Boston Cream Pie

Boston Cream Pie

When America's Test Kitchen sends you a copy of their new cookbook and asks you to review and publish a recipe on your blog, you do it. You also do it while skipping around your house because it's America's Test Kitchen and their knowledgeable test cooks, editors, and cookware specialists put the time and effort into perfecting recipes, a practice I value and respect.

I've had the pleasure of working with America's Test Kitchen for the past 2 years when I reviewed Naturally Sweet cookbook and published chewy chocolate chip cookies with less sugar, then again with The Perfect Cookie and black and white cookies. My bookshelves are full of cookbooks, but I say with 100% honesty that my most used books are those authored by ATK.

Flipping through their latest cookbook, The Perfect Cake, influences me to immediately get up, run to the kitchen, and begin hoarding... I mean softening... sticks of butter. The cookbook is home to more than 240 kitchen tested cake and cupcakes recipes that promise recipe success ranging from classics like yellow sheet cake and tres leches cake to modern like rainbow cake and bananas foster cake. If it wasn't Boston cream pie stealing my heart, it was the masterfully gorgeous blackberry mascarpone lemon cake. ♥ If you enjoy baking cakes, you need this cookbook.

I chose Boston cream pie because if anyone's going to do this classic recipe justice-- completely from-scratch and unapologetically decadent-- it's ATK. You don't mess with Boston cream pie.

 

Completely from-scratch with homemade pastry cream, buttery sponge cake, and shiny chocolate glaze, this classic Boston cream pie recipe is supremely decadent and satisfying. Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com
Completely from-scratch with homemade pastry cream, buttery sponge cake, and shiny chocolate glaze, this classic Boston cream pie recipe is supremely decadent and satisfying. Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com
The Perfect Cake cookbook from America's Test Kitchen
Completely from-scratch with homemade pastry cream, buttery sponge cake, and shiny chocolate glaze, this classic Boston cream pie recipe is supremely decadent and satisfying. Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

BEHIND THE RECIPE

Boston cream pie, I learned, was a cake dreamed up back in the 1800s and is called pie because the most common bakeware item over 160+ years ago was a pie plate. Boston cream pie is very much a cake and very much an intimidating recipe if you aren't prepared with some helpful tips, careful directions, step-by-step photos, and a video tutorial to help guide you. Turns out Boston cream pie is not terribly difficult if you break the recipe down into 3 parts:

  1. pastry cream
  2. sponge cake
  3. chocolate glaze

I have everything laid out for you and I REALLY hope you try this one!

PASTRY CREAM

The recipe begins with homemade pastry cream. You can watch me prepare the pastry cream in the recipe video below, a helpful crutch if you've never tempered eggs before. The pastry cream is every ounce of rich you imagine, made from life's best ingredients like butter, egg yolks, vanilla extract, and sugar. The egg yolks must be gently cooked so you'll temper them with the warm half-and-half you're cooking on the stove. Remember to whisk the pastry cream constantly as it cooks and thickens.

Buttery, sweet, smooth, and creamy, the vanilla pastry cream must cool completely before spreading on the cake. To save time the day you're serving the cake, prepare the pastry cream in advance.

 

Completely from-scratch with homemade pastry cream, buttery sponge cake, and shiny chocolate glaze, this classic Boston cream pie recipe is supremely decadent and satisfying. Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com
How to make homemade pastry cream for Boston cream pie recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Pastry cream will be thick right off the stove.

How to make homemade pastry cream for Boston cream pie recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

For a smooth cream, strain to rid any lumps.

How to make homemade pastry cream for Boston cream pie recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Place plastic wrap on surface when cooling.

SPONGE CAKE

The sponge cake itself is light and springy, a pleasing contrast to the thick pastry cream and chocolate glaze on top! Sponge cakes are named for their delicate and airy texture, a result from (1) a high egg to flour ratio and (2) the air beaten into the eggs. America's Test Kitchen teaches us the "hot milk sponge cake" method which skips separating eggs and meticulous folding. Instead, you'll whisk a warm butter + milk mixture into whipped eggs + sugar, then whisk in the cake's dry ingredients. The warm milk keeps the butter melted so that it mixes seamlessly into the batter. Just 3 bowls of ingredients all whisked together-- a great recipe for sponge cake beginners. I appreciate this simplified method since there are many other steps in the Boston cream pie recipe!

The sponge cake's ingredients are pretty similar to the pastry cream's ingredients. This is what I LOVE MOST about baking. It's the same ingredients just beaten, mixed, and cooked in different ways. Magic.

The final sponge cake batter will be airy, a preview of the final product. I loved this fluffy sponge cake so much and I'm already dreaming of different ways to serve it. Whipped cream, fresh berries, lemon curd, jam, soaked with liquors, maybe a tiramisu cake of sorts? It's an incredible building block recipe for summer desserts and I'm looking forward to playing around with it!!

