A Birthday Dinner: Beer Braised Shortribs and Homemade Individual Boston Cream Pies


Boston Cream Pies

We make a great effort to eat healthy about 90% of the time; but as I mentioned previously here, there are times when a special occasion warrants a splurge.

This past week was just such an occasion: my sweet husbie celebrated his 40th birthday last Monday.

Since we were in the middle of a move last year and his birthday dinner consisted of pizza on the run, I wanted to do something special this year, not to mention the fact that celebrating 40 is a momentous occasion.

I mentioned earlier in this post that we are quiet folk, so special celebrations for us usually consist of a quiet day at home with a lovely meal we’ve cooked together.

Last Monday was the perfect, quiet fall day finished off with his favorite: beer braised short ribs, mashed sweet potatoes from the garden, and tiny Boston cream pies made entirely from scratch.

The ribs were adapted from a favorite cookbook: Bistro Cooking at Home. They come together easily and can be made early in the day or even a day in advance making them perfect for entertaining. 

We used Guinness for flavoring the sauce but I look forward to the day we’ll have our own dark brew to use.  If you aren’t a fan of dark stouts, or even a fan of beer in general, don’t be put off by this recipe.  As the sauce cooks in the oven, the Guinness mellows out into a wonderful flavor complimented by the bacon.

Beer Braised short ribs

Boston cream pies are not difficult, but are, in my opinion very detailed: the cake, the cream, the chocolate icing.  For that reason there is often the temptation to cut corners and use a mix.  Or two.  On top of that, once the cake is filled, it doesn’t keep well.  An 8″ layer cake in the home of two adults who love to eat is a dangerous thing.

In the past, I have solved this problem by making cupcakes. This year however, I opted to try for mini-cakes inspired by a bakery we used to enjoy in the city.  We had our cake, but were able to freeze the rest for later rather than have it sitting in the fridge waiting to be eaten.

I did make it all from scratch, but I solved the “it’s complicated” problem by starting a few days early and doing a few components at a time.  All that needed to be done on the day of was assembling the layers and adding the icing.

I’ve included a “recipe” for the icing but please note that I had chocolate and cream.  I dumped the chocolate into a bowl and added hot cream then stirred until the chocolate melted.  I did all this before I realized that I forgot to measure.

Any ganache or chocolate icing/frosting recipe will work just fine.

Beer Braised Short Ribs

  • 4-6 pounds of boneless country style beef ribs, the best quality you are able to locate and afford
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 T bacon fat
  • 4 oz of nitrate/nitrite free bacon cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 red onion cut into slices 1/2″ thick
  • 1 T tomato paste
  • 1 bottle of Guiness
  • 2 T red wine vinegar
  • 1 c of beef broth

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Season the ribs.  Melt the bacon fat in a large stock pot on medium high heat.  Brown ribs on all sides and remove from the pan.

Drain off excess fat.  Add bacon and cook to render fat, then add the onions and cook until lightly browned.

Add the tomato paste, the beer, vinegar, and beef stock stirring to loosen the bits on the bottom of the pan.

Add short ribs back to the pot and bring to a boil.  Cover,  and cook the ribs in the oven until they are very tender, about 3-4 hours.

When the ribs are finished, put the stock pot back on the stove.  Remove the ribs and degrease the sauce if necessary.

Bring the liquid to a boil and cook until reduced by about half.

Combine the ribs with the sauce and serve with mashed sweet potatoes.

Makes 4 servings.

Individual Boston Cream Pies


  • 1 c of coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 cups of organic cane sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 cups of soft white wheat flour, sifted through twice
  • 2 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t of salt
  • 1 cup of whole milk
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 t almond extract

Plan ahead: the night before or early in the day, bring all ingredients to room temperature.

Beat coconut oil and cane sugar.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Combine flour, baking powder and salt.  Add to butter mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.  Stir in vanilla and almond extract.

Pour into a greased and floured jelly roll pan.

Bake at 350 for about 10-15 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean and cake springs back lightly to the touch.

Cream Filling:

  • 1/4 c organic cane sugar
  • 1 1/2 T non GMO corn starch or arrowroot powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 c of whole milk
  • 2 t vanilla

Bring sugar, corn starch or arrowroot powder, salt, egg yolks, and milk to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly.  Boil, stirring constantly until thickened.  Remove from heat, stir in vanilla.  Allow to cool completely then refrigerate until chilled.

Chocolate Ganache

  • 1/2 c of cream
  • 1/2 c of  very good quality semi sweet chocolate chips

Bring cream to a boil, and pour over chocolate chips.  Stir until chocolate has melted.

To assemble:

Cut small cake rounds, using a biscuit cutter.  Allow two rounds for each serving.

Spread 2-3 tablespoons of cream filling onto one round and top with the other.

Spread chocolate ganache over the top.

Serve immediately.  One cake will make approximately 4-6 individual two layer servings depending on the size of the biscuit cutter.

The short ribs were adapted from a recipe in this favorite cookbook:

The cake and pudding recipe was adapted from here:

And if arrowroot powder is new to you:

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A Birthday Dinner: Beer Braised Shortribs and Homemade Individual Boston Cream Pies — 2 Comments

  1. What a fantastic birthday dinner!! Bear and I are quiet folks too. Loud, busy parties seem hellish. :-) I love your idea of miniature desserts rather than a whole huge cake.