Boston Cream Pie

Who doesn't love a piece of cake? Fill it with custard and pour some melted chocolate over the top and suddenly a slice of fluffy cake becomes a piece of heaven. Boston cream pie is a classic recipe, with the recipe reportedly over 160 years old, with a start in - you guessed it - Boston, at a hotel formerly called the Parker House.

The history of food can be so intriguing. To know that a baker at a little hotel in Boston put the concept together that would later be served at restaurants worldwide (and even packaged up as a Little Debbie snack) is fascinating.

The version I made came from my super amazing and always useful Joy of Cooking cookbook. I inherited it from my late grandmother, who I've noted before was one of the greatest bakers I've been fortunate enough to know. Boston Cream Pie actually composed of three totally separate recipes--a cake, pudding, and chocolate icing. While making three separate pieces may sound complicated, it actually makes the process easier. You start the cake, then while it bakes make the cream filling. Then, as that and the cake are cooling, you make the frosting. There is no sitting around bored while you make this bad boy, and I personally am great at keeping up momentum. If I sit down, I get tired! So this is the ideal cake for the busy soul.

So first, the cake. Did I mention I love cake? Because I LOVE cake. This was like many others in that you cream the butter and sugar together first, beat in the eggs, vanilla and almond extract. Almond extract: always.

In a separate bowl, I sifted together cake flour, salt, and baking powder. Cake flour is lighter than all purpose flour, so I knew it would make a fluffy cake. I then alternatively added the milk and flour to the mixing bowl and slowly mixed it until it was combined.

I poured the batter into a cake pan and baked it for 25 minutes, until the center was fully cooked.

While the cake was in the oven, I got to work on the custard. This was just a matter of adding some whole milk, sugar, flour, and the scrapings from a vanilla bean (and the bean itself) into a small saucepan. The instructions simply said to "scald" it, so I simmered it on low for about 5 minutes, until it was slightly thickened.

I heated another pan to boil, and placed my double boiler over the top, making sure there was a gap between the top of the water and the bottom of the pan insert. The idea is for the steam to heat the pan, not the boiling water itself. In here, I mixed the sugar, eggs, and flour.

I used a fork to stir it constantly, then slowly poured in the milk mixture (after removing the vanilla bean). I posted photos of each step here because the custard looked quite different at each part.

I kept stirring the mixture for about 4 minutes while keeping it over the heat. I could see it thickening as the heat continued.

Once I had a thick, pudding-like mixture, I poured the warm custard into a heat proof cup and put it in the fridge so it would cool. It did take a long time to cool, so I would consider making this before starting the cake to allow it plenty of time.

As the filling cooled down, it was time for step 3 (arguably the most important): the chocolate glaze! I melted some rich 90% dark chocolate and butter on low heat in a saucepan. Melting it on super low heat is vital - I have made the mistake of being impatient before and ended up ruining perfectly good chocolate. Overheating it, even over a double boiler, will cause the chocolate to dry out and become crumbly and useless.

Once it was all melted, I whisked in some heavy cream. When I had a liquid of uniform consistency, I whisked in some powdered sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla extract.

I had let the cake and custard cool down for a while (actually putting the custard in some ice to speed up the cooking process), so the next step was slicing the top half of the cake off so I could fill it.

I used a plate with edges curving upward, which made it easy for me to stay on track and slice it right down the middle. The cake was light and airy just as expected!

I spread some of the custard in the middle, using about 3/4 of the mixture. I didn't want too much coming out of the sides, so I did not put it all.

I replaced the second layer of cake and poured the frosting over it. Beautiful Boston cream pie!

Sweet success. Though this took some time, it was totally worth it. This was my first time working with a fresh vanilla bean, and that filling was a WOW! I wouldn't use it in every cookie recipe from here on out as that would just be a waste of all that flavor potential. But in pudding or anything vanilla? It's a must. As mentioned, I love cake. I can enjoy a big ol' piece of anything from Publix's cake perfection to a Pillsbury boxed version. But cake flour is the king of homemade cake, resulting in a light, fluffy piece of goodness. This one, with that custard and chocolate to top it off, was just delightful, and in actuality did not take that long. I enjoy playing with complex recipes (Koliva took an entire weekend, and Chocolate Brioche & English Toffee Pudding was a several hour project), and though this was more intense, it truly only took about 2 hours. Now, with that custard cooling, if you let it sit in the fridge you will need more time. But I was all about getting this thing put together and demolished, so I expedited the process. If you have a weekend day to relax and want a piece of freshly made Boston Cream Pie, give this one a try.

Boston Cream Pie recipe


For the gold layer cake:
2 cups cake flour, sifted
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 cup milk

For the custard filling:
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 vanilla bean
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
2 egg yolks
2 whole eggs

For the chocolate icing:
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 tablespoon butter
6 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar


For the cake, start by sifting together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large mixing bowl, beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, then add vanilla and almond extracts. Slowly stir in about 1/3 of the dry ingredients, then 1/4 cup of the milk. Repeat with the remaining dry ingredients and milk until mixture is well combined. Pour into a greased cake pan and bake for 25 minutes, until center is fully cooked. Dump pan upside down in a plate and set aside to cool.

To make the custard, heat the milk and vanilla bean to a simmer on low heat. In a double boiler over boiling water, add the sugar, flour, egg yolks, and whole eggs. Beat the ingredients together with a whisk or fork, and slowly pour in the scalded milk (after removing the vanilla bean), stirring constantly. Cook while continuing to stir for about 3-5 minutes, until the mixture thickens into a pudding like consistency. Remove from heat and cool, stirring to release steam. Chill in the fridge or freezer.

For the chocolate icing, melt the chocolate and butter together in a saucepan over the lowest heat. Whisk in the heavy cream, then the powdered sugar, cinnamon and vanilla until you have a thick frosting.

To build this cake, make sure the cake is room temperature and the custard is cool. Use a large knife or cake slicer to cut the cake in half horizontally. Spread custard in the center, then top with remaining half of cake. Pour chocolate icing over the top. Slice and serve. Keep refrigerated.

adapted from the joy of cooking cookbook

No comments:

Post a Comment

Pin It button on image hover