This deliciously decadent Boston Cream Pie truly is an American Classic. Two layers of light and tender vanilla sponge cake filled with silky, creamy vanilla pastry cream filling and topped with a rich chocolate ganache make this layer cake a culinary masterpiece.
I guess you figured that a Boston Cream Pie is actually a Boston Cream Cake.
The origins of this Classic American dessert is said to be circa 1855 at the Parker House in Boston. The details get a little fuzzy, but it’s said the name came from a time when pies were often called cakes. Things that make you go, hmmm.
But whatever you call this exquisite creation, to keep it in Boston terms, it’s wickedly delicious.
The chocolate glaze is what made this cake so special and endeared it to the residents of Boston. And when the rest of America was introduced to this icon dessert… well, the rest is history.
Ingredients for Boston Cream Pie
Let’s start by gathering the ingredients we need to make Boston Cream Pie. In Chef Speak, this is called the “Mise en Place,” which translates to “Everything in its Place.”
Not only does setting up your ingredients ahead of time speed up the cooking process, it also helps ensure you have everything you need to make the dish.
*all cold ingredients should be at room temperature for this recipe.
How to make pastry cream
- Add the heavy cream and milk to a medium saucepan, and heat over medium heat until simmering. *All whole milk can be used instead of cream.
- While the milk is being heated, add the egg yolks, granulated sugar, and salt to a medium bowl.
- Whisk the eggs and sugar until smooth.
- Add flour to the egg mixture.
- Whisk the flour into the egg mixture until fully combined. The mixture will be thick.
- Temper the egg yolk mixture by adding ½ cup of the heated milk to the egg yolk mixture.
- Whisk the egg mixture until fully combined.
- Slowly whisk the tempered yolk mixture into the rest of the heated milk. Whisk until fully combined.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to cook the custard. Keep whisking the mixture until it thickens (about 5 minutes, but it can take longer). Increase the heat under the saucepan back to medium heat, and continue to whisk until it comes to a light boil.
- Remove the pan from heat, and add in the butter and vanilla.
- Whisk until well combined. The pastry cream should be fairly thick at this point.
- To make sure there are no lumps or residue, strain the pastry cream through a fine-mesh strainer set over a bowl.
- Place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pastry cream and refrigerate until set for at least 4 hours. Overnight is best.
How to make the cake layers
- Preheat the oven to 325°F
- Grease two round 9-inch cake pans, line them with parchment paper rounds, and grease the parchment paper.
- Add the flour, baking powder, and salt to a small bowl.
- Whisk the flour mixture together until combined.
- Add the milk and butter to a saucepan.
- Heat the milk mixture until the butter has melted.
- Add the vanilla extract to the milk mixture.
- Whisk together until well blended. *Place a lid over the mixture (off to the side a bit) to keep it warm while you continue with the recipe.
- Add the eggs and granulated sugar to the bowl of your stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment (or a large bowl with an electric hand mixer). Cream the ingredients together on high speed until light and fluffy (4-5 minutes).
- Add the hot milk mixture to the creamed butter mixture and mix on low speed until well combined.
- Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture.
- Mix until well combined. *The batter should be thick and bubbly.
- Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans.
- Place the pans on the center rack of a preheated oven and bake until the tops of the cakes are light brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (20-22 minutes).
- Remove the cakes from the oven and allow them to cool on wire racks for 10 minutes.
- Run a knife along the inside edges of the cake pan to loosen the cake and remove the cakes from the cake pans. Then remove the parchment paper.
- Place the cake layers back on the wire rack to cool completely.
How to make the chocolate glaze
- Heat the heavy cream and corn syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat until it comes to a light boil.
- Place the chopped chocolate in a heat-proof glass bowl( a glass measuring cup with a sprout is the best).
- Pour the heated cream over the chocolate. Allow it to sit covered for 5 minutes, then whisk the chocolate into the cream until smooth and slightly cooled.
How to assemble Boston Cream Pie
Before beginning the assembly of the cakes, check the pastry cream to make sure it hasn’t thickened too much. If the pastry cream is too thick, it won’t spread properly and will break up the cake.
You will need to remove the pastry cream from the refrigerator and let it warm up for 20 minutes. If necessary, use a large spoon to remix the pastry cream.
- Place the bottom cake layer on a serving platter or cake stand.
- Spread the pastry cream evenly on top of the first layer.
- Place the second cake on top of the pastry cream and gently press down to adhere to the pastry cream.
- Pour the chocolate glaze on the center of the cake. Spread the glaze to the edges of the cake, allowing it to drip down the sides of the cake. *After the chocolate has set a little, you can apply a little more of the glaze to the sides of the cake to fill any spots missed.
Refrigerate the cake, uncovered, for at least 2 hours (overnight is best) before slicing the cake. *If you refrigerate the cake for more than two hours, allow the cake to come to room temperature before slicing and serving.
Boston Cream Pie may take a little more work than some cakes, but it’s well worth the effort. After one bite, I know you’ll agree that this is the best Boston Cream Pie you’ve tasted!
Traditionally the filling for Boston cream pie is vanilla pastry cream. The pastry cream has a pudding-like consistency. Some pastry creams are thickened using cornstarch, but I prefer using egg yolks, making a richer custard-like filling.
Boston cream pie is actually a cake. The dessert acquired its name when cakes and pies were cooked in the same pans, and the names were used interchangeably. In its early days, this type of cake was also referred to as a chocolate cream pie, cream pie, and custard cake.
The filling for a Boston cream pie is a creme patisserie, a silky custard made with egg yolks, or a pastry cream thickened with cornstarch.
I’m new to baking and I’d love to try this recipe but I have a question. What type of salt do you use in your recipes? I’ve found that some sites use kosher or fine sea salt even table salt. I don’t want to use the wrong kind and mess up the taste. Thanks in advance for any help you may be able to give me.
Chef Dennis Littley
I use fine-grain sea salt in my recipes unless otherwise noted. Sometimes it’s pink Himalayan or just regular Mortons sea salt. Table salt will work in this recipe.