Boston Cream Pie – Once Upon a Chef

Boston Cream Pie – Once Upon a Chef

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With its tender sponge cake layers, rich custard filling, and luscious chocolate glaze, Boston Cream Pie is an iconic, wicked-good American dessert.

Boston cream pie is a beloved classic American dessert, celebrated for its layers of tender sponge cake, vanilla custard filling, and that decadent chocolate glaze that drips down its sides. But don’t let the name fool you — it’s all cake, and absolutely no pie! Its roots trace back to the early 19th century when the terms “pie” and “cake” were used interchangeably. Originally known as the “Parker House Chocolate Cream Pie” or simply the “Chocolate Cream Pie,” this dessert gained fame at the prestigious Parker House Hotel in Boston.

So, what makes a wicked-good Boston cream pie? First and foremost, a cake that maintains its irresistible flavor and texture when served cold is essential. Due to the custard filling, the assembled cake requires refrigeration. This is why I prefer to use a hot milk sponge cake — a type of sponge cake made by incorporating hot milk into the batter — to make Boston cream pie. Not only is this cake incredibly simple to make, but it also retains its delicious taste and texture even when chilled. (The recipe I use is adapted from cookbook author Alice Medrich — her hot milk sponge cake is the absolute best!) Additionally, I like to add a touch of rum to both the custard and the soaking syrup. It adds a subtle flavor that nicely complements the vanilla and chocolate elements of the dessert without overpowering them.

What You’ll Need To Make Boston Cream Pie

ingredients to make Boston cream pie

Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1: Make the Custard Filling

Pour the milk into a medium saucepan and add the butter. Place over medium heat and bring to a boil, keeping a close eye on it so it doesn’t boil over.
milk and butter in saucepan

In a large bowl, add the egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and salt.

egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and salt in bowl

While whisking, slowly pour in about ¼ cup of the hot milk mixture, mixing until incorporated.

pouring hot milk and butter into the egg and sugar mixture

Gradually whisk in the remaining hot milk mixture.

adding remaining hot milk mixture to bowl

Pour the contents of the bowl back into the pot and cook over medium heat.

pouring mixture back into saucepan

Whisk constantly, until thickened and bubbling, a few minutes. Reduce the heat to low and cook, whisking constantly, for one minute more. Off the heat, stir in the vanilla and rum.

adding vanilla and rum to saucepan

Pour the mixture into a medium bowl; cover with plastic wrap, pressing directly against the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a film from forming, and refrigerate until cool, about 2 hours.

mixture covered with plastic wrap

Step 2: Make the Sponge Cake Layers

Preheat the oven to 350°F and set an oven rack in the middle position. Spray two 9-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray with flour and line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper. Spray the paper with nonstick spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt, and baking powder.whisking flour, salt and baking powder in bowl

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk or beaters, add the whole eggs, egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla.

Whip at high speed for 3 to 4 minutes until the batter is pale and voluminous, and when the whisk is lifted the mixture falls in a thick fluffy rope that dissolves slowly on the surface of the remaining batter in about 4 seconds.

whipped egg and sugar mixture

Remove the bowl from the mixer. Add half of the flour mixture over the eggs and fold with a whisk until the flour is almost blended into the batter.

mixing flour into egg and sugar mixture

Repeat with the remaining half of the flour mixture.

pouring remaining flour into egg and sugar mixture

While the eggs/sugar are beating, heat the milk and butter in a small saucepan until the butter is melted and the mixture is extremely hot to the touch. (It does not need to boil but must be very hot when you add it to the batter.)

milk and butter in saucepan

Pour all of the hot milk mixture over the batter and fold with the whisk until evenly combined.

pouring hot milk mixture into bowl with batter

Divide the batter evenly into the prepared pans.

batter poured into two 9-inch round pans

Bake for about 15 minutes, until the cakes are set, golden, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Set the pans on a rack to cool for about 20 minutes.

Run a thin icing spatula or butter knife around the inside of each pan to loosen the cakes from the sides. Invert onto a rack and peel off the parchment liners; turn the cakes right side up to finish cooling. The cake should be completely cool before filling and glazing.

baked cakes cooling on rackStep 3: Make the Soaking Syrup

Combine the water and sugar in a small pan and heat until the sugar dissolves.

water and sugar in saucepan

Off the heat, add the rum and set aside to cool.

adding rum to water and sugar mixtureStep 4: Make the Chocolate Ganache Glaze

In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil.

heating heavy cream in saucepan

Off the heat, add the chocolate.

adding chocolate to hot cream

Let sit for 1 minute to soften the chocolate.

chocolate melting in hot cream

Whisk until cream and chocolate are combined and smooth.

finished ganache

Step 5: Assemble

To assemble the “pie,” remove the pastry cream from the fridge and whisk vigorously until smooth — it will be quite thick.

whisking cold pastry cream

Place one cake layer on a serving platter. Brush it with half of the soaking syrup.

