Boston Cream Pie is two layers of sponge cake with pastry cream in between and a chocolate glaze poured over the top. Try my Boston Cream Pie Surprise Inside Cake for a layered cake with a pudding filling and a surprise inside.
Boston Cream Pie
This ‘pie’ is actually a layered sponge cake. Since pies were around in America before cakes, most kitchens had pie pans (which were used for cakes and pies). This was probably how the dessert was given a pie name. In December of 1996, the pie was proclaimed as Massachusetts State Dessert. After trying three Boston Cream Pie recipes (and not being completely satisfied with the results) I went for it a fourth time (successfully) with the recipe from Baking Illustrated.
Boston Cream Pie Ingredients
There are three important parts to this recipe–sponge cakes, pastry cream filling, and chocolate glaze. The pastry cream should be made first since it has to be stored in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours, up to 2 days.
Half-and-Half: Half and half is equal parts milk and cream, which is used in the pastry cream.
Heavy Cream: Heavy cream is used in the chocolate glaze, and it is different than half-and-half. Heavy cream is between 30-36% fat and all cream.
Eggs: You will need a total of 10 eggs in this recipe. Using five egg yolks in the pastry cream resulted in a thicker, richer cream. And, you will need five additional whole eggs at room temperature for the sponge cake.
Cornstarch: Cornstarch was used in this recipe (as opposed to flour) to thicken up the cream. Cornstarch is also easier to use in this recipe compared to flour.
Flour: Both cake flour and all-purpose flour were used in the sponge cake recipe.
Light Corn Syrup: Light corn syrup is a natural sweetener. It helps give you a glossy texture in the chocolate glaze. I do not recommend using dark corn syrup in the glaze recipe.
How to Make the Pastry Cream
As I stated above, the pastry cream should be made first. It has to be refrigerated for a minimum of 3 hours, up to 2 days. Pastry cream is cooked on the stovetop like homemade pudding. To get started, add the half-and-half, 6 tablespoons of sugar, and salt to a medium saucepan over medium heat. Heat to simmering until the sugar has dissolved.
Meanwhile, as the half-and-half mixture is simmering, whisk the egg yolks in a medium bowl. Whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar for about 15 seconds, or until the sugar has started to dissolve. Add the cornstarch and whisk the mixture until it is pale yellow and thick.
To the egg yolks mixture, add the simmering half-and-half mixture. Whisk to combine the ingredients. Then, pour the entire mixture back into the saucepan, scraping the sides of the bowl. Bring the mixture back to a simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly. It shouldn’t take long for the mixture to thicken and be glossy.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the cold butter and vanilla. Strain the cream over a bowl and immediately cover the top of the cream with plastic wrap. Store in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours, up to two days.
How to Make Sponge Cake
Sponge Cakes rely on whipped eggs to give them lift and structure. The cakes are perfect for this Boston Cream Pie recipe. You will need two, 8-inch round cake pans that have been sprayed with nonstick spray or prepared with GOOP. In addition, line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together both kinds of flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Next, in a microwave-safe bowl, add the milk and butter. Heat until the butter has melted (20-30 seconds), and then add the vanilla. Cover the bowl to keep warm.
Meanwhile, separate three eggs. To the bowl of a stand mixer, add the three egg whites only. To the bowl of just egg yolks, add the other two whole eggs. Set that bowl aside. At low speed, beat the egg whites until foamy. Increase the speed to medium and gradually add 6 tablespoons of sugar, beating until soft peaks form. (Soft peaks will briefly stand on their own before falling back into the mixture.) Transfer the beaten eggs to a large bowl.
Now, it is the egg yolks with whole eggs mixture to be mixed in the bowl of the stand mixer. So, add the eggs to the stand mixer, along with the remaining 6 tablespoons of sugar. Mix on medium-high speed until the eggs are thick (about 5 minutes). Add these eggs to the bowl with the beaten egg whites mixture.
Sprinkle the flour mixture over the egg mixture. (All the eggs should be combined at this point.) Gently fold in the flour mixture about 12 times with a rubber spatula, or until mostly combined. Make a well in the batter. Pour the melted butter and milk mixture into the well. Gently fold with the spatula until no trace of flour is remaining.
Baking Sponge Cake
Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans. Bake at 350°F for 16-18 minutes, checking a few minutes early for doneness. A sponge cake is done when you gently press down on the top and it springs back up. If the indentation remains, cook the cake a little longer.
Once the cakes are done baking, remove them from the oven and immediately loosen the cakes from the pans with an offset spatula. Invert each cake onto a large plate or serving platter. Remove the parchment paper and flip them over again onto a wire rack to cool. Let the cakes cool to room temperature before continuing with the recipe.
