Boston Cream Pie

Much like I can’t let a significant day go by without thinking of a cute way to incorporate decorated sugar cookies, I can’t let a birthday go by without baking something fun for the birthday guy or gal! For example, my mom always requests Dark Chocolate Chip Scones, for my sister I have made Vanilla & Chocolate Hazelnut Cake and Coffee and Espresso Cheesecake, and for my Chief Culinary Consultant last year I made the Chocolate Peanut Butter Torte (my favorite of the birthday treats!). (And after rattling off that list I know have a serious sweets craving!) Last week was my grandma’s 91st birthday (wow!) and when I asked her what she’d like me to bake for her she came up with something along the lines of “white cake and pudding”. I immediately decided her request translated into Boston Cream Pie, which I happen to love!

In its basic form, Boston Cream Pie consists of two layers of sponge cake with copious amounts of pastry cream in the middle, and the whole thing covered in chocolate ganache. Now, I don’t necessarily love sponge cake as a general rule, but when throw in that much pastry cream and chocolate, I will no doubt fall in love. And I did. Plus I think if you aren’t a sponge cake fan either, you could always substitute your favorite white or yellow cake recipe.

While the recipe below may seem a little intimidating because of the number of steps, don’t be afraid. The pastry cream takes only 15 minutes or so to whip up and can be made well ahead of time and left to chill. Then you have the cake, and the glaze, which is really quick and easy as well.

Also, awhile back I did a tutorial on pastry cream. If you haven’t made it before, you may find it helpful!

Happy Birthday Grandma!

Three years ago: Thin n’ Crispy Pizza Crust

Boston Cream Pie

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

Prep Time: 1 hour (active), 4 hours (inactive)

Cook Time: 16 to 20 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes


For the Pastry Cream:
2 cups half-and-half
½ cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
5 egg yolks
3 tablespoons cornstarch
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

For the Sponge Cake:
½ cup plain cake flour
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons whole milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
5 eggs, at room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar

For the Glaze:
1 cup heavy cream
¼ cup light corn syrup
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces
½ teaspoon vanilla extract


1. To Make the Pastry Cream: Heat the half-and-half, 6 tablespoons of the sugar, and the salt in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat until simmering, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.

2. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks in a medium bowl until thoroughly combined. Whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and whisk until the sugar has begun to dissolve and the mixture is creamy, about 15 seconds. Whisk in the cornstarch until combined and the mixture is pale yellow and thick, about 30 seconds.

3. When the half-and-half mixture reaches a full simmer, gradually whisk the simmering half-and-half into the yolk mixture to temper. Return the mixture to the saucepan, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula; return to a simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until a few bubbles burst on the surface and the mixture is thickened and glossy, about 30 seconds. Off the heat, whisk in the butter and vanilla. Strain the pastry cream through a fine-mesh sieve set over a medium bowl. Press plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate until cold and set, at least 3 hours or up to 2 days.

4. To Make the Sponge Cake: Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two 8- or 9-inch cake pans and cover the pan bottoms with rounds of parchment paper. Whisk together the flours, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Heat the milk and butter in a small saucepan over low heat until the butter melts. Remove from the heat and add the vanilla; cover and keep warm.

5. Separate 3 of the eggs, place the whites in the bowl of a standing mixer, reserving the 3 yolks plus the remaining 2 whole eggs in another bowl. Beat the 3 whites at low speed until foamy. Increase the mixer speed to medium and gradually add 6 tablespoons of the sugar; continue to beat the whites to soft, moist peaks. (Do not overbeat.) Transfer the egg whites to a large bowl and add the whole-egg mixture to the mixer bowl.

6. Beat the whole-egg mixture with the remaining 6 tablespoons sugar. Beat at medium-high speed until the eggs are very thick and a pale yellow color, about 5 minutes. Add the beaten eggs to the whites.

7. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the beaten eggs and whites; fold very gently 12 times with a large rubber spatula. Make a well in one side of the batter and pour the milk mixture into the bowl. Continue folding until the batter shows no trace of flour and the whites and whole eggs are evenly mixed, about 8 additional strokes.

8. Immediately pour the batter into the prepared cake pans; bake until the cake tops are light brown and feel firm and spring back when touched, about 16 minutes for 9-inch cake pans and 20 minutes for 8-inch cake pans.

9. Immediately run a knife around the pan perimeters to loosen the cakes. Turn the cakes out and remove the parchment paper. Turn right-side-up and place on a cooling rack. Cool the cake layers to room temperature before proceeding.

10. For the Glaze: Bring the cream and corn syrup to a full simmer over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate; cover and let stand for 8 minutes. (If the chocolate has not completely melted, return the saucepan to low heat; stir constantly until melted.) Add the vanilla; stir very gently until the mixture is smooth. Cool until tepid so that a spoonful drizzled back into the pan mounds slightly. (The glaze can be refrigerated to speed up to the cooling process, stirring every few minutes to ensure even cooling.)

11. To Assemble: While the glaze is cooling, place one cake layer on a serving plate (if you don't want any stray chocolate, you can place strips of wax paper under the cake for easy cleanup; I didn't put anything under mine). Carefully spoon the pastry cream onto the cake and spread it evenly up to the edges. Place the second cake layer on top, making sure the layers line up properly.

12. Pour the glaze onto the middle of the top layer and let it flow down the cake sides. Use a metal spatula, if necessary, to completely coat the cake. Use a small needle to puncture any air bubbles. Let the cake sit until the glaze fully sets, about 1 hour. Serve the same day, preferably within a couple of hours.

(Recipe adapted from Baking Illustrated)


66 Responses to “Boston Cream Pie”

  1. crustabakes on February 15, 2011 at 4:30 am

    Happy Birthday to your grandma! She sure is lucky to have you bake up such a wonderful birthday cake for her 91st! It looks delicious, i am sure she truly enjoyed her cake!


  2. Blog is the New Black on February 15, 2011 at 5:32 am

    Being from Boston, I need a good recipe for this! 😉


  3. Elise on February 15, 2011 at 5:46 am

    I just found your blog and I am in looooveee!!!! Your valentine cut out cookies are super cute, and I can’t wait to try this boston cream pie recipe! AND you are from pittsburgh?! I live in nearby Indiana,Pa (also really enjoyed the cut out Pen jersey cookies!) Happy Baking!


    • Michelle on February 15th, 2011 at 8:50 am

      Hi Elise, Great to “meet” someone from the area! Happy Baking to you as well!


  4. Hannah @ Pickled Sweets on February 15, 2011 at 5:54 am

    that looks really rich for me. hahaha. what am i saying? it looks delish! (:


  5. Susan on February 15, 2011 at 6:02 am

    So, did Grannie Like the cake? LOL


    • Michelle on February 15th, 2011 at 8:50 am

      Yes, grandma loved the cake!!


  6. linda on February 15, 2011 at 6:29 am

    happy birthday wishes to your grandma!
    this cake looks great …definitely on my to bake list!
    having friends for dinner this w/e & your (now mine!) chocolate espresso cheesecake is the highlight of my desserts!
    i am also thinking of preparing your eggplant lasagna tart!! 🙂


  7. amanda @ fake ginger on February 15, 2011 at 6:34 am

    That looks delicious! The thing I usually dislike about Boston Cream Pie is the thin glaze but yours looks almost like a frosting! YUM! Can’t wait to try it.


  8. Lori on February 15, 2011 at 6:38 am

    The cake looks amazing. Happy Birthday to your Grandmother. I made your cornbread the other night. Thanks to you got rave reviews 🙂


  9. Lisa (Dishes of Mrs. Fish) on February 15, 2011 at 6:46 am

    Awww, happy birthday to your grandma! 🙂


  10. Lisa on February 15, 2011 at 6:50 am

    I need to study this recipe for my bf”s bday in april. He would love it.


