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Boston cream pie is made with tender vanilla cake layers sandwiched around creamy pasty cream and topped with a silky chocolate glaze.
When I was a little girl, we took my grandmother out for dinner for Mother’s Day to a fancy restaurant and for dessert, they served us Boston Cream Pie. I couldn’t understand why it is a cake named Boston Cream Pie, but once I tasted it, I didn’t care what it was called. All that mattered was that it was delicious.
The flavor combination is unbeatable – I can’t resist it when it’s on a menu – and I even love a Boston Cream donut.
When I started cooking, particularly baking, I thought about making Boston Cream Pie, but for reasons I don’t even understand I just never got around to it. But the decadent pastry cream layer, the light and fluffy sponge cake and the rich chocolate ganache-like glaze kept calling me.
Once I gave it a try, I fell in love all over again, and have made this pie on repeat. It’s a great dessert to serve after a special occasion dinner.
I have made pastry cream before, and use it in my eclairs and my cream puff recipes. It’s really not any more difficult than making a pudding. And honestly, pastry cream is so delicious, I could eat it all by itself with nothing but a spoon.
But it’s completely irresistible when sandwiched between this tangy sponge cake – which is lighter than my vanilla cake. It’s not quite as airy or sweet as an angel food cake, it’s more like what I use in my yule log. (Save that one for the holidays!).
The finishing touch of this cake is the decadent chocolate glaze. It’s smoother than a ganache, but along those same lines. Semi-sweet chocolate and heavy cream are mixed with a bit of corn syrup to lighten up and liquify the glaze. It sits atop the cake without totally soaking into it.
The end result is a fluffy cake filled with luscious cream and topped with just a touch of rich chocolate. It’s like a chocolate eclair but in a cake form. It might seem like a long recipe, but trust me, it’s worth it. Give it a try and enjoy!
- TASTE: Vanilla and chocolate
- TEXTURE: Fluffy cake, rich pasty cream and chocolate glaze
- EASE: This is of medium difficulty
- TIME: A hour of active time and 2 hours or more of chilling
What You’ll Need
The list of ingredients needed for this Boston Cream Pie recipe seems long, but it is essentially three separate recipes – a cake, a filling and a glaze. Don’t be afraid!
- Sugar – granulated sugar adds sweetness to the pastry cream and cake.
- Cornstarch – This is a thickener for the pastry cream
- Whole milk – makes the pastry cream creamy
- Eggs– Yolks add richness to the pastry cream, and whole eggs are used in the cake batter.
- Butter – Unsalted butter is used in the cake batter.
- Vanilla – The pastry cream will be extra decadent with flecks from the vanilla bean paste, but if you don’t have any, you can use vanilla extract in both the pastry cream and the cake batter.
- Flour – Use all purpose flour for the cake.
- Baking powder – This is the leavening agent in this cake recipe.
- Salt – Just a touch balances the flavors.
- Buttermilk – My secret cake batter ingredient – adds flavor and moisture.
- Heavy cream – Or whipping cream. Smooths out the chocolate in the glaze.
- Light corn syrup – Adds sweetness to the glaze and keeps it from hardening.
- Semi-sweet chocolate – Chips or a bar, coarsely chopped
- Instant read thermometer
- Fine mesh sieve
How to Make Boston Cream Pie
This is essentially three different recipes that all come together to make one delicious and decadent dessert.
When you are ready to bake the cake, heat the oven to 325°F. Grease two 9-inch round pans and line the bottom of the pans with greased parchment paper cut to fit. Dust the insides of the pan with flour, then tap out any excess. Set aside.
Make the Boston Cream Filling
- Prepare the ingredients. In a medium pot, whisk the sugar and cornstarch together until well combined. In a separate small bowl, whisk the milk and egg yolks together until well combined.
- Combine mixtures. Slowly pour the milk mixture into the sugar mixture while whisking to remove any clumps.
- Cook the pastry cream. Cook over medium heat, whisking continuously until bubbles start to burst through the surface. Once boiling, continue to cook while whisking for a full minute until thickened.
- Finish the cream. Remove from the heat and whisk in the vanilla paste until well combined, then press the pastry cream through a fine-mesh sieve. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours.
Make the Cake
- Cream the butter, eggs and sugar. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing for 20 seconds after each addition. Beat in the vanilla.
- Mix the other ingredients. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir with a whisk and add half to the butter mixture. Beat on low speed until the flour is almost fully incorporated. Mix in the buttermilk, followed by the remaining flour mixture, and beat on low until just combined. Take care not to over-mix.
- Bake the cake. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans and bake for 20-22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or with only a few moist crumbs attached.
- Cool in the pans. Cool for 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely before assembling.
Assemble the Cake
- Assemble the Cake. Place one cake layer on a serving plate. Spread pastry cream evenly on top. Place the second cake layer on top and gently press down to adhere to the pastry cream. Refrigerate the cake while preparing the chocolate glaze.
Make the Chocolate Glaze
- Heat the liquids. In a small saucepan over medium-low, heat the cream and corn syrup to a simmer.
- Melt the chocolate. Remove the pot from the heat and pour cream over the chocolate and let stand for 3 minutes. Whisk until smooth. Spread the glaze evenly over the top of the cake.
Chill the Cake
- Refrigerate the cake, uncovered, for at least 2 hours (and up to 24 hours) before slicing and serving. If chilling for longer than 2 hours, allow the cake to come to room temperature before slicing and serving.
When refrigerating pastry cream, cover with plastic wrap and make sure the wrap touches the top of the cream to prevent a layer of skin from forming.
Tips For Success
- When making the pastry cream, it should become thick like pudding. It should register 200°F on an instant-read thermometer when it is finished.
- Don’t skip the step of pushing the cream through a sieve. It’s important to remove any small clumps of egg that may have scrambled while cooking.
- If you refrigerate the cake for more than 2 hours, let it sit and come to room temperature before slicing and serving.
Storage & Freezing
Cover leftover cake tightly and store in the refrigerator for 5 days.
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