Boston Cream Pie

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How to Make a Boston Cream Pie at The Hungry Mouse

Boston Cream Pie is one of those desserts that’s kind of a hassle to make—but is totally worth the effort. You have to bake and cool the cakes. Make and cool the custard. Make and cool the chocolate frosting. Toast the almonds. Etc. But when our friend Foroct Fralion celebrated a rather auspicious birthday a few weeks ago, it only seemed proper to make him a Boston Cream Pie, one of his favorite treats. Here are step-by-step instructions for how to make one at home.

How to Make a Boston Cream Pie at The Hungry Mouse

Boston Cream Pie usually shows up two ways: With or without toasted, sliced almonds on the sides. I make mine with the almonds, which is most traditional. You can leave them out and cover the sides completely with chocolate—or just let it drip down the sides. Completely up to you.

The History of the Boston Cream Pie


So Boston Cream Pie actually isn’t a pie at all—it’s a cake. Two layers of yellow cake (butter or sponge) filled with a thick custard, then topped with rich chocolate frosting.

How to Make a Boston Cream Pie at The Hungry Mouse

It’s generally agreed that Boston Cream Pie was first made and served by French chef M. Sanzian right here at Boston’s Parker House Hotel. (Yep, the same place to produce those fabulous and fluffy Parker House rolls.)

Boston's Omni Parker House Hotel

Boston’s Omni Parker House Hotel

Click here to watch Bobby Flay tour the Parker House’s kitchens and see one made in person.

An important note on timing for Boston Cream Pie

Boston Cream Pie is best served the day that it’s assembled.

This Boston Cream Pie has four components: The cake, the custard filling, the chocolate frosting, and the toasted almonds. All of them need to be made, then cooled completely before assembling.

You can always make all the parts the night before, then assemble the cake the next day. If you do that, just bring the chocolate frosting up to room temperature before coating the cake to loosen it up a little.

Once the cake is assembled, plan enough time to chill it for an hour or two before serving.

Boston Cream Pie

Cake
1/2 cup butter (that’s 1 stick), softened on the counter for 20 minutes or so
1 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup milk
2 cups cake flour
2 tsp. baking powder
pinch of salt

 

Cream Filling
1/2 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
6 Tbls. flour
1 1/2 cups milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Chocolate Frosting
4 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 Tbls. butter

Toasted Almonds
1 1/2 cups almonds, sliced
1 Tbls. butter
pinch of salt

Make the cake

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Spray 2 8-inch round cake pans with oil, then line with circles of parchment paper. Set them aside.

How to Make a Boston Cream Pie at The Hungry Mouse

Combine the sugar and butter in the bowl of your mixer.

How to Make a Boston Cream Pie at The Hungry Mouse

Beat them together until well combined.

How to Make a Boston Cream Pie at The Hungry Mouse

How to Make a Boston Cream Pie at The Hungry Mouse

Add in the egg yolks.

How to Make a Boston Cream Pie at The Hungry Mouse

Beat again until well combined and kind of fluffy.

How to Make a Boston Cream Pie at The Hungry Mouse

Scrape down the sides of your bowl with a spatula.

How to Make a Boston Cream Pie at The Hungry Mouse

Add the milk.

How to Make a Boston Cream Pie at The Hungry Mouse

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl. Stir them together with a whisk to combine well. Toss the dry mixture into the butter/sugar in the mixing bowl.

How to Make a Boston Cream Pie at The Hungry Mouse

Mix on medim-high for maybe 20 or 30 seconds to combine, just until the batter comes together.

How to Make a Boston Cream Pie at The Hungry Mouse

The batter will be relatively thick and stiff, like this:

How to Make a Boston Cream Pie at The Hungry Mouse

Give the batter a stir or two with a spatula to be sure that it’s mixed well and no dry ingredients remain in the very bottom of the bowl.

How to Make a Boston Cream Pie at The Hungry Mouse

Divide the batter evenly between your two prepared cake pans.

