Crème Anglaise


Editor’s Note: This is part two of a three-part series on Boston Cream Pie. All three recipes are needed to make Boston Cream Pie, but each may be used individiually, as well. Part one on the Genoise Sponge Cake appeared in the May 23 edition and may be found at        

Before I talk about crème anglaise, I want to go back to the sponge cake for a minute. When I talked about using your hand instead of a spatula to incorporate the flour mixture and butter into the eggs, and also mentioned using the lemon to wipe down the bowl and your hand, I got to thinking about how much of a difference these things would really make, so I tried making another cake with no lemon rub and using a spatula.

The difference was bigger than I thought. The first thing I noticed was that as soon as I started using the spatula, I used my hand for adding the first third of the flour mix, I lost half the volume. No matter how gentle I was, it definitely needed more folding to incorporate the flour. I also found two small lumps in the cake where the flour didn’t fully mix in. I honestly don’t think many people would have noticed them. One was on the bottom when I took the cake out of the pan and I noticed a second one in a slice I cut. I mentioned for everyone to be aware and still no one noticed, even the person that had that slice. But, I knew.

So, my thoughts were: the cake itself was much denser than the original one and I really missed that slight lemony flavor the rub gave. Also, one other thing I did was use a 8-inch instead of 9-inch pans and with the thicker layers it took longer to cool, so you want to drape a damp towel over the cakes as the cool so they stay moist. The escaping steam is actually drying out the cake a little more than you want. With the thinner 9-inch cakes, I didn’t have that problem.

Crème anglaise, or pastry cream, is the filling of the Boston cream pie. It is really just a thick, rich, vanilla custard. There are probably as many ways of making this as there are uses for it. The main differences in the recipes is or the thickener. This recipe uses a combination of corn starch and flour. It takes only 5 minutes to make and may be used as filling for éclairs, puffs or fruit tarts, or if you don’t thicken it too much, as a drizzled garnish for other desserts. You also may vary the flavor a little by adding a teaspoon of Gran Marnier or some other liquor of your choice at the end.

Crème Anglaise
1¼ C milk
3 yolks, let come to room temperature
¼ C sugar
2 T flour
2 T + 1t cornstarch, sifted together with flour
1/8 t salt (tiny pinch)
2 T vanilla extract

Place the milk in a heavy bottom pot and heat on medium to just a slight boil. While the milk is heating, whisk the yolks, sugar and salt together to form a paste. Sift the flour-cornstarch mix over the top of the yolks and whisk to completely incorporate them together. This will tend to skin quickly, which is why you start to heat the milk first, so it doesn’t stand long.

Slowly add a tiny bit of the hot milk to the egg mixture, whisking well. Then, slowly add the rest of the hot milk while constantly whisking. If you add the milk too fast, you will scramble the egg mix and there is no way to fix that. A few little lumps is fine, you can strain the custard back into the pot.

Place on the stove at medium heat and constantly whisk until it starts to thicken. Keep whisking hard and when it is thick, remove from the heat still whisking hard for a few minutes. It might appear to be breaking or scrambling, but just whisk hard to smoothen it out. Whisk in the vanilla and then the liquor if you are adding any of that. If there any little lumps, you can strain it into a clean bowl or if no lumps pour into a clean bowl. Cover with plastic wrap with the wrap touching the top of the custard to avoid a skin forming and let cool to room temperature before using or refrigerating. For the Boston cream pie, pipe or spread as the middle layer between the two cake layers and then pour a chocolate ganache over the top letting it drip down over the sides.

Chef Smitty

Smitty is a personal chef specializing in dinner parties, cooking classes and special events. Trained under Master Chef Anton Flory at Top Notch Resort in Stowe, Vt., Smitty is known for his creative use of fresh ingredients. Smitty has been teaching skiing at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows for more than 26 years each winter, and spends his summers working for High Sierra Waterski School since 2000. Smitty has been writing his chef column for Tahoe Weekly since 2005.