The first time I tried Boston cream pie was several years ago, but I've never forgotten that amazing dessert. The tender cake, velvety Boston cream filling, and creamy chocolate topping is just divine. If you follow the simple steps below, you'll be able to make your own from scratch!
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What is Boston cream pie?
It is not a pie, but a cake. It consists of two layers of hot milk cake filled with vanilla pudding and topped with creamy chocolate ganache. This delicious dessert is the state dessert of Massachusetts.
Where was it invented?
This dessert was first made back in 1881 at the Parker House hotel in Boston, Massachusetts. A French chef named Raelyn is credited with inventing this delicious dessert.
His Boston cream pie was a little different from the modern-day one, however. It consisted of a butter cake split in half and brushed with rum syrup, then filled with vanilla pudding (known as crème pâtissière in French). The sides were spread with crème pâtissière and decorated with sliced almonds, while the top was covered with chocolate fondant.
Back in the 1950s, Betty Crocker introduced boxed mixes for the cake, pudding, and chocolate icing to make it simpler for the average home baker. She omitted the syrup and sliced almonds and used an icing instead of fondant on top. This simplified version seems to have outshined the old one in popularity among home bakers!
Why is it called pie?
Back in the 1880s when it was invented, cakes and pies were often baked in the same pans. That's why their names were often interchangeable. I'm glad we stick to one name for each dessert nowadays!
What is Boston cream filling made of?
It is made from just a few simple ingredients: milk, egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, flour, and vanilla. It's the same thing as the French crème pâtissière or American vanilla pudding. You can whisk up the filling in just a few minutes!
Does Boston cream pie need to be refrigerated?
Yes, it does need to be refrigerated, because it contains a custard filling and chocolate ganache. Keep it at room temperature for no more than 2 hours before refrigerating.
Can it be frozen?
Yes, you can freeze it as long as you don't use cornstarch in the filling. Use flour to thicken it instead, as cornstarch can make the filling runny when it's defrosted. Defrost this dessert in the fridge overnight, then take it out of the fridge an hour before eating.
How to Make
Gather the ingredients, making sure they are at room temperature.
Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt and whisk until combined.
Heat the butter and milk together on medium heat until the butter is melted. Turn the heat to low and keep the milk on the heat until needed later.
Whisk the eggs and sugar together on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. The mixture should leave trails that hold their shape for a few seconds before sinking back into the batter.
Fold in the flour mixture gently with a silicone spatula. Make sure that there are no hidden pockets of flour in the mixture.
Turn the mixer on low speed and trickle in the hot milk and butter mixture. Mix with the whisk attachment until evenly blended, but be careful not to mix too long.
Gently pour the batter into a 9-inch springform pan that has its base lined with parchment paper.
Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes, until it is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Meanwhile, make the filling. You'll need milk, egg yolks, cornstarch, flour, sugar, and vanilla.
Heat the milk in a heavy-bottomed saucepan until just barely simmering. While the milk's getting hot, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until they're pale and thick.
Dump in the flour and cornstarch and whisk again until blended.
Slowly pour the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly, then pour the filling back into the saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Whisk constantly until the custard has thickened.
Pour the custard through a sieve to remove any lumps, then press a piece of plastic wrap onto the surface of the custard to prevent a skin from forming. Chill the custard in the fridge until you're ready to use it.
Now, make the chocolate ganache. You'll simply need some 60% cacao chocolate chips and heavy cream.
Heat the cream over medium heat until it's just barely simmering, then remove it from the heat and whisk in the chocolate chips until smooth.
Pour the ganache into a bowl and let it chill in the fridge until ready to use, stirring occasionally. This allows the ganache to thicken, making it easier to decorate.
Once the cake has cooled, peel off the parchment paper and split it in half with a serrated knife.
Spread the vanilla custard filling on the bottom layer.
Top with the other layer.
Spread the thickened chocolate ganache on top, making sure to get right to the edge. Let it drip down the sides a little if you like.
Chill it in the fridge for about 2 hours before slicing, as this will firm up the ganache and filling to make for a neater slice.
- Handle the batter gently to keep as much air in it as possible.
- Be careful not to overbake, or it will be dry.
- Let the ganache cool and thicken in the fridge before pouring it on top.
- Refrigerate the cake in an airtight container. Eat within 3 days of making.
- Leftover ganache can be chilled until firm, rolled into balls, and enjoyed as chocolate truffles.
- 9-Inch Springform Pan: this loose-bottomed pan makes it easy to remove the cake.
