I started this project over six years ago posting a photoshopped movie poster riffing on “Julie & Julia” titled “Trent & Ina” and noted that “if I make 3 Ina Garten recipes a week, it will take me 5 years to make every one of her nearly 800 [at the time] recipes. Let’s hope Meryl will star as Ina and me in the movie.”
Well, were not getting the Meryl treatment (yet?), BUT I did end the project in the most magical way – one that I could not have even fathomed when I started: getting to assemble the final recipe with Ina Garten herself over Zoom!!! Honestly, is this real life?!
With the project, one thing I’ve tried to keep in mind is to aim high with low expectations. You’re not going to get what you don’t ask for, but at the same time don’t think anyone owes you anything or pin all your hopes on a simple ask. With this in mind, I thought it couldn’t hurt to reach out to Ina and see if she’d make the final recipe with me. Worst case scenario would have been a ‘no’ – not the end of the world.
With that in mind, last July I DM’d Ina to ask – all while maintaining my low expectations. After all, she is a very busy lady! I mean we’re getting new shows, podcasts, she’s wrapping up her next cookbook and working on a memoir. But Ina, being the class act she is, got back to me in a couple of hours saying she’d love to assemble the final recipe together over Zoom! It was actually going to happen!!!!
I told Ina that as soon as Modern Comfort Food was released, I knew the final recipes for the entire project had to be her Boston Cream Pie! It’s celebratory (it is cake after all), it’s a recipe Ina spent years perfecting, and she even admits it’s one of her most complicated ones. With multiple elements (orange-scented sponges, Grand Marnier pastry cream, an orange soak, AND a chocolate ganache drip), what better way to prove to Ina that she’s taught me how to cook and bake than pulling off this showstopper!? Even though I’m not even a big fan of Boston cream pies, I knew that if anyone could convert me it’d be her.
As soon as we finalized the date, I got to work (years of anxiety helped me plan every little detail to help minimize something going wrong). I immediately ordered a giant ring light just in case the sun didn’t cooperate (luckily it did), figured out where to set my computer to record the session, and found spots for 2 additional recording devices in case my computer went on the fritz (two years working from home has taught me anything can happen). I also contemplated bribing the construction workers behind our apartment with some of Ina’s Chocolate-Dipped Brown Sugar Shortbread so they’d go on break while we were recording. The day before, Ina’s assistant, Kristina, generously did a sound and visual check to make sure we were all set for the main event! Thank you, Kristina!
The night before, while prepping the components, my nerves got the best of me in the kitchen! After all, INA GARTEN was going to see the final elements and would, of course, know if I had messed them up! Our oven has been a little wonky lately, and the first attempt of the cakes turned out thinner than anticipated, so I decided to remake them, and while they were still thinner than I was expecting, they were a little better and good enough to present to the Queen.
After making the cakes, I also managed to overcook the pastry cream leading to a slightly lumpy, thick consistency – to correct this I pressed it through a sieve to smooth it out and went rouge by thinning it with a little heavy cream. Ina said the pastry cream is supposed to be thick so it doesn’t ooze out the side but mine was T.H.I.C.K.
After more time prepping than I was anticipating, I scrubbed and staged everything that would be on camera and set pillows around the kitchen to absorb some of the sound – a trick I learned from doing podcasts that actually really helps.
I’m still not sure how I slept at all that night but woke up feeling rested with the sun pouring into the apartment. It was going to be a phenomenal day! I busied myself for most of the morning making sure everything was ready. And my Jeffrey, Alex, was an absolute saint in the lead-up. Helping me pick out an outfit, grabbing some orange tulips and hydrangeas (two of Ina’s favorites) to decorate the kitchen, and being completely understanding when I ask if he wouldn’t watch as I thought any extra eyes would make me more nervous! I am so happy that he had a chance to meet Ina at the end!
The nerves started about an hour before going live, but luckily there was plenty to do to distract me including making the orange drizzle and ganache, setting out all the utensils, and doing a few practice runs.
The clock hit 2 pm, and I saw the grey box pop up and that unmistakable voice says “Hold on, Hi.” before Ina popped on the screen. We said hi, she congratulated me on finishing the project, I asked how she was doing TWICE, but then my nerves calmed and we settled into a fabulous conversation. My nervous laugh stayed with me the whole time though. Ha. Ina is seriously one of the easiest people to talk to – she made me feel like I was chatting with an old friend rather than a culinary icon. You can check out our time together below – I hope you have as much fun watching as we did doing it!
This experience truly was the icing on the cake for this project, and I couldn’t be happier to celebrate the completion of the project with the one who inspired me to get in the kitchen. I am in awe of how lucky I’ve been to spend time with this fabulous person who has truly changed my life in so many ways. More on that later this week.
After hopping off the call, Alex and I popped the bottle of champs my co-worker, Katie, sent to celebrate. And waited for the ganache to set before digging in. Once it was finally ready, we sliced away and OMG was it phenomenal – Ina made a Boston cream pie convert out of me after all! It was a day and cake I will absolutely never forget!
INA’S BOSTON CREAM PIE
Book: Modern Comfort Food, page 205
How Easy Is That: Advanced
Store-Bought Is Fine: semi-sweet chocolate
Pricey Ingredients: —
Recipe on BarefootContessa.com