Allow us to present to you with Boston cream pie! This airy sponge cake is filled with rich pastry cream and topped with a shiny chocolate ganache glaze. It’s supremely decadent, satisfying, and melt-in-your-mouth delicious.
Our bookshelves are full of cookbooks, but we can say with 100% honesty that our go-tos are generally authored by America’s Test Kitchen. After all, America’s Test Kitchen and its knowledgeable test cooks, editors, and cookware specialists put the time and effort into perfecting recipes, a practice we value and respect.
Their cookbook The Perfect Cake boasts more than 240 kitchen-tested cake and cupcakes recipes ranging from a yellow sheet cake and tres leches cake to rainbow cake and bananas Foster cake. It’s the kind of cookbook that compels you to jump out of your seat, run to the kitchen, and grab the flour. So if you enjoy baking cakes, you need this cookbook.
One recipe in particular stole our hearts: Boston cream pie. We knew that if anyone could do this classic recipe justice – completely from-scratch – it’s ATK.
What is Boston Cream Pie?
The “pie” in Boston Cream Pie is a bit of a misnomer. This show-stopping dessert was originally dreamed up in the 1800s, back in the day when pies and cakes were both baked in pie plates, and names were used interchangeably. The cake features custard or pastry cream sandwiched between two rounds of buttery cake and is finished with chocolate glaze. It’s incredible.
Boston Cream Pie Recipe Details
- Texture: The sponge cake itself is light and springy, nicely offsetting the rich pastry cream and silky chocolate glaze.
- Flavor: We have buttery sponge cake, vanilla pastry cream, and deep chocolate flavors to satisfy taste buds. These classic flavors work wonderfully together – what a trio!
- Ease: This Boston cream pie may seem intimidating if you’re unprepared, but don’t be discouraged! We’ve provided some helpful tips, careful directions, step-by-step photos, and a video tutorial to guide you through the process. Turns out, Boston cream pie isn’t terribly difficult if you break the recipe down into 3 parts: 1) pastry cream 2) sponge cake 3) chocolate glaze
- Time: Set aside 6 hours to complete this recipe, which includes a lot of waiting as the components bake, cool, etc. This dessert definitely requires some time to make, but you just can’t rush perfection.
Recipe Testing: What Works & What Doesn’t
Considerations when making the pastry cream. The recipe begins with homemade pastry cream. Made with life’s best ingredients (butter, egg yolks, vanilla extract, and sugar), this buttery sweet cake filling is everything you might imagine it to be. We often use it instead of peanut butter mousse when making these homemade eclairs.
The egg yolks must be gently cooked and tempered with warm half-and-half. And remember: you’ll need to whisk the pastry cream constantly as it cooks and thickens. Then, allow the vanilla pastry cream to cool completely before spreading it on the cake.
Here are a few key points to remember:
- Pastry cream will be thick right off the stove.
- For a smooth cream, strain to rid any lumps.
- Place plastic wrap on the surface when cooling.
If you want to save time on the day of serving, the pastry cream can be made in advance. You can watch us prepare the pastry cream in the recipe video below, which is helpful if you’ve never tempered eggs before.
How to make sponge cake. Sponge cakes are known for their delicate and airy texture, thanks to (1) a high egg-to-flour ratio and (2) the air beaten into the eggs. America’s Test Kitchen employs the “hot milk sponge cake” method, which skips the egg separation and the meticulous folding. Instead, you 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, thus allowing it to mix seamlessly into the batter. And since we’re whisking together just 3 bowls of ingredients, this is an excellent recipe for sponge-cake beginners. We truly appreciate this simplified method, since this recipe does have a number of steps.
The sponge cake’s ingredients are pretty similar to the pastry cream’s ingredients. This is what we LOVE MOST about baking. It’s the same ingredients, just beaten, mixed, and cooked in different ways. Magic.
