another lesson in the importance of following directions. Angel food cupcakes, a new recipe I’m publishing on Monday, are scaled down from my funfetti angel food cake. In my cake recipe, I give several tips and directions to ensure the softest and fluffiest angel food cake crumb. Angel food cake should be light-as-air, but if you skip over a couple steps, you’ll be left with:

Shrinking Angel Food Cupcakes

Angel food cake batter is delicate, as all of the leavening (and texture!) comes from whipping air into egg whites. I’ll explain all of this in the recipe on Monday, but it’s important to (1) use superfine sugar, (2) sift the dry ingredients slowly into the egg whites, and (3) mix the batter as lightly as possible so the egg whites don’t deflate. In a rush and thinking I’m invincible, I treated the batter like trash and was left with the pan of cupcakes above. Shrinking, shriveled, and deflated cupcakes comparable to the patience I was losing at that very moment. Later that morning, I read the recipe again– MY OWN RECIPE– and actually followed it.

2 angel food cupcakes with one overmixed cupcake and one perfect cupcake

Here’s what I learned after a week of sticking sponge cakes and deflating angel food cupcakes: read the directions. We’re all guilty of skimming recipes and glazing over instructions, so hopefully my two careless mistakes can be reminders for you! 😉

TWO QUESTIONS

  1. Baked Alaska: have you ever made/eaten it?
  2. Do you make your own pizza crust or do you usually buy it?

Have a great weekend and hooray for the royal wedding!! ♥

15 Comments

  1. Love this series! Never had baked Alaska but it looks beautiful when I have seen it. Have not attempted homemesde pizza dough yet, but would like to!

  2. I find it funny that you didn’t follow your own recipe. Thanks for being so honest.

    I would LOVE Baked Alaska, in fact, I have been checking recipes as I have wanted to make some soon so if you publish a recipe, I would be over the moon!

    And I always make my own pizza crust, I just don’t like store-bought.

  3. Thanks for being real! Love these “mistake” posts as it helps us know even professionals are human!!

  4. Make Pizza Dough myself every Friday and our family of 5 has Family Pizza Night. I think our tradition is going on 10 years now. 🙂

    I’ve never had Baked Alaska!

  5. I love that your share your recipe tests with us and don’t hold back from sharing your baking fails. It’s frusterating when things flop for sure! But it’s encouraging for us to know that it happens to everyone and not just us home bakers!
    I have never had baked Alaska, however I always make my own pizza dough and sauce from scratch

  6. Angel Food cupcakes sound amazing! I have never tried baked Alaska as I am not too big on ice cream cakes. My husband would love it though!
    As for pizza crust…I started making my own last year and have never looked back! We rarely go out for pizza anymore and have perfected our crust to our liking. We tried many different crusts in the past year but once I tried your recipe we were hooked! One of the flavorful tricks we use is to replace salt with garlic salt and brush the crust with a homemade garlic butter before pre-baking. Adding cornmeal to the pan has been a game changer! Soo good!

  7. Never had or made baked Alaska. ALWAYS make my own pizza dough. Too easy not to!

  8. Lov e these posts! Always so interesting. Once you use parchment in cake pans you’ll never go back, lol. I’ve eaten baked Alaska once it twice but only fantasized about actually making it. Let’s do it! It’s fun to make old school dishes!

  9. Leslie McD says:

    Sally, I just love your site! If I am making pizza, I make my own dough for the crust. And I follow one of your recipes. That’s actually how I discovered your site a few years back, searching for pizza dough recipe. I have never made Baked Alaska, but will probably try it if you post a recipe. I always wanted to make homemade croissants, and never tried until you inspired me to do so! Thank you so much!

  10. Hi! I always make my pizza dough. No to the baked Alaska. I don’t eat meat or seafood! The Boston cream pie looks amazing and angel food cake was one of my favorites growing up and would ask for at my birthday!. I only make it once a year because of the amount of eggs used. On a side note I just recently made your home made caramel sauce and gave out for teacher appreciation week! Amazing!

  11. 1. I love eating Baked Alaska, but have never attempted to make it.

    2. I have never made homemade pizza crust.

  12. I used to make Baked Alaska using a bought frozen pound cake, hollowed out for the ice cream filling. It held its shape well and was the perfect size. Haven’t made it in decades! I have made pizza dough but most recently bought it. I’m also a fan of the Artisan No-Knead recipes, for breads and pizza dough.
    As for your sponge cake scraps, I see yummy summer trifles as well as cake pops in your future! (Is there ever a reason NOT to line a cake pan with parchment?) Love this series, Sally.

    1. I’m so happy you enjoy my recipe testing posts!! I really enjoy writing them. I have a baked Alaska recipe (with brownie as the base!) coming next week.

  13. I’ve never made Baked Alaska, but I do like it! Your pizza dough recipe is always my go-to, with your BBQ Chicken Pizza recipe. 🙂

  14. Sally, I made your Boston Cream Pie and taste wise it was amazing so thank you! My question is in regards to cake tins – I see you use a regular round tin but haven’t ever seen you mention a push pan type tin. I used these (push pan) for the Boston Cream Pie and the edges are really not straight and with such a ‘naked’ cake it really ruined the look!

    So just asking to see if you have any opinion or experience or if I’m just using the pans wrong!!

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