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

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.

The Perfect Cake cookbook from America's Test Kitchen

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

How to Make Boston Cream Pie

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 for Boston Cream Pie

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.

  • Pastry cream will be thick right off the stove.
  • For a smooth cream, strain to rid any lumps.
  • Place plastic wrap on surface when cooling.

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

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

How to Make 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!!

How to make sponge cake for Boston cream pie on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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. See my Latest Recipe Testing blog post for proof!

Chocolate Glaze for Boston Cream Pie

Rounding out our Boston cream pie is a veil of chocolate glaze, an extra glossy chocolate ganache. 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

Ladies and gents, may I present you with the best Boston cream pie!

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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

Boston Cream Pie

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 4 hours
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 6 hours
  • Yield: serves 10-12
  • Category: Cake
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

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.


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

Instructions

  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.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead Instructions: 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.
  2. Special Tools: KitchenAid Stand Mixer | Glass Mixing Bowls | White Mixing Bowls | Colorful Mixing BowlsGlass Measuring Cup | Whisk | Sieve9-inch Round Cake Pans | Icing SpatulaMarble Cake Stand | The Perfect Cake Cookbook
  3. Substitutions: 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.
  4. Egg Whites: Lots of leftover egg whites! Make a scramble or use some in any of these recipes.
  5. Corn Syrup: 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.
  6. Chocolate: 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.
  7. Parchment Paper: 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.
  8. Recipe reprinted in partnership with America’s Test Kitchen from The Perfect Cake

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

167 Comments

  1. This is just the right recipe at the right time, Sally. I’m planning on making your Favourite White Cake this weekend, so I’ll have egg yolks for the pastry cream!

      1. I was about to say the same thing – great timing! I just made your Strawberry cake a couple days ago and have 5 egg yolks sitting in the fridge….. Now I know what to do with them! (Also great timing because I was literally on a train to Boston when the email w/ this recipe came in) Hurrah!

    1. 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!

  2. Yay! I am so excited to see this recipe today. I was on your blog looking for a Boston Cream Pie recipe the other day so this is truly perfect timing. I really value the time and effort that you, and ATK, put into testing recipes so I know this will come out fabulously. Thanks, Sally!!

    1. Perfect timing, indeed! I hope you love this recipe – let me know what you think after you try it! Happy baking 🙂

  3. Thank you so much for this Boston Cream Pie recipe. My mother use to make it often for my sisters and I but I have never made it, mainly because all the recipes I have found used instant pudding for the filling. I knew better than to even try one of these as mom’s was always made with a pastry cream. I can’t wait to try this!

  4. Sally, I’m so excited to see a recipe for Boston Cream Pie on your blog!! It’s a family favorite for us. It’s my dad’s dessert request for his birthday every single year and my kids love it too. I can’t wait to try this one, thanks!

  5. This looks amazing! I’ve make pastry cream with cornstarch but am looking forward to trying it with flour. Thanks for the recipe!

  6. This looks absolutely delicious! I am going to try this this weekend. I have never had good luck making pastry cream…fingers crossed! Thanks!!

  7. My husband loves Boston Cream Pie, I’m hoping to make this soon! It’s great and doesn’t seem extremely difficult. My worry would be the cream but I think I can! Thanks for the recipe and video!!

  8. Congratulations Sally, what an honor to work with ATK! I am a huge fan of them as well. This cake looks fabulous. It’s officially on my “To bake List”

  9. I am excited about seeing this recipe. It is one of my favorites, and although I am a baker, I have been intimidated. Thank you for the breakdown and the video. I believe this is doable now!

  10. This cake looks divine! My favourite cake is your coconut lemon cake! It is absolutely amazing! So rich and melts in your mouth!

  11. Oh, Sally, I needed you two years ago! XD My husband and I visited Boston and when we came home, we had family over to show them all the photos and I made a Boston Cream Pie. I think I just picked the first or second recipe that popped up on Google, and it definitely wasn’t laid out in your easy-to-follow methods. :'( I remade it twice, as well…I guess I just need to remake it, darn. 😉

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

  12. Ditto on Coconut cake! Can’t beat that combo. Love reading all your other cake recipes too and can’t wait to try them all this summer once school is out. I don’t care if it’s 100 degree plus weather– I’ll still fire up my oven to bake some Sally Yum!

  13. I’m so glad you posted this! I have been wanting to try Boston Cream Pie from scratch lately but wasn’t sure which recipe to pick! I was leaning towards ATK’s recipe because everything they do is fantastic, and now that you are promoting it too, I will definitely try it! Oh, and I am adding that cake cookbook to my Amazon wishlist 🙂

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

    Looks delicious and I am baking today 🙂

    Cheers!!

  15. Hi sally! Do you have a recipe for tuxedo muffins? I had them before at a hotel. It was like a mix of chocolate and white chocolate (or maybe cream cheese).

  16. I know you don’t recommend subbing ingredients, but I’m wondering if there’s any way this could be made dairy free.

    1. Hi Esther! I’m really unsure. Traditional pastry cream and sponge cake rely heavily on dairy ingredients. If you test anything out, come back and comment with how it went!

  17. Ditto on Coconut Lemon cake! Can’t beat that combo. Love reading all your other cake recipes too and can’t wait to try them all this summer once school is out. I don’t care if it’s 100 degree plus weather– I’ll still fire up my oven to bake some Sally Yum!

    1. I completely agree! It’s my husband’s favorite cake and I’m excited to make it for his next birthday.

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