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. Hi Madeline! I tested it a few times and seems to be working now! Could you try again? Is it an issue with the printer maybe? Sorry for the trouble!

  1. Sally thanks a million. Kyle my six year old has used your recipe, watched your video and made the cake and pastry cream, only the glaze to make in the morning. He is entering it for his first “bake off” contest, to raise money for Macmillan cancer support. He thought the instructions were great.
    His adaption was to make a chocolate collar!
    We love your recipes.

  2. Hi Sally, I love your recipes and tried already loads of them – never a miss and all cakes&cookies are literally disappearing in a jiffy. Thank you for being such an inspiration! I made this cake and it came out beautifully. Then I asked my Italian aunt about her best advice for sponge baking. She gave the recipe I since tested and all troubles seem to be resolved (sticky sponge etc) – 5 eggs, 1 cup (200g) of all purpose flour and 1 cup of granulated sugar. Beat whites (with a pinch of salt) then slowly add sugar mix for 2 minutes, gently (with wooden spoon) mix in egg yolks, then add flour. 20min in the oven on 350, and what’s important – drop from 30cm after taking out from the over (this gets rid off all the bubbles so that sponge won’t deflate). It grows beautifully and no need to add baking powder/soda so it’s a kids’ friendly version. I usually then add few drops of lemon juice or cule so that it’s moist. I just thought that it would be good to share as it’s a fast recipe and always works! 🙂

  3. the recipe I usually use is Martha Stewarts but I love American Test Kitchen so cannot wait to get the book and try. One suggestions when spreading the pastry cream is put some in a ziplock bag snip the corner off if you don’t have a frosting bag or tip and pipe a line of the pastry cream all around the cake. It helps make the rest of the pastry cream stay on the cake but not travel down the cake.

  4. Hey Sally this looks amazing! Is there anyway I can make this as cupcakes? If so how long would the bake time be?
    Can’t wait to try this!

    1. Hi Yafi! Sure can, but I’m unsure of the bake time. Cupcakes usually take around 20 minutes. Use a toothpick to test for doneness.

  5. Making this cake tomorrow for Thanksgiving! Fingers crossed it turns out! For the glaze, it doesn’t need any setting time other than the 5 minutes while the chocolate melts, correct? I’ve not yet been able to make a successful ganache and I want to get this one right! 🙂

    1. Hi Celeste, Once you whisk it smooth it’s ready to pour over the cake! Then AFTER it’s on the cake refrigerate cake, uncovered, for at least 2 hours as per step 10. Enjoy!

  6. Just finished making this cake…all the elements separately came out great (pastry cream was wonderful and thick with no lumps). I let the cakes fully cool and my pastry cream was refrigerated for several hours… as the recipe states I assembled the cake layers and custard then refrigerated the cake as I made the ganache. I was so disappointed to find that when I went to glaze the cake all of the custard had completely oozed out and down the sides of the cake. I’m sure it will taste delicious but it looks like a total mess.

  7. I made this for my husband’s birthday this weekend. I had a little bit of trouble with the pastry cream – it wasn’t thick enough – but that didn’t take away from how AWESOME it turned out. It was a huge hit, one of the best cakes I’ve tried. I just put a smaller amount of the thinner pastry cream between the cake layers, and then served it scooped on the side of each cake slice more like a custard. It was SO good. (And now I have a new goal of mastering pastry cream!)

  8. Hi Sally!
    I’ve made this recipe and it was delicious. The second time I baked the sponge cake, I filled it with pistachio ganache and the pastry cream. It was wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing your recipes with all of us. Happy holidays !!

  9. Just made this over the weekend- WOW!!! Hands down my new favorite Sally recipe (and that’s saying something because I bake a lot of Sally’s amazing recipes)! If you’re reading this and you’re on the fence about making it – DO IT! It’s so so so worth every minute and every dirty dish. Sally thanks again for yet another incredible recipe ❤️

  10. This came together pretty easily and tasted incredible–my son said it was the best cake he ever had! However, I my pastry cream didn’t really set up properly–it was more the consistency of pudding and squished out the sides when the top cake layer was placed on top. What can I do next time so it’s firm enough to support to top layer of cake? Cook longer? Or is it supposed to be a pudding-like consistency?

    1. It should be a little thicker than pudding. I recommend cooking a little longer next time. Wait until it’s the thickness you want. 🙂

  11. This is the most reliable baking site I’ve encountered and I love your style and creativity. I’m trying to make eclairs using your recipe, but want to fill with CrPat. My concern is proportions. Your eclair recipe makes 16 buns, will this CrPat recipe make enough to fill them or too much – I want enough, but I’m an old Yankee and I hate waste. 🙂

  12. If you need heavy cream for the glaze and milk for the cake, doesn’t that leave you with some 1/2 & 1/2 for the pastry cream?