  11. Worlds Best Information on February 15, 2011 at 6:57 am

    Pie is MY ALL time Favourite….I like to have it anytime and thus thanks for Recipe coz I love to make it.


  12. Katrina on February 15, 2011 at 7:08 am

    Tasty looking pie! The cream part sounds perfect!


  13. Jil @ Big City, Lil Kitchen on February 15, 2011 at 7:43 am

    Found your blog through Foodbuzz – and love it! This looks incredible.


  14. Happy when not hungry on February 15, 2011 at 8:04 am

    This cream pie looks delicious! Live the recipe. Will def have to try!


  15. Caroline on February 15, 2011 at 8:42 am

    I just bookmarked this! I haven’t had a homemade Boston Cream Pie, ever. Which is ironic because it’s one of my favorite things. I can only imagine how great it would be out of my oven instead of the grocery store!


  16. Keeley on February 15, 2011 at 9:04 am

    I love Boston Cream Pie! I’ve been looking for a new recipe, so I bookmarked this post.


  17. RavieNomNoms on February 15, 2011 at 9:21 am

    I love Boston cream pie! One of my absolute favorites!


  18. Elyse on February 15, 2011 at 9:23 am

    Omg I love this! I need to try this. I’m always shoving my face with boston cream donuts at dunkins lol.


  19. Nicole on February 15, 2011 at 9:49 am

    Oh my – Boston Cream Pie has been on my mind the past couple of days, ever since the new issue of Cooking Illustrated arrived and one of the articles was about making a great Boston Cream Pie! Looks delicious!


  20. Jill Colonna on February 15, 2011 at 9:55 am

    Your grandma has taste! Looks incredibly moist and decadent not to mention class on a plate. Many happy returns to her.


  21. Anna's Table on February 15, 2011 at 10:08 am

    Happy birthday to your grandma! She surely made the right choice. The cake looks so luscious with all that creamy filling.


  22. Foodies on the Fly on February 15, 2011 at 10:08 am

    That cake looks delicious! Might have to add it to my “to bake” list.


  23. Kathleen @ Kat's Health Corner on February 15, 2011 at 11:22 am

    Oh gosh, it is SO PRETTY! 😀


  24. Adam on February 15, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    I have always seen and heard things about Boston Cream Pies but have never had one before. Not very common here, I think (or I’m just not looking in the right places). The closest I’ve had is a Boston Cream Doughnut, which is one of my favourites :).
    I am now trying to come up with an an excuse to make this :).


  25. Eliana on February 15, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    Oh man oh man! This looks sinfully delicious.


  26. Angela@RecipesFromMyMom on February 15, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    I’ve always wanted to do Boston Cream Pie cupcakes. Seems like one of the KC cupcake joints has a version. I might just try your recipe in mini form.


  27. Delishhh on February 15, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    Goregous! Always gorgous from you. This is one of those pie that i really like but never make, no reason why. . .


  28. Steph@stephsbitebybite on February 15, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    Happy Birthday to your Grandma!!! Lucky lady to have such a yummy cake 🙂 I’m hungry now


  29. Felice on February 15, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    I do love a good Boston Cream Pie and this looks delicious. You can’t go wrong with something that has a nice big layer of pastry cream, and chocolate, and cake. Happy Birthday to your Grandma.


  30. Maggie on February 15, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    Yum, this looks awesome! Boston Cream is my favorite type of donut, and I’m sure it would be even more delicious in cake form! Or should I say pie…why the heck do they call this pie anyway? It looks like a cake to me!


  31. KitchenArtistry on February 15, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    Love the photos!! Thanks for sharing…


  32. Kathy - Panini Happy on February 15, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    I’m sure this is exactly what she meant by “white cake and pudding” – it came out fabulous. 🙂 Happy birthday to your Grandma!


  33. Rachel @ The Avid Appetite on February 15, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    My husband, who does not eat dessert, loves Boston Cream Pie! I am planning to make one for his birthday this spring. This looks beautiful!