- Don’t make our mistake! By skipping over a few words in the recipe, we managed to ruin our sponge cakes… twice! That’s four 9-inch cakes completely destroyed. Line the cake pans with parchment paper. While you’re at it, grease the pans before and after they’ve been lined with parchment paper. Don’t even think about the shortcuts! If it’s helpful, see this parchment paper rounds for cakes video & post. You may be tempted to grease the pans and skip the parchment paper, but the cakes WILL stick. See this Recipe Testing blog post for proof!
By the way, if you love sponge cakes, you’ll enjoy this impressive Vertical Cake.
Making the chocolate glaze. Rounding out our Boston cream pie is a veil of chocolate glaze, an extra glossy version of chocolate ganache. Made with 3 ingredients, this chocolate glaze is velvety and smooth – and if you set it aside for a few minutes before stirring, it’s also thick enough to cling to the sides of the cake. You’ll heat heavy cream and a bit of corn syrup together on the stove before pouring the mixture over finely chopped chocolate. Any dark, bittersweet, or semisweet chocolate can be used. The corn syrup adds sweetness, so avoid anything very sweet. The corn syrup also provides shine and sticking power to the glaze, and I highly recommend its addition. Honey should make a nice substitution, though I haven’t tried it myself.
Believe us, this cake is worth the effort.
Overview: How to Make Boston Cream Pie
You can find the full printable recipe towards the end of this post. We include the following summary so you can prepare yourself for all of the involved steps.
- Read the recipe and watch the video first. Many of the little steps are either time-sensitive or require cooling.
- Make the pastry cream. Heat half-and-half over medium heat. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, and salt in a bowl until smooth. Whisk in flour until combined and thick. Whisk 1/2 cup warm half-and-half into the yolk mixture, then slowly whisk the tempered yolk mixture into the half-and-half in the saucepan. Cook until the mixture thickens. Remove from heat and whisk in butter and vanilla. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer set over a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until set.
- Preheat the oven. Grease 2 9-inch cake pans, line with parchment paper, then grease the parchment paper. You must use parchment! See the recipe note.
- Make the cake. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl. Heat milk and butter over the stovetop or in the microwave, then stir in the vanilla. Whisk eggs and sugar together, add the hot milk mixture, and mix until combined. Whisk in the dry ingredients.
- Bake the cakes. Divide batter evenly between the pans. Bake until light brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Set aside to cool.
- Assemble the cake. Remove the pastry cream from the refrigerator 20 minutes before assembling the cake. Place a bottom cake layer on your cake stand or serving plate. Spread pastry cream evenly on top. Place the second cake layer on top and gently press down. Refrigerate until needed.
- Make the glaze. Heat heavy cream and corn syrup in a small saucepan. Place chocolate in a heatproof glass bowl. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and set aside for 5 minutes to soften the chocolate. Whisk until smooth.
- Pour glaze into the center of the cake. Spread glaze to the edges of the cake. Refrigerate the cake, uncovered, for at least 2 hours before slicing and serving.
More Classic Recipes We LovePrint
Boston Cream Pie
- Prep Time: 4 hours
- Cook Time: 30 minutes
- Total Time: 6 hours
- Yield: serves 10-12
- Category: Cake
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
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.
- 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
- 1 and 1/2 cups (188g) 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
- 1/2 cup (120ml) heavy cream
- 2 Tablespoons light corn syrup
- 4 ounces (113g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- Read the recipe and watch the helpful video above before beginning as there are many little steps that are time sensitive or require cooling.
- 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.)
- 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.
- Preheat the oven to 325°F (163°C). Grease two round 9-inch cake pans, line with parchment paper rounds, then grease the parchment paper. Parchment paper helps the cakes seamlessly release from the pans. (If it’s helpful, see this parchment paper rounds for cakes video & post.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Cover leftover cake tightly and store in the refrigerator for 5 days.
- 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.
