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

  2. 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?

  3. 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

  4. 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

    1. 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!

  5. I love Boston Cream Pie, but I’ve never made it myself. After this post I’m going to have to try it out! Yum!

  6. Fabulously easy! I this today for a friend’s birthday and it turned out perfectly! This is time consuming, but fool proof. Definitely putting the time in, as good desserts take a little effort and then it makes it worth the wait!

    1. Hi Jessica! Thank you so much for trying the Boston cream pie and taking the time to share how you liked it!

  7. Sally, this was C R A Z Y G O O D. I only wish I could have gotten those juicy drips of glaze like your photos show. The pastry cream thickened up really quickly on our stove- we were getting huge bubbles already- so we took it off the heat after 5 minutes and skipped the first part of step 3 so it didn’t burn. Watch your cream, people! Anyway, thanks for this dessert and have a happy birthday! 🙂

    1. Hi Tea! Thank you so much for the review on this Boston cream pie! And for the birthday wishes too. I appreciate it! 🙂

  8. Just made the pastry cream. Thickened up really quickly but then thinned out after i added butter and vanilla. Hopefully it will set up…if not I’ll eat it as pudding because it was yummy. Making cake later or tomorrow morning. I actually saw this episode of ATK and wanted to make it-how great that I followed your directions-more user friendly I think!
    Last week’s blackberry cream cheese coffee cake was inhaled by my dessert loving family! Thanks!

  9. Would semi sweet chocolate chips work ok for the glaze? If so what should the ratio be?

    Also, i would like to make this as a 2 layer 10″ round cake. Any suggestions on if i should double etc?? Thank you!

    1. Hi Tanya! I would still use 4 ounces of chocolate chips. Make sure they’re a good quality brand. 10-inch pans work, but the cake layers will be thinner and require less time in the oven.

  10. Love this recipe! I’d never actually had Boston Cream Pie but found it absolutely delicious. I did make the mistake of not cooking my pastry cream long enough; I was concerned about overcooking it and didn’t let it cook the full five minutes, so it ended up a little runny. Still delicious, though. Now I know for next time!

  11. Hey Sally, I’m planning on making this for my birthday this weekend but only have one 9inch pan. Is it possible to bake one cake at a time? The leftover batter will be fine won’t it?

  12. I followed the directions exactly and everything seems fine except the cakes sunk in the middle. Any ideas why? I did turn the pan in the oven after 10 min bc my oven bakes unevenly. Did that do it? Was it overmixing? Thank you!

    1. Hi Brittany! It may be the type of pan you are using, over-mixing, or under-baking. Usually the culprit is under-baking. I wonder if that could have been it in your case?

  13. Somehow I missed this when you first wrote the article. Anyway, I had to come to comment on your nicely descriptive post! My mouth was watering! Alas, I can’t have this, my favorite cake from childhood, because I developed an egg allergy as a teenager! BOO! I’m able to eat cakes with no more than 2 eggs, but 3 will affect me. My other favorite from childhood was Lemon Meringue Pie! So sad, I know! Also wanted to say your recipe for biscuits have given me the answers to the best biscuits ever! I have the ATK cookbook, but even theirs was not quite as helpful as yours. Thanks for everything!

    1. I’m sorry that you developed an allergy but glad you can at least have a little bit!! I’m so happy that you are enjoying the biscuit recipe!

  14. Hi Sally!
    I have to admit it……….I am a Boston Cream Pie fanatic…….I have made so many different recipes for Boston Cream Pie, it is shameful. And I have been disappointed so many times. When I saw this recipe, I was intrigued……a little doubtful, but my curiosity got the better of me. I made it, following the directions to a ‘T.’ It was fabulous! Just the recipe I was looking for…!!!! Boston Cream Pie is more common in the eastern part of the country, so everyone from back east (that I know) got a piece. Everyone was floored with how good it really tasted and how much it reminded them of home. I live out west and you rarely see it on a menu. I am obsessed with his cake! Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!!!

  15. Sally, what is half and half, it’s not available at my end, can you suggest a substitute or let me know how to make it at home please, thx

  16. Hi Sally – so everything tastes delicious and your recipe is wonderfully clear thank you! But my cakes came out quite flat and pale. I cooked them a little longer to brown a bit but any longer and the tops were a bit crunchy – and still pale. The sponge texture is fine though – perhaps a little dense – and the flavour is wonderful. Ive never actually seen a Boston Cream Pie and am making it in the UK for my American father-in-law. Are they supposed to rise like a regular sponge? What do you think I did wrong? At 22 minutes they were still underbaked. I baked at 143 degrees C as i have a fan oven so I knocked off some heat.
    Thanks so much. Determined to perfect this one as it’s his favourite!

    1. Hi Jess! I’m glad the recipe tastes great! Regarding the pale and flat cakes– did you follow the cake recipe exactly as written? The cakes should rise as a regular sponge cake, yes.

      1. Thanks for getting back to me so quickly! I did follow the recipe – all other elements are perfect. Strange. That was my practice run so I’ll try again for the real thing. My oven is usually ok too…

  17. Just tried this recipe for the first time. WOW! It is delicious and was fun to make! The instructions are laid out perfectly, and just as Sally says, if you read the recipe through and watch the video before starting, it becomes much less intimidating. I’m already trying to think of when I can make it next. The only thing I would do differently is wait longer for the ganache to thicken- my drips were a little runny and just not as pretty as the pictures here. Otherwise great!

    Thanks Sally!

  18. Oh man, I was just about to make a Boston Cream and ran across your recipe. My old recipe from long ago used only one layer of cake – like Richard Sax’s 1234 cake (a yellow cake) – which is then divided in half with cream to separate the halves….and now I don’t which one I want to do!!!!

  19. After chilling, could you pipe buttercream on top of the cake? I wanted to write Happy Birthday, but wasn’t sure about the glaze. Maybe I should pipe with white chocolate instead? Does the glaze firm up at all after chilling? Thank you! Love your recipes!

    1. Hi Sylene, I wish I could help, but I have no experience baking at high altitude. I know some readers have found this chart helpful: https://www.kingarthurflour.com/learn/high-altitude-baking.html

  20. When I was younger, I absolutely hated boston cream pie… but looking back it was the “fake/store-bought” type. When I made my own, thanks to you, it was a totally different experience. I don’t even know what I would call the best part, the pastry cream, the cake, or the chocolate glaze…. put them all together, and its delectable.

  21. Hi Sally! I’m a big follower of your blog since a friend recommended it. I’ve made lots of your recipes (usually the ones where I can get the ingredients in my country Argentina) and they came out great, so thank you for that!
    I’ve made this cake twice. First for my coworkers and next for my family. In both cases it was a great success! However I am having problems with the glaze. Even if it stays on the cake it’s quite liquid and a lot drops from the sides to the serving plate making a little chocolate glaze pool. I don’t want to add anything to make it thicker cause it’s not in the instructions so I’m guessing there’s something wrong. It doesnt look nice and kinda thick like yours, like spreadable. I’m using golden syrup cause I can’t get corn syrup here unfortunately. I hope you can help me out! Thanks again!!

    1. Hi Romina! Thank you so much for following my blog and baking my recipes! For the chocolate ganache/glaze, are you using heavy cream? The heavy cream is KEY to the glaze thickening. If you don’t have access to heavy cream, I suggest adding more finely chopped chocolate to thicken it up.

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