How to Make a Boston Cream Pie at The Hungry Mouse

Smooth it down with a spatula so it fills the whole pan and is relatively even.

How to Make a Boston Cream Pie at The Hungry Mouse

Bake cake the 2 cakes for 20-23 minutes at 375 degrees.

How to Make a Boston Cream Pie at The Hungry Mouse

They’re done when they’re golden brown on top and feel firm (not jiggly) in the middle when pressed with a finger. When inserted in the center, a toothpick should come out clean.

How to Make a Boston Cream Pie at The Hungry Mouse

Cool the cakes in the pans for about 10 minutes. Then, gently run a knife around the whole edge to loosen it, and remove each cake from the pan. (Because you lined each pan with parchment paper, this should be easy.)

How to Make a Boston Cream Pie at The Hungry Mouse

Set the cakes on a rack to cool completely.

How to Make a Boston Cream Pie at The Hungry Mouse

If your cakes wound up a little crusty on the edges, like this, don’t worry. You’re going to trim those crisp edges right off when you assemble your Boston Cream Pie.

How to Make a Boston Cream Pie at The Hungry Mouse

Make the custard

Fill a medium-sized pot with a few inches of water. Set it on the stove over high heat to bring it up to a boil.

Then put the sugar and egg yolks in a large heatproof bowl.

How to Make a Boston Cream Pie at The Hungry Mouse

Whisk together until well combined.

How to Make a Boston Cream Pie at The Hungry Mouse

Add the flour.

How to Make a Boston Cream Pie at The Hungry Mouse

Whisk to combine.

How to Make a Boston Cream Pie at The Hungry Mouse

Pour in the milk.

How to Make a Boston Cream Pie at The Hungry Mouse

And the vanilla. (That’s my homemade vanilla extract!)

How to Make a Boston Cream Pie at The Hungry Mouse

Whisk to combine. When your pot of water is boiling, drop the heat to low. Set the bowl on top of the pot of water.

How to Make a Boston Cream Pie at The Hungry Mouse

Whisk it constantly for 5-7 minutes until it starts thicken.

How to Make a Boston Cream Pie at The Hungry Mouse

Keep whisking until the custard gets very thick. It’s done when it coats the back of a spoon. Give it a taste. It should have a nice custard-y taste, without any hint of raw flour.

How to Make a Boston Cream Pie at The Hungry Mouse

When it’s done, take it off the heat. Cool it on the counter to room temperature, then pop it in the fridge to chill it completely.

Make the chocolate frosting

Fill a medium-sized pot with a few inches of water. Set it on the stove over high heat to bring it up to a boil. (If you’re making the frosting right after the custard, just use the same pot of simmering water.)

Chop up the chocolate. Put it into a large heatproof bowl. Pour in the cream.

How to Make a Boston Cream Pie at The Hungry Mouse

When your pot of water is boiling, drop the heat to low. Set the bowl on top of the pot of water.

How to Make a Boston Cream Pie at The Hungry Mouse

Toss in the butter.

How to Make a Boston Cream Pie at The Hungry Mouse

The chocolate should start to melt almost immediately. Whisk to combine.

How to Make a Boston Cream Pie at The Hungry Mouse

Keep whisking until all the chocolate is melted and you have a uniform mixture.

Boston Cream Pie at The Hungry Mouse

Set the chocolate frosting aside to cool. As it cools, it will thicken up. If you put it in the fridge, keep a close eye on it. It can go from nice and thick to solid fudge in no time flat.

Toast the almonds

Melt the butter in a large, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Put the sliced almonds in the pan. Toss in a pinch of salt. Stir to coat the almonds with butter. Cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until the nuts are fragrant and start to turn brown.

How to Make a Boston Cream Pie at The Hungry Mouse

Set the toasted almonds aside to cool.

Assemble the Boston Cream Pie

Phew! OK, we’re finally at the point where we can put this whole thing together! Don’t do this until all of your components are completely cool. (If you try to put it together when any piece is warm, you’ll wind up with a slippery, drippy mess.)