- Special Tools: KitchenAid Stand Mixer | Glass Mixing Bowls | White Mixing Bowls | Colorful Mixing Bowls | Glass Measuring Cup | Whisk | Sieve | 9-inch Round Cake Pans | Icing Spatula | Marble Cake Stand | The Perfect Cake Cookbook
- 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.
- Egg Whites: Lots of leftover egg whites! Make a scramble or use some in any of these recipes.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 seamlessly release from the pans. If it’s helpful, see this parchment paper rounds for cakes video & post.
- Recipe reprinted in partnership with America’s Test Kitchen from The Perfect Cake
Keywords: Boston Cream Pie
Reader Comments & Reviews
I did it!! I followed every step, made the custard the day before. The sponge cakes were divine, and the chocolate cover was the best! I used honey, made it that much more heavenly. It was a special request from my husband for his birthday. Nailed it! Served with vanilla bean ice cream. Thank you for sharing this beautiful recipe!!
Would you have a recipe to follow if we wanted to make this as a 6 inch cake? Thank you!
Hi Farrah, you can follow this recipe for 6 inch cake. Depending on how many layers you want, you’ll have some leftover batter. Fill your pans about half way and then use any leftovers for a few cupcakes. Enjoy!
Can you freeze leftovers? I want to make this but I know we will only eat a small fraction.
Hi Kelly, pastry cream can weep and break if frozen, so we do not suggest freezing this cake.
Hi Sally! I love your recipes. How much pastry cream does this make?
Hi Elaine! This recipe yields two generous cups of pastry cream.
How would I do the pastry cream if I have a vanilla bean?
Hi Sally! I have made this recipe a few times ( SO delicious and the instructions are very east to follow!) however each time I assemble the cake, pastry cream leaks out of the edges. I know that I chill it long enough, so I’m wondering how to to trouble shoot it so that does not happen. Do you think maybe I am not cooking the cream for long enough on the stovetop?
Hi Becca, we’re happy to help troubleshoot. Honestly, it could be anything from the pan you used to cook the pastry cream to the brand of ingredients or even any humidity in the air. A little bit of extra time on the stovetop should help thicken it, too. If you try the pastry cream again, here’s an easy fix to ensure it stays thick: Reduce butter to 3 Tbsp and remove 1/4 cup of half-and-half (using 1 and 3/4 cups total). So glad you’ve been enjoying this recipe!
Could I bake the cake batter in a half sheet pan? I want to make a smaller cake and just cut the layers with a cake ring.
Hi Cece, our cake pan sizes and conversions guide will be helpful for scaling this recipe for a half sheet pan. Enjoy!
Hi Sally! This looks AMAZING! My dad is dreaming of a Bavarian cream donut- what would be your recommendation for that?
Hi Shelby! Bavarian Cream donuts sound amazing! We don’t have a tried a true recipe yet, but please let us know if you find one you love.
Hi! As I don’t have a big oven , I can only bake one cake at a time. Is it ok to leave the rest of the batter out till the time the first one gets baked??
Hi Sneha, absolutely. Just leave the remaining batter covered with a clean kitchen towel at room temperature.
If I want to try this filling for cream puffs, should I divide the recipe by 3 since I probably don’t need that much? (Around 1-2 dozen)
Hi Veronica, yes, feel free to scale the recipe down if you need less for your cream puffs. How much so depends on how much you’d like in each cream puff. 1/3 should be plenty.
Hi Sally can I use 2% milk instead of whole milk.
Hi Ruby, yes, 2% will work in a pinch.
A bit of work to do but amazing light flavor and absolutely delicious!!! Thank you!!
Hi, Sally. Can I use your Boston Cream Pie recipe as is but make cupcakes instead or would I need to make some changes first? Thank you. 🙂
Hi Michele! We haven’t tried making this cake 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 us know how they turn out!
If I’m using milk chocolate for the glaze (husband doesn’t like semi sweet and it’s for his birthday) would you omit the corn syrup since you mention it adds sweetness? Thank you!