DON'T MAKE MY MISTAKE!

Even though the sponge cake is quite easy, I ran into a major cake catastrophe. This isn't a fault of America's Test Kitchen's recipe, but my own oversight in the directions. By skipping over a few words in the recipe, I managed to ruin my sponge cakes... twice. That's four 9-inch cakes completely ruined. Don't make my mistake and read the recipe: line the cake pans with parchment paper. While you're at it, grease the pans before and after lining with parchment paper too. This is your safety net to guarantee the cake won't stick to the pan.

Because even if you grease the pans and skip the parchment paper, the cakes WILL stick. It's heartbreaking.

I'll go into more details about my little blunder this weekend when I share another Latest Recipe Testing blog post!

Sponge cake for Boston Cream Pie on sallysbakingaddiction.com
Sponge cake for Boston Cream Pie on sallysbakingaddiction.com
How to make homemade Boston cream pie recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com
How to make homemade Boston cream pie recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

CHOCOLATE GLAZE

Rounding out our Boston cream pie is a veil of chocolate glaze. Made from 3 ingredients, this chocolate glaze is thick, smooth, and if you let it sit for a few minutes before stirring, is thick enough to cling on the sides of the cake. You'll heat heavy cream and a bit of corn syrup together on the stove before pouring over finely chopped chocolate. The corn syrup provides shine and sticking power to the ganache-like glaze and I highly recommend its addition. Honey should make a nice substitution, though I haven't tried it myself.

Poured and spread on top, the glaze is the grand finale, the finishing touch, the pièce de résistance on a supremely satisfying and show-stopping dessert!

How to make chocolate glaze for homemade Boston cream pie recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com
Completely from-scratch with homemade pastry cream, buttery sponge cake, and shiny chocolate glaze, this classic Boston cream pie recipe is supremely decadent and satisfying. Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com
Completely from-scratch with homemade pastry cream, buttery sponge cake, and shiny chocolate glaze, this classic Boston cream pie recipe is supremely decadent and satisfying. Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com
Completely from-scratch with homemade pastry cream, buttery sponge cake, and shiny chocolate glaze, this classic Boston cream pie recipe is supremely decadent and satisfying. Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com
Completely from-scratch with homemade pastry cream, buttery sponge cake, and shiny chocolate glaze, this classic Boston cream pie recipe is supremely decadent and satisfying. Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Ladies and gents, may I present you with the recipe and my video for America's Test Kitchen's Boston cream pie!

Boston Cream Pie

YIELD

serves 10-12

PREP TIME

4 hours

COOK TIME

30 minutes

TOTAL TIME

6 hours (includes refrigerator time)

INGREDIENTS

Pastry Cream

  • 2 cups (480ml) half-and-half
  • 6 large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup (31g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 1/4 cup (4 Tablespoons; 60g) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Sponge Cake

  • 1 and 1/2 cups (190g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (180ml) whole milk
  • 6 Tablespoons (85g) unsalted butter
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (300g) granulated sugar

Chocolate Glaze

  • 1/2 cup (120ml) heavy cream
  • 2 Tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 4 ounces (113g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

DIRECTIONS

  1. Read the recipe and watch the helpful video above before beginning as there are many little steps that are time sensitive or require cooling.
  2. Make the pastry cream: Heat half-and-half in a medium saucepan over medium heat until simmering. Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks, granulated sugar, and salt together in a bowl until smooth. Add flour and whisk until combined. Mixture will be thick. Whisk about 1/2 cup half-and-half into yolk mixture to temper, then slowly whisk tempered yolk mixture into half-and-half in the saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook, whisking constantly, for 5 minutes as the mixture thickens. (America's Test Kitchen instructs for 7-8 minutes, but mine began thickening quickly.)
  3. Increase heat to medium and cook, whisking vigorously, until bubbles burst on the surface, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and whisk in the butter and vanilla extract until combined. Pastry cream will be thick. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer set over a bowl. Press plastic wrap directly on surface of pastry cream and refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.
  4. Preheat the oven to 325°F (163°C). Grease two round 9-inch cake pans, line with parchment paper, then grease the parchment paper. You must use parchment!!! See recipe note.
  5. Make the cake: Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in a small bowl. In the microwave or on the stove, heat milk and butter together until butter has melted. Stir in the vanilla extract. Cover loosely to keep warm. In a large bowl using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip the eggs and granulated sugar together on high speed until light and creamy, about 4 minutes. Add hot milk mixture and whisk by hand until combined, then whisk in the dry ingredients. Batter will bubbly on top and somewhat thick, similar to pancake batter.
  6. Divide batter evenly between 2 pans. Bake until the tops of cakes are light brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20-22 minutes.
  7. Remove cakes from the oven and set on a wire rack. Allow to cool completely in the pan. As the cakes cool, check the pastry cream in the refrigerator. If it's too thick, it won't easily spread and could tear the cake. I remove pastry cream from the refrigerator about 20 minutes before assembling the cake.
  8. Assemble the cake:  Once cakes are cool, run a thin knife around the edges to release them from the pans. Place bottom cake layer on your cake stand or serving plate. Spread pastry cream evenly on top. Place second cake layer on top and gently press down to adhere to the pastry cream. Refrigerate cake while preparing the chocolate glaze.
  9. Make the glaze: Heat heavy cream and corn syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat until just simmering. As it heats up, place chocolate in a heat-proof glass bowl with a pouring spout (I use this 2-cup liquid measuring cup). Once simmering, remove cream from heat and pour over chocolate. Let sit, covered, for 5 minutes. Gently whisk until smooth.
  10. Pour glaze into the center of cake. Spread glaze to the edges of cake allowing it to gently drip down the sides. Refrigerate cake, uncovered, for at least 2 hours (and up to 24 hours) before slicing and serving. If chilling for longer than 2 hours, allow cake to come to room temperature before slicing and serving.
  11. Cover leftover cake tightly and store in the refrigerator for 5 days.

