There were clues all year. Seconds on dessert at the holiday staff party, certain dinners out, repeatedly getting the same thing when He Never Even Wants Dessert! That kind of thing. I had an inkling.
Boston Cream Pie it is.
Boston Cream Pie Cupcakes
adapted from America's Test Kitchen
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3 large egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
4 teaspoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 2 pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoons salt
1 cup sugar
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened but cool, cut into 12 pieces
3 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Glaze (original recipe - I used Frosting -- see below)
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup light corn syrup
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 ounces cream cheese
1/4 cup of butter (1/2 stick)
2-4 cups powdered sugar, sifted. (I used more toward the 2 cup side. I like the frosting less sweet, and it doesn't necessarily have to stand up.)
1/2 cup cocoa powder, sifted
I recommend making the cream the day before you make the cupcakes. Then it's all ready to be assembled whenever you bake the cupcakes.
For Pastry Cream:
In medium saucepan, bring cream to a simmer over medium heat. Stir occasionally. Meanwhile, whisk yolks, sugar, salt together in a medium bowl. Do not use a small bowl because you did not read ahead. You will only have to get another bowl dirty later when you realize this will not hold the cream and the yolks at the same time. Add cornstarch and whisk until the mixture is pale yellow and thick, about 15 seconds.
When the cream is simmering (a bubble breaks the surface every few seconds), slowly whisk it into the yolk mixture. Aren't you glad you used that medium bowl? Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat. Whisk constantly. When it is thick and glossy (about 1 1/2 minutes of nonstop whisking, set your timer), remove from heat. Whisk in the butter and vanilla.
Transfer to a small bowl and press plastic wrap to the surface. It needs to cool about 2 hours.
Adjust oven to middle rack and set temperature to 350. Get your muffin trays ready: I use liners because I'm lazy. Cook's Illustrated recommends greasing and flouring. No thank you, more to scrub that way.
With a mixer (hand-held or stand, doesn't matter) combine flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar on low speed. Add butter, 1 piece at a time. Combine until the mixture looks like coarse sand. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until combined. Add milk and vanilla, increase the speed to medium, and mix until light and fluffy and no lumps remain (3 minutes for handheld mixers, half that for stand).
Fill muffin cups 3/4 full. Bake until toothpick inserted comes out clean, 18-20 minutes. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, and on a wire rack until completely cooled.
For Cook's Illustrated Glaze:
Cook the cream, corn syrup, chocolate, and vanilla in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, until smooth. Set aside and let thicken for 30 minutes.
For J Fierce's Frosting:
Mix butter and cream cheese together until smooth. Mix in powdered sugar and cocoa. Beat until smooth.
Cut holes out of the tops of the cupcakes. Either use a 1" round cookie cutter or your favorite paring knife at a 45 degree angle. Try to limit yourself to eating just the bottom half of that cupcake hole, you will need the top to act as a lid! Fill the holes with pastry cream (I use a plastic sandwich bag with the end cut off as my "pastry bag" ... one less thing to wash -- are you sensing a pattern yet?) and top with cupcake lid.
If using glaze, spoon 2 tablespoons over top of the each cupcake, allowing to drizzle down the sides. If you are like me a huge perfectionist, use a different kind of chocolate frosting that will mask imperfections in cake-lid-replacement. Pipe frosting on.