Hi Jean, you can feel free to leave out the corn syrup, though it’s what adds shine and sticking power to the glaze. It shouldn’t be overpoweringly sweet. You can also try substituting with honey. Hope your husband enjoys his birthday cake!
This was very good! My pastry cream was almost too thick, but thinking back I think I scooped my flour rather than weighed so I probably had a little too much.
I made a half recipe in loaf pans, it made the cutest loaf!
Have you tried this recipe as cupcakes by any chance?
Hi Ashley, we 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 us know how they turn out!
I just made this for Mother’s Day (it’s my mom’s favorite donut flavor). Her birthday is coming up in a week and she requested I make it again already! This cake was a huge hit with everyone.
Hello. Thanks for recipe and cant wait to make and eat. Will make for my husband’s birthday next week.but was wondering if can i used half and half or milk for the chocolate covering instead of cream..or u do not suggest ?? . thanks again take care stay safe
Hi Sarah, For the best results we recommend sticking with heavy cream. If you use any lower fat liquid the glaze won’t set up properly.
This recipe is incredible, Sally! My husband requests it every year for his birthday. I’m 25 weeks pregnant and it was his bday a few weeks ago and now I’m making it again because I’ve had a nonstop pregnancy craving for this cake and everyone really pigged out at his bday dinner so we barely got to take any home! It is absolute perfection just like all of your desserts!
If I wanted to do Boston cream pie cupcakes, should I use this cake recipe or your yellow cupcake one?
Hi Olga! We haven’t tried making this cake as cupcakes yet but they would be wonderful with the pastry cream in center and the ganache on top! Either recipe would work. If you try it just be sure to use high quality grease proof cupcake liners – and of course let us know how they turn out!
Hey! Hope your having an awesome day, but I have a question. Can I use the pastry cream for your eclairs?
Hi Amy, sure can!
I followed the recipe exactly except I used bob’s red mill 1 to 1 gluten free flour, in both the cake and the custard. I knew it was risky, but it actually turned out perfect! Everyone that had some loved it. Thanks for another wonderful recipe.
OMG! Fancy recipe! Made this a few times and is VERY well received by all. I have been baking for 45 years so I know what I’m talking about. It is a rich tasting cake, so a small piece will satisfy. Don’t hesitate to make this cake.
The cream was excellent, but the cake was bland and the chocolate glaze was awful.
I made this cake for my husbands birthday today and it may well be the best cake ever!
I followed the recipe as written and every step came together perfectly! This cake is delicious! I’m sure I will make this again.
Boston Cream Pie is my birthday cake every year. This recipe was the best yet. Thank you so much. It was picture perfect and so worth the calories! Your website is my go-to for homemade baked goodness.
Thanks for the recipe. Going to try this weekend.
I’m planning on halving the recipe so I was wondering is there anything I should keep in mind while reducing the quantities??
Hi Malavika, for the cake portion, we suggest using 1 egg if halving the recipe. Otherwise, simply cut the ingredients in half. However, you may still want to make the full batch of pastry cream and ganache to ensure there is enough to cover the full layer — but that is up to you and how much topping you hope to have. Happy baking!
Can I use normal whole milk instead of half and half for the pastry cream
Hi Malavika, yes, you can use whole milk in place of the half and half if needed.
I’m just wondering if you have tried the glaze with honey instead of corn syrup yet?
Hi Caroline! Honey will work just fine.
My husband loves Boston cream pie so I have made a few different recipes- this is by far the best! The cream is delicious and the perfect texture, the cake is light and airy and the glaze the right sweetness and thickness. I made exactly as written and it is perfect! I will use the cake recipe for some other cakes.
I’d like to use this pastry cream in your cream puffs. Would I keep the amounts the same or halve the recipe?
Hi Christine! We would make a full batch just to be sure you’ll have enough.