brushing soaking syrup onto cake

Spread the pastry cream filling evenly over top.
spreading pastry cream on cake

Brush the cake with the remaining soaking syrup.

spreading soaking syrup on top layer

Pour the ganache onto the center of the cake.

pouring ganache onto cake

Use an offset spatula to spread the ganache to the edge of the cake, letting excess drip decoratively down sides. Set the cake aside for 30 minutes to allow the chocolate to set before slicing and serving, or refrigerate until ready to serve, up to 1 day ahead of time. Let the cake sit out at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.

finished cake, sliced

The assembled cake can be made up to 1 day ahead and refrigerated. Let it sit out at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving. The cakes (without the cream filling/soaking syrup/ganache) can be stored in the refrigerator for 1 day or frozen for up to 3 months after wrapping them tightly with aluminum foil or freezer wrap. Thaw overnight on the countertop before assembling.

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Boston Cream Pie

With its tender sponge cake layers, rich custard filling, and luscious chocolate glaze, Boston Cream Pie is an iconic, wicked-good American dessert.

Ingredients

For the Pastry Cream Filling

  • 1¾ cups whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 egg yolks
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon rum

For the Cake Layers

  • 1 cup cake flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled off
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

For the Soaking Syrup

  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon rum

For the Chocolate Ganache Topping

  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 4 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Instructions

For the Pastry Cream

  1. Pour the milk into a medium saucepan and add the butter. Place over medium heat and bring to a boil, keeping a close eye on it so it doesn’t boil over. Immediately remove from the heat and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and salt until pale and no lumps remain, 1 to 2 minutes (the mixture will be very thick at first). While whisking, slowly pour in about ¼ cup of the hot milk mixture, mixing until incorporated. Gradually whisk in the remaining hot milk mixture. Pour the contents of the bowl back into the pot and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until thickened and bubbling, a few minutes. Reduce the heat to low and cook, whisking constantly, for one minute more. Off the heat, stir in the vanilla and rum. Pour the mixture into a medium bowl; cover with plastic wrap, pressing directly against the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a film from forming, and refrigerate until cool, about 2 hours.

For the Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and set an oven rack in the middle position. Spray two 9-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray with flour and line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper. Spray the paper with nonstick spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt, and baking powder.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk or beaters, whip the whole eggs, egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla at high speed for 3 to 4 minutes until the batter is pale and voluminous, and when the whisk is lifted the mixture falls in a thick fluffy rope that dissolves slowly on the surface of the remaining batter in about 4 seconds.
  4. While the eggs/sugar are beating, heat the milk and butter in a small saucepan until the butter is melted and the mixture is extremely hot to the touch. (It does not need to boil but must be very hot when you add it to the batter.)
  5. Remove the bowl from the mixer. Add half of the flour mixture over the eggs and fold with a whisk until the flour is almost blended into the batter. Repeat with the remaining half of the flour mixture. Pour all of the hot milk mixture over the batter and fold with the whisk until evenly combined. Divide the batter evenly into the prepared pans.
  6. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the cakes are set, golden, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Set the pans on a rack to cool for about 20 minutes.
  7. Run a thin icing spatula or butter knife around the inside of each pan to loosen the cakes from the sides. Invert onto a rack and peel off the parchment liners; turn the cakes right side up to finish cooling. The cake layers should be completely cool before filling and glazing.

For the Soaking Syrup

  1. Combine the water and sugar in a small pan and heat until the sugar dissolves. Off the heat, add the rum and set aside to cool.

For the Chocolate Ganache Topping

  1. In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Off the heat, add the chocolate and let sit for 1 minute to soften the chocolate. Whisk until smooth.

To Assemble

  1. Remove the pastry cream from the fridge and whisk vigorously until smooth — it will be quite thick.
  2. Place one cake layer on a serving platter. Brush it with half of the soaking syrup. Spread the pastry cream filling evenly over top. Top with the second cake layer. Brush the cake with the remaining soaking syrup. Pour the ganache onto the center of the cake. Use an offset spatula to spread the ganache to the edge of the cake, letting excess drip decoratively down sides. Set the cake aside for 30 minutes to allow the chocolate to set before slicing and serving, or refrigerate until ready to serve, up to 1 day ahead of time. Let the cake sit out at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.
  3. Make-Ahead/Freezer-Friendly Instructions: The assembled cake can be made up to 1 day ahead and refrigerated. Let it sit out at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving. The cakes (without the cream filling/soaking syrup/ganache) can be stored in the refrigerator for 1 day or frozen for up to 3 months after wrapping them tightly with aluminum foil or freezer wrap. Thaw overnight on the countertop before assembling.

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (8 servings)
  • Calories: 520
  • Fat: 22 g
  • Saturated fat: 12 g
  • Carbohydrates: 72 g
  • Sugar: 53 g
  • Fiber: 1 g
  • Protein: 9 g
  • Sodium: 257 mg
  • Cholesterol: 227 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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