Make ahead tip: You can prepare pastry cream up to 24 hours in advance. See step 3. Baked and cooled cakes can also be prepared 24 hours in advance. Cover and store at room temperature, then continue with step 8. In order to maintain the proper consistency of the chocolate glaze, I recommend preparing right before pouring over cake. However, the entire assembled cake with chocolate glaze on top can be stored for up to 24 hours. See step 10. Pastry cream can weep and break if frozen, so I do not suggest freezing this cake. You can, however, freeze the baked and cooled cake layers for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight before using.

RECIPE NOTES

  1. Each ingredient is crucial to the finished cake. I do not recommend substitutions, though you can get away with using the same amount of whole milk instead of half-and-half in the pastry cream. This may be more convenient since whole milk is used for the sponge cake.
  2. Lots of leftover egg whites! Make a scramble or use some in any of these recipes.
  3. Feel free to leave out the corn syrup, though it's what adds shine and sticking power to the glaze. You can try substituting with honey.
  4. Any dark, bittersweet, or semi-sweet chocolate is a wonderful choice for the chocolate glaze. The corn syrup adds sweetness, so avoid anything very sweet.
  5. Parchment paper is a MUST for lining the cake pans. I failed this recipe 2x before discovering how crucial the parchment paper is. All cakes were ruined until I lined the cake pans with parchment paper on the 3rd try. Parchment paper guarantees the cakes will easily release from the pans. I simply traced and cut two 9-inch circles of parchment paper to line the bottom of the cake pans. Spray with nonstick spray or grease with butter before and after lining with parchment paper rounds.

Recipe reprinted in partnership with America's Test Kitchen from The Perfect Cake

© SALLY’S BAKING ADDICTION. All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without prior permission. If you want to republish this recipe, please re-write the recipe in your own words, or link back to this post for the recipe. Some of the links above are affiliate links, which pay me a small commission for my referral at no extra cost to you! Thank you for supporting Sally’s Baking Addiction.

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75 Comments

Comments

  1. Liz on May 18, 2018 at 6:38 pm

    Hey Sally! My pastry cream is not thickeningIt’s still the consistency of the half and half! Any suggestions?

    • Sally on May 21, 2018 at 10:53 am

      Hi Liz! Even with the 6 egg yolks and flour? Can you turn up the heat? It will thicken eventually.

  2. Hannah on May 18, 2018 at 7:01 pm

    Oh my goodness, that chocolate glaze looks AMAZE.

  3. Raman on May 20, 2018 at 1:26 am

    Can’t wait to try my favorite donut flavor in a cake version!!! Looks delicious and so aesthetic!

  4. Amy on May 20, 2018 at 11:36 am

    I cannot get corn syrup but can get golden syrup and honey. Would honey still be the better choice?

    • Sally on May 21, 2018 at 10:53 am

      Golden syrup works!

  5. Stephanie Simmons on May 20, 2018 at 6:49 pm

    Hi Sally! I want to make this for my husband & I’s anniversary tomorrow but I want to halve the recipe, since it’s just us two. What would you recommend doing about halving the 3 eggs for the sponge cake?

    • Sally on May 21, 2018 at 10:54 am

      Hi Stephanie! Happy anniversary! I suggest using 1 egg if halving the recipe.