Start by trimming your cakes. Carefully set them one on top of the other.

How to Make a Boston Cream Pie at The Hungry Mouse

With a serrated bread knife, cut the edges off.

How to Make a Boston Cream Pie at The Hungry Mouse

Go slowly, and press down on the top of the cake with one hand to keep it from ripping.

How to Make a Boston Cream Pie at The Hungry Mouse

My trimmed cakes:

How to Make a Boston Cream Pie at The Hungry Mouse

How to Make a Boston Cream Pie at The Hungry Mouse

Should you have an accident with one of the cakes, like this, don’t fret. Just use that cake as the bottom layer. The custard filling will help glue the whole thing together once it gets cold in the fridge.

How to Make a Boston Cream Pie at The Hungry Mouse

Set one cake on your serving platter, bottom side facing up. (Do this so that your custard goes on a flat—not slightly domed—surface.)

Grab the custard filling from the fridge. It should be nice and thick. Spoon it out onto the cake. Reserve a few spoonfuls of custard for later, to help stick the almonds to the side of the cake.

Spread the custard to the edges with a rubber spatula. Put the second cake right on top.

How to Make a Boston Cream Pie at The Hungry Mouse

Grab your chocolate frosting. Spoon it out onto the top of the cake.

How to Make a Boston Cream Pie at The Hungry Mouse

Spread it around until the top of the cake is covered.

How to Make a Boston Cream Pie at The Hungry Mouse

Pop two toothpicks into the cake to hold the layers together for now, until it’s completely chilled.

How to Make a Boston Cream Pie at The Hungry Mouse

With your finger, brush the leftover custard onto the edges of the cake, so it’s covered in a thin layer.

How to Make a Boston Cream Pie at The Hungry Mouse

Press the toasted almonds onto the sides of the cake. They should stick nicely to the custard.

How to Make a Boston Cream Pie at The Hungry Mouse

Keep going until all sides of the cake are covered in toasted almonds. Wipe any excess almonds and custard off your platter to clean it up. Then pop the cake into the fridge for a few hours to firm it up.

How to Make a Boston Cream Pie at The Hungry Mouse

Serve and enjoy!

How to Make a Boston Cream Pie at The Hungry Mouse

 

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Jessie Cross is a cookbook author and creator of The Hungry Mouse, a monster online food blog w/500+ recipes. When she's not shopping for cheese or baking pies, Jessie serves as an Associate Creative Director at PARTNERS+simons, a boutique ad agency in Boston. She lives in Salem, Massachusetts with her husband and two small, fluffy wolves.

33 COMMENTS

  1. Oh my gosh! that cake looks sinfully delicious, I would like a slice please heheh I know too much about cake accidents frosting makes the best cover up! 🙂

  2. This cake brings back such happy memories as it was very popular where I grew up. Who doesn’t like a good Boston Cream Pie!

    It may not be traditional, but sometimes I like to use a blend of Nutella for the frosting. It’s easily my wife’s favorite birthday cake.

  3. Your recipe looks fabulous! When I made my first Bosoton Cream Pie I phoned all my friends about the delicious accomplishment. Of course they don’t bake so my excitement fell on deaf ears.
    Recipes like this are labours of love. 🙂

  4. Remind me never to check your blog on a day I skipped lunch. What a beautiful cake!

    And the little “extra” bits from cutting the cake to shape – those are usually my favorite.

    • Thanks so much, Skip! Yeah, it’s definitely not that difficult. It’s just time consuming, what with all the cooking and cooling…Let me know how it goes if you give it a whirl!

      +Jessie

  5. Boston cream pie is my favorite when I was young. My mom always makes some for me. And I miss it! Thanks for sharing! The photos are so great. Big help for me because I really don’t make pies.

  6. I made this recipe for my boyfriend’s birthday, as Boston Creme Pie he told me, is his favorite! I searched the web and found this one. It’s not difficult at all, and it was THE BEST Boston Creme Pie he has ever eaten! Making bakery “from scratch” always tastes the best, and shows your loved one that you put a lot of effort into it just for them! I love this website, and especially the pictures that help along the way! Thank You!!!

