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Boston Cream Pie is a buttery yellow sponge cake, filled with creamy custard, and topped with a chocolate ganache.
Hi everyone – it’s Jack. Today we’re sharing a delicious, 100% from-scratch recipe for Boston Cream Pie. This is a classic New England dessert dating back to the 1800’s when French pastry chef Raelyn created this cake at Boston’s Parker House hotel – now called the Omni Parker House.
The original Boston Cream Pie was made with a butter sponge cake, thick homemade custard, and a chocolate fondant. Some versions of the Boston Cream Pie recipe have a rum glaze on the cake, as well as toasted almonds pressed onto the sides, held on by some of the pastry cream. For our version, we used a chocolate ganache instead of fondant and swirled in white icing to decorate.
Why is Boston Cream Pie called a pie when it’s really a cake?
Back in the day, pies and cakes were baked in the same round-shaped pan – so the terms “pie” and “cake” were used interchangeably.
Tips for making Boston Cream Pie
I will say upfront that this cake will take some time to prepare, as well as some intermediate baking skills – but don’t let that scare you off. Boston Cream Pie is a dessert that is well worth the effort – and if you carefully follow our recipe below – you’ll have a delicious, show-stopper of a dessert to serve your dinner guests.
Here are a few tips & tricks I learned along the way:
- You must use a kitchen scale and weigh the flour and sugar for the cake. Do not try to convert the weight to a measured volume amount – the measurements must be precise, and weight measurements are the ONLY way to be exact.
- Use softened butter in the cake, NOT melted butter. This makes an enormous difference.
- The flour and butter need to be folded into the batter and not whisked. To fold, simply take a spatula and gently “fold” the ingredients over and over until they are mixed.
- DON’T use ‘bake-even’ strips around the edge of the cake pans. (They are used to keep the cake layers from mounding up in the center of the pan.) The cake batter in this recipe bakes up nice and evenly as is, and the bake-even strips actually prevent the batter from rising properly. So don’t use them.
The nice thing about this recipe is that you can tackle it in pieces – so it won’t feel overwhelming. Make the custard the day before you plan to serve your Boston Cream Pie. (It needs time to chill and thicken in the refrigerator anyway.) Bake the cake layers the day before so they, too, can cool before assembling. Then, assemble your Boston Cream Pie a few hours before you plan to serve it so the ganache can set up before slicing.
You may like these other cake recipes:
- Apple Dapple Cake
- Jack’s Carrot Cake
- Nanny’s Black Midnight Cake
- Cream Cheese Apple Cake
- Super Moist Lemon Lime Cake
1 1/4 cups whole milk, divided
1 1/2 cups heavy cream*
3/4 cup superfine sugar**
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla
8 ounces softened butter (2 sticks), plus butter to grease the pans
8 ounces in weight self-rising flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
8 ounces in weight granulated sugar
4 whole eggs
1/3 cup heavy cream
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips.
2 ounces good quality white chocolate discs, for melting
Prepare the custard
In a medium saucepan, heat one cup of milk, all of the cream and the sugar and over medium low, bring to a scald. ***
In a small bowl whisk the quarter cup of milk with the cornstarch and set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the vanilla.
Very slowly, drizzle the hot milk and cream into the egg yolks whisking vigorously as you drizzle. This tempers the eggs so they don’t scramble. Keep pouring until all of the milk and cream has been whisked in, then pour back into the saucepan.
Over medium low, whisk in the milk and cornstarch mixture into the sauce pan and whisk continuously for 1 ½ minutes or until it thickens. Once thick, cook and whisk for 1 ½ more minutes.
Pour into a container and let cool for 10 minutes. Stir once and place a piece of plastic wrap directly over the custard, letting it adhere to the top.
Use a sharp skewer or toothpick and puncture the plastic all across the top so the steam can escape. Refrigerate for four hours or overnight.
Prepare the Cake
Make the cake by preheating the oven to 350 degrees F once you are ready to bake. Note, the butter must be softened and at room temperature. Don’t preheat the oven until you are ready with the butter.
Take a stick of butter and grease two 9” round cake pans, running the stick around the bottom and sides. Use your fingers to touch up any dry spots.
Take two sheets of parchment and cut two 9” circles. Place them onto the bottom of each buttered pan. Don’t grease the top of the paper.
Make sure that the butter is softened to room temperature.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F with rack in center of oven.
Place a small wide bowl on a kitchen scale with a sieve in the bowl. Zero the scale. Scoop in large spoonfuls of self-rising flour into the sieve until you have exactly 8 ounces. Sift, then sift in the baking powder and set that bowl aside.
Weigh out the 8 ounces of the granulated sugar.
In a large bowl, beat eggs and sugar until completely incorporated.
Fold in the flour and butter into the sugar/egg mixture using a spatula or wooden spoon. Do not whisk or beat. Continue folding the batter until smooth, airy and delicate.
Divide the batter between the two prepared pans and bake for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, they should have risen to about halfway up the pans, be slightly golden brown and starting to pull away from the sides. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean. If not bake for a few more minutes.
Remove from oven and cool five minutes then place a dishcloth over the tops and invert into your hand, then flip back over onto a cooling rack to cool face up. Cool completely.
Place one cooled cake on your cake serving dish or pedestal.
Assemble the Cake
Remove the cold custard and spread the entire amount over the cake, spreading just to the edge.
Top with the second cooled cake and make sure it sits flat and even.
Prepare the Ganache
Heat the heavy cream in the microwave until very hot but not boiling.
In a medium glass bowl, place the chocolate chips and pour the hot cream over the top. Cover with an inverted pan or cover for four minutes. Remove cover and whisk until creamy.
This is important: The consistency of the chocolate mixture should be thick enough that it won’t run off the top and down the sides but thin enough that it spreads when poured over the top just reaching the edges and a little drizzling down the edges. Test it on the back of a soup spoon. If it is too runny, let it cool a bit and it will thicken as it sits or stir in a few more chocolate chips. If too thick, heat a little more cream to dilute it.
Frost the cake
Pour the entire contents over the top of the cake and coax it to the edges with a small spatula if necessary, allowing a little to drizzle down the edges.
Melt the white chocolate discs in a bowl in the microwave just until melted.
Spoon the white chocolate into a small pastry bag with a tiny bit of the tip cut off and squeeze rings on the top of the ganache starting with a small ring in the center and making bigger rings moving to the outer edge of the cake.
Take two toothpicks together in your fingers and starting in the center, drag the toothpicks from center to outer edge all around the cake about an inch apart from each other to form the decorative top seen in our pictures.
Serve immediately. Leftovers should be refrigerated and brought back to room temperature for serving (otherwise the butter cake will taste dry).
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*Use heavy cream not heavy whipping cream because heavy cream contains more fat. However either is delicious.
**If you can’t find superfine sugar, place the 8 ounces of weighed sugar in a food processor and process until the granulated sugar is superfine.
***Scalding brings the milk just short of bubbling, but not to a bubble where it may break.