This recipe was inspired by a 1904 recipe for Washington Pie, which is a pie in the same way Boston Cream Pie is a pie — in other words, not a pie as we now know it, but a filled cake. In fact, Washington Pie is nearly identical to Boston Cream, aside from the fact it’s made in four thin layers instead of two thicker layers; and it’s served with fresh fruit, not topped with chocolate icing. In addition, we took the easy way out by making a filling based on pudding mix, rather than the traditional cooked custard.
The original recipe, which can be found in The White House Cookbook, says, "In summer time, it is a good plan to bake the pie the day before wanted; then when cool, wrap around it a paper and place it in the ice box so as to have it get very cold; then serve it with a dish of fresh strawberries or raspberries. A delicious dessert." Indeed.
Step-by-step photos illustrating how to make this recipe are available at Bakers’ Banter, our King Arthur blog.
3 large eggs
1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon (½ ounce) melted butter
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) milk
1 ½ cups (6 ¼ ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 package instant vanilla pudding mix
1 cup (8 ounces) milk*
1 cup (8 ounces) heavy or light cream*
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon almond extract
*You’ll need 2 cups of liquid. Use all milk (anything from skim to whole), all cream, half and half, or a combination of any—the richer the milk/cream you use, the richer the filling.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two 8" round cake pans. If desired, line them with parchment, and grease the parchment; this will ensure the cakes slide out of the pans without mishap.
Beat the eggs and sugar at high speed for about 3 minutes, till they’re golden and creamy looking. Beat in the baking powder, salt, vanilla, and almond. Heat the butter and milk till the milk is steaming; this is easily accomplished in a microwave. Stir into the batter till thoroughly combined, then stir in the flour, again till everything is thoroughly combined.
Spoon the batter into the pans. Bake the cakes for 25 minutes, or until they’re a very light brown on top and a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove them from the oven, and after 10 minutes turn them out of the pans onto a rack to cool.
To make the filling: Prepare the pudding mix according to the directions on the package, using your choice of milk or cream and stirring in the vanilla and almond extracts as directed. Set it aside, or refrigerate, if you’re not going to use it immediately.
When the cakes are entirely cool, split each one in half around the equator, to make four 8" layers. Place one layer on a serving plate, cut side up. Spread with 1/3 of the filling. Place another layer atop the filling, and spread with half the remaining filling. Top with a third layer, and spread with the remaining filling. Top with the final layer, smooth (not cut) side up. Gently press down on the cake to settle it, and to help spread the filling right to the edges.
Wrap plastic wrap around the circumference of the cake, folding it across the top as well, so that the cake is completely enclosed in wrap. Refrigerate overnight, or for up to 2 days.
Just before serving, sift a heavy layer of confectioners’ sugar atop the cake. Slice and serve with fresh berries or sliced peaches.
Yield: about 10 to 12 servings.
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