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!

Prep Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
slice of Boston cream pie on a plate
Cakes, Chocolates, Dessert

Best Boston Cream Pie from Scratch

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This recipe was originally published on February 15, 2018.

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 fantastic Boston cream pie from scratch!

person holding a plate of Boston cream pie

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What is Boston cream pie?

Boston cream pie 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 Boston cream pie 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 of the cake were spread with crème pâtissière and decorated with sliced almonds, while the top of the cake 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!

person holding a Boston cream pie

Why is Boston cream pie called pie?

Back in the 1880s when Boston cream pie 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?

Boston cream filling 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 Boston cream in just a few minutes!

slice of Boston cream pie with a fork

Does Boston cream pie need to be refrigerated?

Yes, Boston cream pie does need to be refrigerated, because it contains a custard filling and chocolate ganache.  Keep the Boston cream pie at room temperature for no more than 2 hours before refrigerating.

Can Boston cream pie be frozen?

Yes, you can freeze Boston cream pie as long as you don’t use cornstarch in the cream filling.  Use flour to thicken it instead, as cornstarch can make the cream filling runny when it’s defrosted.  Defrost the Boston cream pie in the fridge overnight, then take it out of the fridge an hour before eating.

How to Make Boston Cream Pie from Scratch

Gather the ingredients for the hot milk cake.  Make sure that all the ingredients are at room temperature.

cake ingredients for the Boston cream pie

Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt and whisk until combined.

sifted flour in a bowl

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.

milk and melted butter mixture in a saucepan

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.

leaving trails with the whisk in the whisked egg mixture

Fold in the flour mixture gently with a silicone spatula.  Make sure that there are no hidden pockets of flour in the mixture.

folding the flour mixture into the whisked egg

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.

cake batter for Boston cream pie

Gently pour the cake batter into a 9-inch springform pan that has its base lined with parchment paper.

cake batter for Boston cream pie in a springform pan

Bake the cake at 350 F for 30 minutes, until the cake is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

baked Boston cream pie on a cooling rack

Meanwhile, make the Boston cream filling.  You’ll need milk, egg yolks, cornstarch, flour, sugar, and vanilla.

ingredients for the Boston cream filling

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.

whisked egg yolks and sugar mixture

Dump in the flour and cornstarch and whisk again until blended.

electric mixer with a bowl of whisked egg yolks

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.

thickened Boston cream filling in a saucepan

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.

Boston cream filling in a bowl

Now, make the chocolate ganache.  You’ll simply need some 60% cacao chocolate chips and heavy cream.

cream and chocolate chips for ganache

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 the Boston cream pie.

chocolate ganache in a saucepan with a whisk

Once the cake has cooled, peel off the parchment paper and split it in half with a serrated knife.

Boston cream cake cut in half

Spread the vanilla custard filling on the bottom layer of cake.

spreading the Boston cream filling on the cake

Top with the other cake layer.

cake sandwiched with Boston cream filling

Spread the thickened chocolate ganache on top of the cake, making sure to get right to the edge.  Let it drip down the sides a little if you like.

Boston cream pie on a wire cooling rack

Chill the Boston cream pie in the fridge for about 2 hours before slicing, as this will firm up the ganache and filling to make for a neater slice.

Boston cream pie on a plate

Pro Tips

  • Handle the cake batter gently to keep as much air in it as possible.
  • Be careful not to overbake the cake, or it will be dry.
  • Let the ganache cool and thicken in the fridge before pouring it on top of the Boston cream pie.
  • Refrigerate the cake in an airtight cake carrier.  Eat within 3 days of making.
  • Leftover ganache can be chilled until firm, rolled into balls, and enjoyed as chocolate truffles.

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slice of Boston cream pie on a plate

Best Boston Cream Pie from Scratch


  • Author: Emma
  • Prep Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
  • Yield: 1 9-inch cake 1x

Description

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!


Scale

Ingredients

For the Cake (from Martha Stewart)

  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour (200g)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 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
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar (100g)
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour (25g)
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch (20g)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the Chocolate Ganache

  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream (200 ml)
  • 5.8 ounces dark chocolate chips (165g)

Instructions

Making the Cake (35 min + 30 min baking)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Butter a 9-inch springform pan and line its base with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt until well blended.  Set aside.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Gently fold in the dry ingredients with a silicone spatula.
  6. 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.
  7. Gently ease the batter into the pan, making sure the batter is level.
  8. Bake the cake at 350 F for 30 minutes, until the cake is golden brown, is shrinking away slightly from the sides of the pan, and springs back quickly when you lightly press on the center of the cake.  Don’t open the oven door while it’s baking, or the cake may sink.
  9. Let the cake 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)

  1. While the cake is cooling, make the cream filling.  Pour the milk into a heavy-based, 2-quart saucepan and set over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the milk is just barely simmering.
  2. 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.
  3. Gradually trickle the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly.  Keep whisking until blended, then pour the mixture back into the saucepan.
  4. Whisk the custard constantly over medium heat until it boils and thickens.  Immediately remove it from the heat and stir in the vanilla.
  5. 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.
  6. Chill in the fridge until ready to use.

Making the Chocolate Ganache (5 min)

  1. 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.
  2. 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)

  1. Once the cake has fully cooled, gently peel off the parchment paper from its base.  Put the cake on a large cutting board and get down to eye level with the cake.  Using a serrated knife, slice the cake in half, turning the cake as you cut for an even slice.
  2. Place the bottom half of the cake on the serving plate or cake stand and evenly spread the custard in a thick layer on top.  Top with the other piece of cake.
  3. Slowly pour a little ganache into the middle of the cake 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.
  4. Chill the cake for 2 hours before slicing and serving to allow the ganache and custard to fully set.

Notes

  • Make this recipe perfectly the first time.  Check out the step-by-step photos and pro tips before the recipe card.
  • The pleasure of a 5-star review for this Boston cream pie recipe would be greatly appreciated.
  • 👩🏻‍🍳 Want to see our latest recipes?  Subscribe to our email newsletter to get our latest recipes, fun food facts, food puns, and behind the scenes news about our blog.
  • Category: Cake
  • Method: Baked
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: classic boston cream pie recipe, boston cream pie cake recipe, boston cream pie from scratch

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2 thoughts on “Best Boston Cream Pie from Scratch

  1. The cake part is soft and delicious. The creme patisisere between the two layers of cake is the perfect thing to complement the chocolate ganache on top. Since I love chocolate 🍫, this is the crowning touch.

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