  34. RisaG on February 15, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    Now that is what I call a birthday cake! I had the authentic Boston Creme Pie last summer. We stayed at the Omni Parker House, which is where the dessert was created. They sell it in their shop, in a mini version for $8. You can’t get a large slice from a large pie of it. Actually it is cake, not pie. It was baked in a pie shell and that is why it was called a pie.

    Anyway, I’ve never baked the real thing. BTW, the authentic recipe is on the Omni Parker House website. I haven’t tried it yet. I am going to make it for my hubby for his birthday in June.

    I thought it was really delicious. Hubby didn’t think much of the real thing. Possibly because it was overly expensive for something so small. I didn’t care that it was $8, I just cared that it was the authentic dessert and I had it for breakfast. Mmmm…now that is what I call breakfast of champions.


  35. Nancy Baggett on February 15, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    I have probably made every other sort of pie, but never a Boston cream pie–which is really a cake with a pastry cream filling, isn’t it !? Actually, though I’ve researched and written about the great history of this American classic, I have to admit I’ve never been too crazy about eating the “pie” itself! But this is recipe is REALLY tempting me, so I think I’ll take the plunge! Thanks!


  36. LauraB @ foodsnobstl on February 15, 2011 at 5:16 pm

    One time I got Boston Cream Pie and was shocked that it wasn’t pie! Ha ha. It was still really good though!


  37. Sharlene on February 15, 2011 at 5:18 pm

    I bake for everyone’s birthday too! Can’t help it and now it’s expected so I can’t back out. Anything with pastry cream equals amazing in my book, especially Boston Cream Pie!


  38. Christina on February 15, 2011 at 5:25 pm

    Love Boston Cream Pie. I can’t even remember the last time I had some! Looks so good!


  39. bakingaddict on February 15, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    I’ve never had Boston cream pie before. This looks divine. Happy Birthday to your Grandma 🙂


  40. The Farmers Wife on February 15, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    This look amazing! Haven’t had Boston Cream Pie in YEARS!! I kinda forgot how delicious it is til I saw your pictures! Happy Birthday to your Grandma!


  41. CaSaundra on February 15, 2011 at 7:17 pm

    I’ve definitely been toying with the idea of making Boston Cream Pie sometime soon–thanks for the reminder!


  42. Sandra on February 15, 2011 at 7:23 pm

    Your photos are always so clear and that’s a serious glaze!


  43. Mateja on February 15, 2011 at 8:16 pm

    Happy BD to your granny and God bless her soul! What a wonderful cake for a wonderful occasion, it looks devine! Thank you fro sharing 🙂


  44. J3nn (Jenn's Menu and Lifestyle Blog) on February 15, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    OMG, that looks amazing!!!


  45. April on February 15, 2011 at 9:37 pm

    How do you think these would be in cupcake form? I had a friend ask me to make her some “chocolate and bavarian cream” cupcakes for her dad’s birthday ~ so immediately something like this came to mind – I would think it would work out fairly well … wouldn’t you? This looks DELICIOUS! I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE your website!


    • Michelle on February 16th, 2011 at 9:31 am

      Hi April, I have never made a sponge cake recipe into cupcakes, I’m not sure how that part of it would translate, but you could certainly use your favorite vanilla cupcake recipe, then pipe some pastry cream into the center and top with chocolate ganache. I think it would be delicious!


  46. Dulce Dough on February 16, 2011 at 12:58 am

    What a wonderful cake for your grandma’s 91st birthday! Yum!


  47. Liz on February 16, 2011 at 8:01 am

    Cake, chocolate, “pudding”….I’ve always thought my family would LOVE this dessert! I may have to finally break down and make one…your enticing photos are a huge influence 🙂


  48. Darla @ Bakingdom on February 16, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    Looks wonderful! I haven’t tried a homemade Boston cream pie yet…this looks like a great place to start!


