Boston Cream Pie

  • Serves: Makes one 9-inch 2-layer cake
  • Baking Temp (degrees F): 350
  • Views: 14867
  • Comments: 14

Photo and cake by Kelly Hong © Sarah Phillips
This version of Boston cream pie is extraordinary. The cake, a hot milk sponge, dates to the late 1800's. It is especially tender, light, and delicate.

The recipe is from Eliza Leslie’s 1851 cookbook, Directions for Cookery, which has been adapted by Greg Patent The layers are filled with a beautifully smooth baked cream custard, really a crème brûlée without the sugar topping, flavored with vanilla and stick cinnamon. The glaze is a silky-smooth chocolate ganache. Serve small portions of this rich dessert at a fancy tea party or after a fairly light meal.

SARAH SAYS: My latest blog post for the NY TIMES:
June 21, 2010 9:26 AM ET Not a pie at all, but a cake, the famed Boston Cream Pie consists of two layers of Sponge or butter cake filled with a thick custard and finished with a chocolate glaze. Careful research by Greg Patent, a baker and cookbook author, shows that the recipe evolved from Washington Pie, not from one used at Boston's Parker House Hotel (today the Omni Parker House) as previously thought, except for the use of a chocolate fondant as a glaze. Washington Pie appeared in many cookbooks prior to 1856, and was popular well into the twentieth century. The recipe directs the cook to bake the batter in pie plates, more accessible in those days than cake pans, and the name stuck. Sarah Phillips, founder,, a baking advice and recipe site.

KELLY  SAYS: "OK, the Boston Cream Pie was DELISH!...Rich, decadent and truly YUMMY!!! Hubby was thrilled."

2 cups heavy cream
1 3-inch cinnamon stick, optional
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1/4 cup sugar
4 large egg yolks

1. For the custard filling, place the cream and cinnamon stick in a small heavy saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the cream and
add the pod.

2. Slowly bring to a boil over medium-low heat; watch closely, or the cream may boil over.

3. Remove from the heat, add the sugar, and stir until dissolved. Set aside to steep for about 1 hour.

2. Adjust an oven rack to the center position and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Have ready a 9-inch ovenproof glass pie plate and a shallow baking pan large
enough to contain the pie plate. Bring a kettle of water to a boil.

3. If a skin has formed on top of the cream, stir it back in. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer and return to the saucepan. Heat until almost boiling.

4. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Gradually whisk the hot cream into the egg yolks; don’t beat. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh
strainer into the pie plate and set the pie plate in the baking pan. Add boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the pie plate and place in the oven.

5. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, just until set; the tip of a sharp knife inserted into the center should come out clean. Remove the custard from the water
bath and cool to room temperature on a wire rack.

6. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight

The custard can be made ahead and refrigerated for several hours, or overnight.

1 cup sifted bleached cake flour; sift flour into the measuring cup and level to rim
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Adjust an oven rack to the center position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch layer cake pan, or coat with
cooking spray. Line the bottom with a round of waxed paper or cooking parchment. Butter the paper or coat with cooking spray and dust the bottom
of the pan lightly with all-purpose flour. Knock out the excess flour and set aside.

2. Resift the cake flour with the baking powder and salt, and set aside.

3. Combine the milk and butter in a small heavy saucepan and set over low heat. Stirring frequently, bring the milk and butter mixture to a boil.
Cover and set aside while making the batter; you do not want the milk to cool.

4. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with an electric mixer on high speed for a few minutes, until thickened and light in color. On medium speed, gradually
beat in the sugar, then beat on high for 5 minutes. Beat in the vanilla.

5. On low speed, add the sifted dry ingredients, beating only until incorporated. Scrape the bowl, handling the batter as gently as possible.

6. Beating on low speed, add the hot milk mixture in a steady stream to the batter, taking 15 to 20 seconds to do so. As soon as the batter is smooth, scrape it into the cake

7. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the cake is a deep golden brown color, springs back when gently pressed, and pulls away from the sides of the pan; do not overbake.
Cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Run a small sharp knife around the edges to loosen the cake, cover with a rack, and invert.
Remove the pan and paper liner, cover the cake with another rack, and reinvert to cool right side up.

Assemble the cake:
1. Use a sharp serrated knife to slice the cake horizontally in half. Carefully remove the top half and set it aside.
Place the bottom half on a cake plate, cut side up.

2. Spoon the cold baked custard filling onto the cake, spreading it gently with a small metal spatula to make a smooth layer reaching almost to the

3. Set the top half of the cake right side up on the filling. If you want to serve the cake soon, with an unchilled filling, leave it at room temperature
while you make the glaze; otherwise, refrigerate it.

Make the Chocolate Glaze:
Can substitute with Kelly-ish chocolate ganache topping.
1/4 cup heavy cream
3 ounces (3 squares) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

1. Bring the cream to a simmer in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the chocolate and stir briefly with a small whisk until
the chocolate is partly melted.

2. Remove from the heat and continue stirring until melted and smooth. Set aside for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened a bit.

Final Touches:
1. To glaze the cake, pour all of the glaze onto the center of the cake and carefully spread it with a long metal spatula right to the edges.

2. Refrigerate for a few minutes to set the glaze, or for 1 to 2 hours, or longer, until chilled.

Cut into portions with a sharp knife.

This dessert is best the day it is assembled. Keep refrigerated. Does not freeze.

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