I like to start my Boston cream pie with an airy sponge cake that stays tender even when refrigerated. My spin on this classic dessert gets an extra layer of flavor with a bright strawberry cream filling and a topping of freshly sliced strawberries.
For the cake: Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Grease the bottoms only of two 8-inch round pans with butter or shortening and line with parchment paper.
Sift the flour into a medium bowl and set aside. Stir together the milk, oil, melted butter, vanilla and water in a large measuring cup. Set aside. Measure the sugar into a small bowl.
Whip the egg whites in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment on medium speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Sprinkle in about half of the sugar, then whip on high speed until soft/medium peaks form and they are the consistency of marshmallow crème. Transfer the meringue to a medium bowl and set aside.
Put the egg yolks, remaining sugar, baking powder and salt in the same stand mixer bowl and mix on high speed until lightened in color and fluffy, 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and stir in about half of the milk until combined, then stir in half of the flour. Repeat with the remaining milk and flour. Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the meringue in two parts with a rubber spatula.
Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans and smooth the top. Bake side-by-side until toothpicks inserted into the centers come out clean, 19 to 23 minutes. Cool in the pans, wrapping the warm cakes in plastic wrap after 30 minutes. Cool completely and then chill before assembling.
For the strawberry pudding: Whisk the sugar, cornstarch, salt and lemon zest in a medium pot. Whisk in the milk, jam and butter. The jam will remain in clumps but will dissolve as the mixture heats. Cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally, while bringing to a boil. Allow the mixture to boil while whisking constantly for 10 to 20 seconds. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium bowl, then place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding. Refrigerate until cold and set, about 5 hours or overnight.
For the ganache: Place the cream, chocolate chips, butter and salt in a small microwave-safe bowl and microwave in 15 second increments, stirring well after each, until melted, 45 seconds to 1 minute total. Stir until the ganache is smooth and has the consistency of thin yogurt.
To assemble, place 1 chilled cake layer on a serving platter. Stir the pudding to smooth it out and then mound it in the center of the cake layer. Use a spoon or spatula to spread the pudding towards the edge of the cake, leaving about a 1/4-inch border. Place the second cake layer on top, flat baked side up.
Pour the warm ganache into the center of the cake and use a spoon or spatula to spread it toward the edge, allowing it to drip slightly down the sides of the cake.
Top with a ring of the strawberries before serving.
To store the pie, cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
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