Latest Recipe Testing

Common mistakes when making Boston cream pie on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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!!)

Completely from-scratch with homemade pastry cream, buttery sponge cake, and shiny chocolate glaze, this classic Boston cream pie recipe is supremely decadent and satisfying. Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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!

Baking angel food cupcakes on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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.

The best techniques to follow when making angel food cupcakes on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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!! ♥

96 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. How stressful! Lol. I haven’t messed up a recipe by not following directions properly in YEARS! Like literally, I was in grade 8 and made Halloween cookies from a chatelaine cookbook and they got such rave reviews, some of my friends thought they were bought! So I went to make them again but just dumped all the ingredients in the bowl rather than mixing wet and dry then mixing together. Yikes! So ever since then I always read, re-read then read again! And keep re-reading while I make recipes lol. Also tbh, I usually make your recipes and you have so many step by step instructions that it’s almost impossible to fail!
    Also.. honestly I’ve never tried baked Alaska and I had never even heard of it until I was browsing your post on what we wanted to see in the baking challenges this year!
    And I definitely prefer homemade pizza crust, I use both of yours. I like using the whole wheat to be slightly healthier but when I want a really fluffy crust I use your white one! Although sometimes in a pinch when the hubs really wants homemade pizza but it’s too late in the day to make some we get some from a local Italian grocer, it’s pretty good as well.

  3. Have eaten baked Alaska but for reasons unknow did not enjoy it. And I always make my own pizza bases. Sometimes the full yeast version other times a quick our and greek yogurt version.

  4. 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.

  5. Sometimes I”ll make my own pizza crust but to be honest, I can buy it from Trader Joe’s for about $2 and it seems to taste just as good so it can be hard to convince me that I need to make it from scratch.

  6. Never had a baked alaska! I used to buy my own pizza crust, but started making a super thin version (think flatbread) from scratch a few months ago and now i’m hooked

  7. Oh my goodness, I’m so happy that you explained what went wrong with the angel food cupcakes! I made angel food cupcakes a few years ago and they had the same shrinking problem! I couldn’t figure out what had happened, but all I knew was that the resulting cupcakes were really gummy and weird. Thanks for explaining; I can’t wait for the recipe! And as for the pizza dough, my go to is actually your whole wheat pizza crust recipe. 🙂

  8. Oh my goodness, if I had a penny for every time I’ve skipped a step in a recipe I’d be so rich that I’d never have to work another day in my life. My favorite recipe blooper was the time my stepson and I made s’mores bars. The batter was very tough to work with and as soon as we put them in the oven I realized that the recipe said half a cup of butter…and I’d used half a stick of butter…oops. They actually turned out really well.

    I’ve never had Baked Alaska but would if I ever had the chance. I remember seeing the recipe when i was a kid in my mom’s 1960’s Betty Crocker cookbook and was fascinated.

    Homemade pizza dough always!

  9. Hi Sally, I’ve actually been making your homemade pizza crust ever since you first posted it. It’s perfect! My husband’s birthday is coming up in a few weeks and after a lot of deliberation, I decided to make him your Pistachio Layer Cake… until, you posted that Boston Cream Pie recipe the other day. Now, I have to decide between those two!

  10. Can’t wait for Monday! I have never had baked Alaska. I always make my own pizza crust. I finally tried your recipe this week and I loved it! Our family loves homemade pizza when it’s just as good as a Pizza place!

  11. 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!

  12. I appreciate your trials and tribulations and amazing results! I have never eaten baked Alaska and yes to making my own crust!

  13. I’m glad to know mishaps in the kitchen happen to all of us! Homemade pizza crust is made every Friday night in our home–taste & texture perfect when baked in a cast-iron skillet!

  14. I had so much trouble finding pizza crust in the store when I moved from up north down to Texas. I live in a big city but I had to go to the “fancy” grocery store just to find frozen pizza dough! I couldn’t believe it. So I’m very happy to have your easy recipe when I need it 🙂 Would also love to see a baked Alaska recipe from you! Yum!

  15. I make my own pizza crust. Once I roll it out I let it raise for 30 minutes. Then I pregame for 15 minutes on a metal pizza pan. Finally I switch the dough to a pizza stone dusted with cornmeal AND add the sauce and toppings. It is SUCH a crispy crust.

  16. I have both eaten and made baked Alaska. It was during my “learning to cook phase” and I went through an old Betty Crocker cookbook recipe by recipe. I also make my own pizza dough. I found an easy and great tasting recipe on Craftsy. It taste like NY pizza. But I am always willing to try a new one.

  17. 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

  18. I have had baked Alaska but have never tried making it. It looks fun though!
    I always make homemade pizza dough, it is just the best!:)

  19. I made Baked Alaska when I was newly engaged and with no baking/cooking experience (60 years ago). Armed with just enthusiasium and a recipe I jumped right in. Everything was fine until I put it under the broiler. The meringue wasn’t properly sealed and what a mess I had! My Dad, who always came to my rescue, ate it with a spoon & told me how good it was. I did successfully make it but only a few times.

    I’ve never attempted to make pizza dough.

  20. I made Baked Alaska when I was newly engaged and with no baking/cooking experience (60 years ago). Armed with just enthusiasium and a recipe I jumped right in. Everything was fine until I put it under the broiler. The meringue wasn’t properly sealed and what a mess I had! My Dad, who always came to my rescue, ate it with a spoon & told me how good it was. I did successfully make it but only a few times.

    I’ve never attempted to make pizza dough.

  21. I’ve never had Baked Alaska but ever since I saw it on The Great British Bake Off I’ve been wanting to try it! (Anyone remember that crazy episode?) My family always used to buy pre-made crusts when I was growing up but now I prefer to make it myself.

  22. I just discovered the Weight Watcher’s pizza crust…equal parts self rising flour and fat free yogurt or sour cream. I was really skeptical but it is a great, easy , super fast option that really bakes so crispy and delicious…especially if I put the pan in the oven when it is heating to temperature . For an individual pizza, I use 1/2 cup measurements…sometimes I to start with a bit less yogurt so I don’t have to add in flour when kneading to pull it all together.
    I am not a Baked Alaska fan.

  23. I love your recipe testing posts! Reminds me that you’e human, like the rest of us 🙂

    When I plan ahead, I make this pizza dough recipe: https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/pizza-pizzas-recipe4-1951401

    When I don’t plan ahead, I use Trader Joe’s pizza dough!

  24. 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!

  25. I have eaten baked alaska but never attempted to make it — but the thought of trying is intriguing ! I usually make my own pizza dough, but there is a fresh dough available in my area that I often turn to when I’m lazy or in a hurry.

  26. I HAVE had Baked Alaska on about 3 different occasions in my life. It’s the best dessert EVER! I actually just recently came back from an Alaskan cruise vacation where they served us Baked Alaska for dessert on the last night. Are you working on a recipe for it????

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