Kitchen Fails: Boston Cream Pie in the Night

This is the first in a series of personal stories about embarrassing failures in the kitchen that were part of learning to cook.  I've been baking a lot of cake and cupcakes recently, including the German Chocolate Cake above (recipe soon!).  So it seemed appropriate to start with a cake story nominally connected to Boston, where I may eventually give Boston Cream Pie another chance.

When I was in early high school we would go to my maternal grandparents' farm in rural Indiana every summer for at least a week.  The grown ups would play rummy, canasta, and May I, almost silently.  The men literally used grunts to communicate.  We would eat meals of local sweet corn and ice cream sandwiches.  Sometimes one of my many aunts and uncles and older cousins would show us around an abandoned farm house, let us peer into a giant silo, or take us on a tractor ride.  We tried to catch and domesticate the barn cats, and drove everyone nuts by playing the foot pedal organ that lived on the porch.  We helped shuck the sweet corn for dinner or snapped beans, and tried to avoid being sent to carry the smelly food scraps out to the field.  

There was a lot of free time for playing and reading.  I would sit and read every issue of my grandmother's Organic Gardening magazine - you'd be surprised how entertaining that magazine was in its hippie days, before they got rid of the kooky, humorous original editor. In it's current sanitized form, it could blend right in with all the other women's magazines at the grocery store, and there are no more articles about pepper varieties that resemble male genitalia.

All this reading made me a sitting duck for grown-up direction.  One day I was targeted and given orders to bake a Boston cream pie, by myself, right now.  Suddenly, there was nothing I wanted to do less than to bake a Boston cream pie.  I had never before made a cake from scratch.  I had never heard of or tasted Boston Cream Pie.  I marched into the kitchen in a completely uncooperative mood.

When I started hunting up ingredients, I thought I was in luck - it turned out that we were missing several essentials.  But no!  There would be substitutions.  To replace all the ingredients for the cream filling, there was a box of no-sugar vanilla pudding mix.  We didn't have chocolate to melt for a frosting, but there was chocolate syrup in a can.   I could tell the Boston cream pie experiment wasn't going to go well.

So, I baked the cake, but it used beaten egg whites instead of chemical leavening, and in my inexperienced hands it came out dry and dense and completely unflavored.  I made the boxed pudding mix, and accidentally scorched it a bit, so it tasted like fake sugar and had black specks floating in it.  So much disaster, all with my young reputation attached to it!  The chocolate syrup was not likely to fix any of this, but there was nothing to do but assemble the thing.  Cake, still warm pudding, more cake, drips of chocolate syrup...

When the top layer of cake began to slide off the oozing pudding pile, I reached for a knife and stabbed the cake through the heart.  The uneaten cake disappeared that night while I was sleeping.

Have you ever cooked something that went straight into the compost?


  1. The mental image of the knife stabbed through the heart of the cake to keep it from sliding further made me laugh heartily! Your cooking adventure reminded me of the time that my mom asked me to make cornbread for dinner, and I read the instructions for a 1/4 t. of salt as a 1/4 cup of salt... Man, was that stuff nasty! Straight into the compost it went indeed! More happily, cornbread is now one of my staple recipes to go with soup, so hopefully you will reconcile with Boston Cream Pie. =)

  2. Hey Anna! I can definitely relate to the cornbread story.

    I'm hoping Boston has the real deal cream cake/pie/thing. I will leave making it to the professionals.

  3. Once I used confectioner's sugar instead of flour in a batch of cookies. They were like candy. Of course we still ate them. I HATED it when I was making something for my mom and she made me do substitutions in recipes. I was a very color-in-the-lines / if-it-says-chocolate-chips-I-am-NOT-using-caramel-chips type of person. She always said if it was terrible she would take responsibility for it.

  4. Haha, I was a very by-the-book cook too. It's probably a combination of being 10 and starting to learn cooking with baking instead of something more flexible like roasting veggies or grilling.

    I bet I will also make my kids make substitutions and then be amused at how much they hate it.


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