Saturday, January 2, 2016

Custard (Creme Anglaise) Cake - Not too pretty, but tastes great

My family's favorite cake is the tasty -- but not very attractive looking -- Custard Cake.

We call the cooked egg & milk mixture "Custard", but it is also known by its fancy-pants name - Creme Anglaise (sorry I couldn't figure out how to put the accent on the Creme).  Now the strange thing is that half the family just LOVE and adore this cake.  Their eyes roll back in their head and their face takes on a dreamy look at the mere mention of the cake.  But the other half of the family (include me) can't stand the nasty looking stuff.  Fluffy cake saturated with sweetened cream and eggs just don't appeal to me --- call me crazy.

So at least twice a year I bite my tongue and make a cake that I won't even taste.  Now if that is not love I don't know what is!!

And to make matters worse, this unappealing cake is very difficult to make!  One false step and the custard will curdle, and curdled custard is not a pretty thing.  Curdled custard still tastes good, but it looks like crap. Sometimes you can save curdled custard, but sometimes you just need to admit defeat and start all over.

The first step in the Custard Cake is baking the cake.  I just use a boxed mix -- French Vanilla -- either Duncan Hines or Betty Crocker, and add an extra teaspoon of almond extract.  I used a silicone fluted pan, but any tube pan will work.

When the cake is cool, cut it in half and brush one side with  1/4 cup of melted jelly.  I like to use seedless raspberry or strawberry, but you can use any flavor. 

Put the bottom half of the jam brushed cake in a large bowl so that it is ready and waiting when the custard is finished cooking.  Ideally you want to pour the hot custard on the cut cake so all the creamy custard gets absorbed into the cake.

After the cake it prepped and waiting, start on the custard.  In my recipe I use 10 egg yolks, but I have found over the years that the proportions are pretty flexible.  You can use more or less eggs, more of less sugar and milk.  More eggs (less milk) and the custard will be thicker; less eggs (more milk) and the mixture will be more fluid.  You can really customize the recipe to suit your taste and needs.  But for this cake I use 10 egg yolks.  And make sure you remove the chalaza.  You don't want white bands of egg tissue floating in your smooth custard - yuck.

Next beat the eggs with about 1/2 cup of granulated white sugar (you can also use Splenda if you want to make it low carb).  IMPORTANT - it is critical that you beat the egg yolks with the sugar until they are creamy.  If the yolks are not beaten enough they will form clumps of scrambled eggs in the milk.

Now the next part I do a little differently than real cooks.  I put the beaten sugar and yolks directly into the pot with the COLD milk, cream, sugar, and extracts.  I don't temper the yolks with small amounts of the heated milk.  I just dump all the cold ingredients into one big pot and slowly start heating.  That is the way my grandmother taught me to make it, and that is how I do it every time.  Maybe one day I'll try the tempering method and see if it makes a difference.

Anyway all the ingredients go into a cold pot.  I stir it very well before I apply any heat.  I stir and stir, and I make sure I get rid of the egg yolk dripping on the side of the pot.  For my pot I either use a heavy Magnetite pot or a stainless steel pot.  Taste-wise I've never noticed a difference.  There are reports that it is healthier to cook in stainless steel, but I've had trouble with food sticking to the stainless steel.  So when cooking the custard I just use whichever pot is closest. 

So everything is in the pot, and I constantly stir as I slowly increase the temperature.  I have an electric glass top stove and the highest I go is 4.5 (just a notch below medium which is 5).

Keep stirring as the liquid warms.  As the eggs start to cook and solidify you will start to feel resistance from the liquid as you stir.  Lift the spoon often and look at how the liquid coats the back of the spoon.  The custard is cooked perfectly when the custard starts to cling to the back of the spoon.

Looks ready to me...

But when cooking custard ALWAYS have an ice bath ready and waiting.  In the photo above I judged the custard ready and snapped a picture, but before I could put the camera down and remove the pot -- the custard STARTED TO BOIL.  NOOOOO...  Boiling custard is not good.  I immediately submerged the hot pot in the ice water bath and stirred vigorously to quickly cool the custard, but the damage was done and the custard started to curdle.  Sniff...