How to Make Chocolate Glaze
The icing on this cake (or shall I say the glaze on this pie) is the chocolate glaze. It is a smooth and shiny sweet glaze that goes on top of the dessert. To make the glaze, add the heavy cream and corn syrup to a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer.
Once at a simmer, remove the pan from the heat and add the chocolate pieces. Cover the saucepan and let it sit for about 8 minutes, or until the chocolate has melted. If the chocolate is not melted, place the pan on low heat, stirring constantly, until melted. Gently stir in the vanilla until the mixture is smooth. Let the glaze cool to lukewarm. If you want to speed up the cooling process, place the glaze in the refrigerator, stirring every few minutes to allow it to cool evenly.
Assembling Boston Cream Pie
With the three parts ready to go, it’s time to get the Boston Cream Pie assembled and enjoyed! While the glaze is cooling, place one of the cooled sponge cakes onto a cardboard round or cake stand. Spread the pastry cream evenly over the top.
Place the second cake on top. Pour the glaze onto the middle of the cake and let it flow down the sides of the cake. Let the cake sit for about an hour until the glaze has set. This dessert is best served the same day. Store any leftover pie covered, in the refrigerator, for 3-4 days.
Looking for More Layered Desserts?
Boston Cream Pie is two layers of sponge cake with pastry cream in between and a chocolate glaze poured over the top.
- 2 cups half-and-half
- ½ cup (100g) granulated sugar, divided
- 1 pinch salt
- 5 large egg yolks
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 4 tablespoons (½ stick or 57g) unsalted butter, cold and cut into four pieces
- 1½ teaspoons vanilla
- ½ cup (50g) cake flour
- ¼ cup (31g) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons milk
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- 5 large eggs, room temperature and divided
- ¾ cup (150g) granulated sugar, divided
- 1 cup (238g) heavy cream
- ¼ cup (85g) light corn syrup
- 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the half and half, 6 tablespoons of sugar, and salt. Heat until the mixture starts to simmer, whisking occasionally until the sugar is dissolved.
While the half and half is simmering, in a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks until combined. Whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar for about 15 seconds, or the sugar has begun to dissolve. Whisk in the cornstarch and mix until the mixture is light yellow. It will be thick.
Slowly pour the simmering half and half into the egg yolk mixture, whisking to combine. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan, scraping the sides of the bowl.
Over medium heat, bring the mixture back to a simmer, whisking constantly. After about 30 seconds, the mixture should thicken and be glossy.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter and vanilla. Using a fine-mesh strainer over a bowl, strain the cream. Immediately after straining, cover the surface of the pastry cream with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours, up to 2 days.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray two 8-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray, or prepare with GOOP, and line bottoms of the pans with parchment paper. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together both kinds of flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In a microwave-safe bowl, add the milk and butter. Heat until butter has melted (20-30 seconds). Cover to keep warm.
Separate three eggs. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the three egg whites only. To the egg yolks, add the other two whole eggs and set aside.
At low speed, beat the egg whites until foamy. Increase the speed to medium and gradually add half of the sugar. Beat until soft peaks form. (Soft peaks will briefly stand on their own before falling back in the mixture.) Transfer the beaten egg whites to a large bowl.
In the bowl of the stand mixer, add the egg yolks and whole egg mixture. Beat this mixture at medium-high speed with the remaining sugar until the eggs are thick, about 5 minutes. Add these eggs to the beaten egg white mixture.
Sprinkle the flour mixture over the egg mixture, gently folding about 12 times with a rubber spatula, or until mostly combined.
In one side of the batter, make a well. Pour the milk and melted butter mixture into the batter and continue to gently fold until there is no trace of flour remaining.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans. Bake for 16-18 minutes, or until the cakes spring back when touched. (Check a few minutes early for doneness.)
When done, remove the cakes from the oven and immediately loosen the cakes from the pans with an offset spatula. Invert each cake onto a large plate or serving platter. Remove parchment paper and flip each cake over again onto a wire rack. Let the cakes cool to room temperature before continuing with the recipe.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add heavy cream and corn syrup. Bring to a simmer.
Once at a full simmer, remove from heat and add the chocolate pieces. Cover and let stand for 8 minutes, or until the chocolate has melted.
Gently stir in the vanilla until the mixture is smooth. Allow glaze to cool to lukewarm. (If put in the refrigerator to cool, stir every few minutes.)
While the glaze is cooling, place one of the cooled sponge cakes onto a cardboard round or a cake stand. Spread the pastry filling evenly over the cake to the edges.
Place the second cake on top. Pour the glaze onto the middle of the cake and let it flow down the sides of the cake.
Let the cake sit for about an hour, or until the glaze has set. The cake is best served the same day.