  13. I made this today.. everything worked out beautifully except the topping. I did perfect ratios and it just wasn’t as thick as pictured. I let it sit and decided to try again and was still pretty runny. I tried to add more chocolate but then it was too bitter. Eventually I mixed the two I made together & went for it and it didn’t drip as pretty as pictured but it stayed on. My kids were licking the spoon so I guess the bitterness wasn’t too noticeable.
    For me the cake took a bit longer as well.. maybe 26 min.
    For a first try I think it was a success!

    Thanks for the recipe

    1. 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 🙂
      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

  14. I made this by request for my boyfriend’s birthday cake. He always requests something a little fancier for the occasion and we saw this on Cook’s Country. It was soooo much easier to make than I thought it would be. Delicious! I was a little lazy and didn’t strain my cream, but it was just for us, and he didn’t seem to notice. Thanks for sharing!

  15. Hi Sally! Is the pastry cream the same as the French crème pâtissière? I’m looking for a crème pâtissière recipe. Thanks!

  16. Making this now for tomorrow. Step three says cool cake in pans. Step ahead just says cover and store room temperature… but I’m not sure if I should remove from pan??? Before covering for overnight. I’m afraid they will stick if I leave overnight. Even though I double greased with parchment.

  17. Sally, I made your Boston Cream Cake for Easter 2019 and not only were the directions easy to follow, but the cake was simply delicious. I’m so happy I decided on making this cake and will continue to bake your beautiful desserts. Thank you.

  18. I made this yesterday, it came out great, one of the tastiest and most attractive desserts I’ve made! I used a vanilla bean instead of extract, infused it into the hot milk for 15 minutes. I need more practice getting the ganache to drip down the sides just right. But that means I get to make it again! 🙂

  19. I made this today and my cakes were super pale even after 26 min. Cakes generally take a few minutes LESS in my oven than what’s listed in a recipe, so this shocked me. ATK is my go-to for pretty much everything so I had to do some research to determine why my cakes turned out this way. After watching the ATK video and looking at your pictures, it appears both of you used darker pans. I used my standard light silver colored pans. As a result, 325 degrees was too low for my pans. I did a second recipe but this time at 350 degrees and the cakes were perfect. I double checked some of my other sponge recipes and they all say 350 degrees for light pans and 325 degrees for dark pans. Thought I’d share in case anyone else runs into the same issue.

  20. I made this for my mom’s birthday this year. I bake a lot but this is no doubt the best cake I’ve ever made. It was an absolute crowd-pleaser, even my niece who won’t usually touch cake was begging for another slice. Definitely going to become a birthday staple in my house!

  21. Oh.my.goodness. This is delicious! My whole family loved this cake! Even though I was intimidated by the pastry cream, it was actually very easy! And even though I accidentally forgot to add the vanilla to the cake because one of my children distracted me, lol, it still came out delicious!

  22. I just made this last night and it was a hit, even with one of my picky friends! Everything turned out beautifully and the flavors, textures just really sang! My only issue was my cakes were not even and kind of lopsided. Also, my cooking time was about 26 minutes. Nobody noticed because it was so moist and tender, just perfect! What I will do next time is put the pastry cream in a pastry bag and pipe a dam around the perimeter, so that it looks more luscious and defined.

  23. Anyone try making the pastry cream dairy free? If so, I’d love to know your substitutions and how it compared to dairy full version!

    Thanks,
    Dana

  24. Where is the video on this page? I’ve looked and looked! Hoping to try this tomorrow and I’d love a little extra instruction/visual aid!

    1. Hi Kristy! It’s right above the recipe. If you aren’t seeing it, you may have ad blockers in place. Temporarily pause them, then check again!

  25. I made this Boston cream pie, and everything came out beautifully, because the instructions are meticulously written; however, as beautiful as it looked, the glaze is very bitter! I kept rereading the recipe to make sure I used the correct chocolate, and I definitely did, but my family did not like the cake. I am so disappointed, because it’s my sister’s favorite, and I made it for her birthday. The cake and the pastry cream are fantastic, but the glaze, terrible! I would definitely use semi-sweet chocolate, not bittersweet.

    1. I was thinking about making this recipe when I came to the glaze and saw bittersweet chocolate… so straight to the comments and thankful I found yours!
      This seems like it needs a sweeter chocolate glaze so I am hoping I could use my Tollhouse Semi sweet chips maybe?

      Anyone try a sweeter topping….?

      Thanks in advance

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