But if your custard curdles a just little all is not lost.  You can use an immersion blender to break down the lumps, or you can just strain out the lumps.  Pour about half the custard on top of the cut cake and let the liquid sink into the holes and crevices of the cake.

Let the bottom sit in the custard for about 5 minutes, and then position the top half of the cake on the saturated bottom half.  Pour the rest of the custard over the top.  If you want the top half to absorb the custard you can just a long wooden skewer to poke holes in the cake, and then carefully spoon the over the top and into the holes.

At this point the cake will float and bob in its bath of custard.  To force the cake deep into the custard, and allow the cake to absorb more of the custard, I cover the cake with plastic wrap and weigh down the cake with something heavy.  I use the inverted cover of  a large pot.  The round handle fits nicely into the hole of the cake and I can put additional weigh onto the cover if the cake is still floating.

Put the cake in the refrigerator for a few hours.  Remove the lid and the plastic wrap and carefully spoon the custard on top of the cake.  At this point the custard is getting firmer, but it is still fluid enough to spoon over the cake.

Cover with plastic wrap again it store in the refrigerator overnight.

The longer you leave the cake the better it gets.  Or so my relatives say -- honestly I have never tasted the stuff.  (Give me a big slice of chocolate cake any day.)  To serve slice the cake, spoon some extra custard on top, and garnish with a dollop of whipped cream.

Now doesn't that look yummy (or maybe not)....

Happy Baking,


Custard Cake


  • French Vanilla box cake mix - prepared according to instructions and baked in a tube or Bundt pan
  • 1 teaspoon pure Almond Extract added to cake mix
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup melted fruit jelly 
  • 10 egg yolks
  • 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 cups granulated white sugar, divided
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 3 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4-5 teaspoons pure Almond Extract 
  • Ice bath 
  • Garnish with whipped cream


  1. Prepare the cake according to instructions on the box, adding 1 teaspoon of almond extract if desired.
  2. When cake is baked and cooled cut in half.
  3. Melt fruit jelly in microwave and brush the liquid onto the cut surface of the cake.   Use more or less jelly as desired.
  4. Place bottom half of cake in large bowl and set it near the ice bath.
  5. Prepare an ice bath.  Stopper the sink and fill will 2 inches of cold water.  Have a container of ice ready and dump the ice into the water just before you place the hot pot into the water.
  6. Next start on the custard.  Whisk egg yolks and 1/2 cup sugar until smooth and creamy.  
  7. In a large pot combine milk, cream, salt, remaining sugar, and almond extract.  You can add more or less sugar and almond extract to suit your taste.
  8. Add the whisked, egg yolk mixture to the milk mixture, and stir vigorously until combined.
  9. Place the pot on the stove and turn the heat to simmer.  Stir constantly as you slowly increase the temperature under the pot to medium. 
  10. Stir the mixture constantly until the mixture begins to thicken and coats the back of a wooden spoon. About 6-8 minutes. DO NOT ALLOW THE MIXTURE TO BOIL.
  11. When the custard if finished cooking place the hot pot into the prepared ice bath.  The cold water will rapidly cool the pot and stop the custard from cooking further. 
  12. Ladle about about half the custard over the bottom half of the cake.  If you want, you can pass the custard through a strainer to remove any lumps.
  13. Let the bottom half of the cake sit in the warm custard for five minutes.  This will allow the cake to absorb the custard.
  14. Place the top of the cake on the bottom and ladle the rest of the custard over the cake.
  15. If desired poke holes into the cake with a wooden skewer and then spoon more custard into the holes.
  16. Cover the cake with plastic wrap and weigh down the cake with a heavy plate or the lid of a pot.  Forcing the cake to stay submerged in the custard will help the cake absorb the liquid.  Refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
  17. After 1-2 hours remove the lid/plate and plastic wrap.  Spoon more custard over the top of the cake.
  18. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Note try not to touch the top of the cake with the plastic wrap.
  19. When serving spoon the custard over a cut slice of cake and garnish with whipped cream.

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