  6. Mariii on May 20, 2018 at 9:08 pm

    Hi Sally!
    Just wanted to let you know I tried this recipe today…. and it’s amazing. My kid said , omg this is awesome! Sally thank you so much for all your recipes.. they’re all GREAT! I wish I could share a picture with you, looks similar to yours

    Rating: 5
  7. Erin on May 21, 2018 at 4:26 pm

    This recipe was amazing! It is a tried and true comforting Boston Cream Pie. While it is a bit time consuming, it is completely worth it and not very difficult once you’ve run through the recipe. Highly recommend

    Rating: 5
    • Sally on May 22, 2018 at 1:10 pm

      Thank for the review, Erin! I’m so happy you enjoyed it! 🙂

  8. Leah on May 22, 2018 at 11:15 pm

    Is it possible to make this as cupcakes or would the sticking problem ruin that?

    • Sally on May 23, 2018 at 12:41 pm

      I haven’t tried making this as cupcakes yet but they would be wonderful with the pastry cream in center and the ganache on top! If you try it just be sure to use high quality grease proof cupcake liners – and of course let me know how they turn out!

Reviews

  1. Mariii on May 20, 2018 at 9:08 pm

    Hi Sally!
    Just wanted to let you know I tried this recipe today…. and it’s amazing. My kid said , omg this is awesome! Sally thank you so much for all your recipes.. they’re all GREAT! I wish I could share a picture with you, looks similar to yours

    Rating: 5
  2. Erin on May 21, 2018 at 4:26 pm

    This recipe was amazing! It is a tried and true comforting Boston Cream Pie. While it is a bit time consuming, it is completely worth it and not very difficult once you’ve run through the recipe. Highly recommend

    Rating: 5
    • Sally on May 22, 2018 at 1:10 pm

      Thank for the review, Erin! I’m so happy you enjoyed it! 🙂

Questions

  1. Marion on May 17, 2018 at 2:33 am

    what is a substitute for half and half which is not available at my end

    • Reshana on May 17, 2018 at 4:14 am

      Hi Marion

      I think full cream or milk will do the trick 🙂 But lets wait to hear what the pro suggests 😉

      Sally i absolutely adore this recipe and your photography is on point!

    • Sally on May 17, 2018 at 6:18 am

      Hi Marion! Half-and-half is highly recommended, but see the recipe note about a substitution.

  2. Emily on May 17, 2018 at 1:53 pm

    Do you think that I could make the sponge cake in a 9×13 in cake pan?

    • Sally on May 18, 2018 at 9:52 am

      Hi Emily! Yes, this cake batter will fit into a 9×13 inch cake pan. I’m unsure of the bake time.

  3. Trish Pines on May 17, 2018 at 2:20 pm

    Hi Sally! Do you use butter or spray to coat your cake pans? Which do you prefer? Thanks!

    • Sally on May 18, 2018 at 9:47 am

      Hi Trish! I go back and forth. I truly do not have a preference, but spraying with nonstick spray is often more convenient.

  4. Jes on May 17, 2018 at 6:47 pm

    Hi,
    What is half and half?
    I’m in Australia so have no idea 🙂

    Looks delicious and I am baking today 🙂

    Cheers!!

    • Sally on May 18, 2018 at 9:35 am

      Hi Jes! It’s half light cream and half whole milk.

  5. Liz on May 18, 2018 at 6:38 pm

    Hey Sally! My pastry cream is not thickeningIt’s still the consistency of the half and half! Any suggestions?

    • Sally on May 21, 2018 at 10:53 am

      Hi Liz! Even with the 6 egg yolks and flour? Can you turn up the heat? It will thicken eventually.

  6. Amy on May 20, 2018 at 11:36 am

    I cannot get corn syrup but can get golden syrup and honey. Would honey still be the better choice?

    • Sally on May 21, 2018 at 10:53 am

      Golden syrup works!

  7. Stephanie Simmons on May 20, 2018 at 6:49 pm

    Hi Sally! I want to make this for my husband & I’s anniversary tomorrow but I want to halve the recipe, since it’s just us two. What would you recommend doing about halving the 3 eggs for the sponge cake?

    • Sally on May 21, 2018 at 10:54 am

      Hi Stephanie! Happy anniversary! I suggest using 1 egg if halving the recipe.

  8. Leah on May 22, 2018 at 11:15 pm

    Is it possible to make this as cupcakes or would the sticking problem ruin that?

    • Sally on May 23, 2018 at 12:41 pm

      I haven’t tried making this as cupcakes yet but they would be wonderful with the pastry cream in center and the ganache on top! If you try it just be sure to use high quality grease proof cupcake liners – and of course let me know how they turn out!

  9. Sally on May 18, 2018 at 9:32 am

    Hi Hannah! I don’t. But they sound really good!

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