  49. Lisa @ The Cooking Bride on February 16, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    Cook’s Illustrated just did a piece on Boston Cream Pie. I’ve never made it, but I would like to give it a try.


  50. Heather (The Menu Mama) on February 16, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    Yum! I love Boston Cream Pie! Happy Birthday to your Grandma!


  51. Avanika (Yumsilicious Bakes) on February 17, 2011 at 8:54 am

    Happy Birthday to your Grandma! I’ve never tried this cake, but now I have it bookmarked!!


  52. Anna on February 24, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    Thanks for taking the time to type up the full recipe. I’ll have to compare this one to the new one in the March 2011 Cook’s Illustrated. At first glance, they seem to be the same. I bought all the ingredients to make it.


    • Michelle on February 24th, 2011 at 1:55 pm

      Hi Anna, The recipe in the new CI uses a classic yellow cake instead of the sponge used here (in Baking Illustrated). I’m not a huge sponge cake fan, so I would probably go with the newer recipe with the yellow cake next time.


  53. omai on June 15, 2011 at 1:47 am

    Hi! Thank you for the recipe and happy birthday to your grandma! Would you please explain me one of your steps making me confused?
    At step 5: “… Transfer the egg whites to a large bowl and add the whole-egg mixture to the mixer bowl”. => Is it mean that we beat the whole-egg mixture (3 egg yolks and 2 whole eggs) after setting aside the egg whites (which was beaten till soft peak) – They aren’t be beaten together, right?


    • Michelle on June 15th, 2011 at 10:14 am

      Hi Omai – You are correct – you beat the whole-egg mixture after setting aside the egg whites, and do NOT beat them together. Enjoy the cake!


  54. Lisa Williams on June 16, 2011 at 8:52 am

    I’m making this cake for Father’s day because this is my dad’s favorite kind of cake. I’m trying to figure out a good way to make it ahead of time without the cake being ruined. Do you think the cake would dry out if I made it the day before I assembled it? Also, I’m curious as to why the cake should be served the same day?


    • Michelle on June 16th, 2011 at 2:08 pm

      Hi Lisa, I think you could definitely make the cake the day ahead, wrap well in plastic wrap, and also make the pastry cream and store in the refrigerator, and then just assemble it the day you plan to serve it. I think it should be served the same day because the longer the pastry cream sits, the soggier it will make the cake.


  55. Bobbi Jo on November 20, 2012 at 10:16 pm

    Made the cake. Not the first one I had made in my life. The “pastry cream” ended up being a complete disaster! So runny, 5 hrs in the fridge was not enough for it to thicken or cool down. Same with chocolate glaze, way too runny and the humongous amount of corn syrup makes it vomit-inducingly sweet! What a disappointment.


    • Michelle on November 20th, 2012 at 11:43 pm

      It certainly sounds as though the pastry cream wasn’t cooked long enough, which is why it would still be runny even after sitting in the refrigerator. As for the glaze, the cream and corn syrup needs to be brought to a full simmer, and you definitely need to have patience in letting it sit, and refrigerating it if need be. As you can see from the photo, the glaze is not runny at all, and I did not find it to be too sweet at all, although all palates are different – you may want to try bittersweet chocolate.


  56. Colleen on February 17, 2013 at 4:43 pm

    my favorite recipe is the boston cream pie!!!


  57. Emilie on August 19, 2013 at 8:02 am

    Hi I’m from Australia and I would love to try this but I do not know what half-n-half is?


    • Michelle on August 19th, 2013 at 6:02 pm

      Hi Emilie, Half-and-half is essentially just a combination that is 50% whole milk and 50% heavy cream.


  58. GoodCookie on January 19, 2015 at 3:55 pm

    I love Boston cream pie or Cake how ever you want to put it but it certainly looks so delicious and Your Grandma was an extremely Lucky woman to have you bake up such a wonderful dessert and I hope she enjoyed it Thanks For Sharing This Delicious Cake Umm yum yum I can taste it now <3 O:) <3


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