Classic Boston Cream Pie with a moist, tender sponge cake and a layer of rich, smooth vanilla pastry cream, topped with a delicious bittersweet chocolate glaze.
I’m going out on a limb here to tell you that Boston Cream Pie is really a cake, not a pie. That’s a bit “Captain Obvious” I know, but for reasons that are somewhat elusive, the French/American chef that created this classic dessert chose to call it a pie. The original recipe dates back to the 1850’s and was named the Parker House Chocolate Cream Pie after the famous Parker House Hotel in Boston. That really doesn’t explain why it’s called pie instead of cake, but despite a split personality, it’s been a very popular American original for more than 150 years.
Boston Cream Pie checks all the boxes for the perfect dessert. From the creamy filling, to the rich chocolate topping and the soft sponge cake, this incredible and simple combination elevates the cake to superstar status. Is it hard to make? Not at all. Each of the three elements (cake, cream and ganache) are simple to make but require plenty of whisking, mixing and stirring. I recommend starting the cake early in the day to save yourself some stress, then refrigerate overnight to serve the next day. Your guests will be thrilled!
Before slicing the cake, warm a large sharp knife under hot running water then dry throughly. Gently make cuts in the chocolate topping to make each slice just a little neater. Wipe the knife clean then cut each piece all the way through.
If you’re not a bittersweet chocolate fan, try using semi-sweet chocolate for the topping instead. Overall the cake is not terribly sweet, which is a bit surprising and perfectly fine with me!
Boston Cream Pie
Prep Time:2 hours
Cook Time:45 minutes total
For the cake:
- 1 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 3 large Eggland's Best eggs, room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar
For the Pastry Cream:
- 2 cups half-and-half (1 pint or 16 fluid ounces)
- 6 large Eggland's Best egg yolks, room temperature
- 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
For the Glaze:
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons corn syrup
- 4 ounces bittersweet (or semi-sweet) chocolate, finely chopped
- To make the cake, preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans, then line each with parchment paper (cut to fit), then grease the parchment. Flour the pans and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
- In a small saucepan, heat the milk and butter together over low heat until the butter is melted. Remove the pan from the heat source and add the vanilla. Cover, set aside and keep warm.
- Fit a stand mixer with the whisk attachment and whip the eggs and sugar together on high or until light and slightly thick, about 5 minutes. Remove the mixing bowl from the stand and add the warm milk mixture, whisking by hand until blended. Add the flour and whisk again until incorporated. Quickly divide the batter equally between the two prepared pans and bake until the tops are light brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 21 to 23 minutes. Rotate pans about halfway through baking.
- Remove the cake from the oven and place the pans on a wire rack to cool completely. Once cool, run a small sharp knife around the edge of the pan and invert the cake onto the wire rack. Carefully peel away the parchment paper circle and turn the cakes right side up. (Cooled cakes can be stored at room temperature for up to 1 day if wrapped tightly in plastic wrap. To freeze, wrap in plastic wrap, then foil and freeze for up to 1 month. Defrost at room temperature.)
- While the cakes are cooling, prepare the pastry cream. In a medium bowl whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and salt until smooth. Add the flour to the egg yolks and whisk again until incorporated. Set aside.
- Heat the half-and-half in a medium saucepan over medium heat just until it simmers. Remove the half-and-half from the heat (leave the heat on) and, while whisking constantly, slowly add about 1/2 of the hot half-and-half to the yolks to temper the eggs. Whisking constantly, pour the tempered yolks back into the pan with the remaining half-and-half and whisk until combined.
- Return the saucepan to the heat and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens, about 1 minute. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, whisking constantly, for about 8 minutes. Increase the heat to medium and cook the pastry cream, whisking vigorously, until bubbles burst on the surface, about 2-3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the butter and vanilla until the butter is melted and fully incorporated. If lumpy, strain the pastry cream through a fine-mesh strainer set over a clean medium mixing bowl.
- Lightly spray a piece of plastic wrap with vegetable cooking spray and place sprayed side down directly on top of the pastry cream in the bowl. Press lightly to insure all areas of the pastry cream are covered. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours.
- To assemble the cake - place 1 cake layer on a platter or cake plate. Whisk the pastry cream lightly then gently dollop into the center of the cake. Using an off-set spatula, gently spread the cream evenly over the cake, just to the edge. Place the second cake layer, bottom side up, on top of the pastry cream. Line the layers up, ensuring all sides are even, and press gently to level. Refrigerate the cake while preparing the glaze.
- To prepare the glaze combine the cream and corn syrup in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to simmer over medium heat. Remove from the heat, add the chopped chocolate and cover with a lid. Set aside for 5 minutes. Whisk gently until smooth. Slowly pour the glaze into the center of the cake. Use an off-set spatula to spread the glaze to the edge of the cake, allowing a small amount to drip decoratively down the sides.
- Refrigerate the completed cake for at least 3 hours, or up to 24 hours, before serving. Allow the cake to come to room temperature before serving.
- NOTE: for cleaner cuts, heat a large sharp thin knife under hot water. Dry thoroughly then cut through the chocolate. Wipe the knife clean then complete the cut through the cake.
- This cake is best made the day before serving.