- Cake Lifter: you'll be able to effortlessly move your baked goods with this giant spatula!
- Cooling Racks: keep your cakes from getting soggy as they cool with these racks.
- Stainless Steel Whisks: these sturdy whisks don't rust or bend out of shape.
Other Chocolate Cake Recipes
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This easy recipe for the best Boston cream pie makes a soft and tender cake, velvety custard filling, and creamy chocolate ganache topping all from scratch. Check out the step by step photos that break down each simple step. You’ll definitely want a second slice of this beloved traditional dessert!
For the Cake (from Martha Stewart)
- 1 ⅔ cups all-purpose flour (200g)
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup whole milk (120 ml)
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter (90g)
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 cup caster sugar (200g)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the Boston Cream Filling
- 2 cups whole milk (500 ml)
- 5 large egg yolks
- ½ cup granulated sugar (100g)
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour (25g)
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch (20g)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the Chocolate Ganache
- ¾ cup heavy whipping cream (200 ml)
- 5.8 ounces dark chocolate chips (165g)
Making the Cake (35 min + 30 min baking)
- Preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and line its base with parchment paper.
- Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt until well blended. Set aside.
- Place the milk and butter in a small saucepan and set over low heat, stirring occasionally. Once the mixture begins to simmer, turn it to very low heat until ready to use.
- Crack the room temperature eggs into the bowl of a stand mixer and add the caster sugar. Whisk on medium low speed for a couple minutes, then turn the speed to high and whisk until the mixture has at least doubled in volume and is quite pale. When the whisk is lifted, a ribbon of batter should fall from it and hold its shape for a few seconds before sinking into the mixture.
- Gently fold in the dry ingredients with a silicone spatula.
- Trickle in the hot milk mixture and the vanilla extract with the mixer running on low speed. Use the whisk attachment and stir until well blended. Be careful not to overmix; you want to keep as much air in the mixture as possible, but still have an evenly mixed batter.
- Gently ease the batter into the pan, making sure the batter is level.
- Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes, until it is golden brown, is shrinking away slightly from the sides of the pan, and springs back quickly when you lightly press on the center. Don't open the oven door while it's baking, or the cake may sink.
- Let it cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then take it out and place it right side up on a wire rack to cool completely.
Making the Boston Cream Filling (20 min)
- Pour the milk into a heavy-based, 2-quart saucepan and set over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the milk is just barely simmering.
- Whisk the egg yolks and sugar with a handheld electric mixer until the mixture is pale and thick. Beat in the cornstarch and flour until blended.
- Gradually trickle the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Keep whisking until blended, then pour the mixture back into the saucepan.
- Whisk the custard constantly over medium heat until it boils and thickens. Immediately remove it from the heat and stir in the vanilla.
- Pour the custard through a mesh sieve to remove any lumps, then pour it into a bowl. Press a piece of plastic wrap right onto the surface of the custard to prevent a skin from forming.
- Chill in the fridge until ready to use.
Making the Chocolate Ganache (5 min)
- Pour the cream into a small saucepan and heat over medium heat until it just begins to simmer. Remove from the heat and whisk in the chocolate until fully combined.
- Pour the ganache into a bowl and chill in the fridge until ready to use, stirring occasionally. This step allows the ganache to thicken, which will result in a thicker layer of chocolate on the Boston cream pie.
Assembling the Cake (15 min)
- Once the cake has fully cooled, gently peel off the parchment paper from its base. Put it on a large cutting board and get down to eye level with it. Using a serrated knife, slice it in half, turning the cake as you cut for an even slice.
- Place the bottom half on the serving plate or stand and evenly spread the custard in a thick layer on top. Top with the other piece.
- Slowly pour a little ganache into the middle and spread it over the top. Add more ganache where necessary and smooth it until it completely covers the top. You'll probably have some extra ganache, which you can chill and eat as chocolate truffles.
- Chill for 2 hours before slicing and serving to allow the ganache and custard to fully set.
- Be gentle with the batter to keep it from deflating.
- Check with a toothpick to keep it from getting overbaked.
- Let the ganache thicken in the fridge before putting it on top.
- Refrigerate for up to 3 days.
- Leftover ganache can be chilled until firm and rolled into balls to make chocolate truffles.
- Category: Cake
- Method: Baked
- Cuisine: American
Keywords: classic boston cream pie recipe, boston cream pie cake recipe, boston cream pie from scratch
This recipe was originally published on February 15, 2018.