  7. I made the cake, frosting and custard last night and assembled it this morning for my Husband’s birthday. He doesn’t like nuts so we skipped the almonds and I doubled the frosting recipe to put it all over. It was really delicious and looked great. The only thing I didn’t do right was get the custard really thick. Mine was a little too thin so I couldn’t put a heavy layer on the cake – it is my Hubby’s favorite part. Thank you for the great recipe and the pictures. I was a little intimidated about making this cake but you made it so easy to do! It really made my Husband’s birthday special!

  8. Just got finished making this wonderful cake, thanks Jessie. I always think that if a receipe takes a long time, that it’s well worth it, like lasagna, like homemade pieorgies, there is no contest. The comparison is like eating a box cake to a homemade one, or eating a store bought tomato or one fresh from the garden. The only thing I did was made a custard with corn starch instead of flour. I don’t know if yours is thicker, but anything with flour, like a gravy I don’t do well. And, I took the icing and put it on the sides instead of the almonds. Great receipe, again thank you.

  9. I had trouble with cream filling. It didn’t set up as firm as Boston Cream Pie Custard should and was very sweet. I had it over the heat for nearly a half an hour and it just wouldn’t thicken! I tried this recipe instead and it worked famously and was very easy…Here it is should you like to try it.

    Pastry Cream Filling:
    In a medium saucepan, heat 2 cups whole milk and 1/2 vanilla bean split & seeded to a boil over medium heat.

    Immediately turn off the heat and set aside to infuse for 15 minutes.

    While infusing put 6 egg yolks and 2/3 granulated sugar (I subtracted 2TB for less sweet) in kitchenaid bowl. Fit with balloon whisk and beat until light and fluffy on level 8.

    Add the 1/4 cup cornstarch and continue beating until no lumps remain scrape sides part way through.

    Add 1/4 cup of the hot milk mixture at a time until incorporated at level 6.

    Pour the mixture through a strainer back into the saucepan. Use a whisk to agitate any foam in strainer and thereby force more liquid through

    Cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until thickened and slowly boiling. Caution! This happens really fast!

    Remove from the heat immediately add a TB of butter and keep whisking so it wont curdle.

    Scrape custard into a room temperature bowl and keep stirring. Let cool slightly.

    Cover with plastic wrap and chill at least 2 hrs

    • I had the same problem with the thickening, stirring for over 30 minutes with no result. I think you need to make an amendment to the recipe, the milk apparently needs to be hottish when added (I found this on a website dedicated to custards). When I tried this the second time it was thick within the 7 minutes.

      Also, the vanilla is left out of the directions for the cake. Can you please add this in for future bakers? I didn’t remember to put it in because it was not in the directions.

      Thanks! Everything else was lovely 🙂

  10. So excited finding your website. Made the Boston Cream Pie. It was fantastic tasting, but I agree with the previous person, Joolz. The pastry cream did not thicken, I added 2 T sugar to the frosting. Loved it but sure can’t serve to company, only to family who knows I cook with love. I will keep looking. Thanks.

  11. Made this last night expecting a really fantastic boston cream pie, but the cream my favorate part left a lot to be desired, it was too sweet and didn’t thicken properly. I hesitated adding so much sugar and should have followed my instincts. The pudding was also very yellow with all the eggyolks since I have fresh eggs from my own chickens. I think a filling using cornstarch would be a better bet. I would also add some sugar to the frosting as laurie above did if I made it again, or make a more fudgy frosting.

  12. Wow, this Boston cream pie looks really delicious. It’s pretty cool how simple the process of making one, this definitely go to my list this weekend, I can’t resist it. So good for providing us with the recipe and the very detailed instruction, thanks a lot.

  13. My mother made Boston Creme Pie all the time when I was a kid. My Dad and I told her it was out favorite dessert. I have been looking for a good recipe for a long time. I will surely try this one as it looks easy. Time consuming but easy. LOL

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