A Boston cream pie is a yellow butter cake that is filled with custard or cream and topped with chocolate glaze.
Despite its ingredients, it is still considered a pie, and not a cake. The dessert acquired its name when cakes and pies were cooked in the same pans, and the words were used interchangeably. In the latter part of the 19th century, this type of cake was variously called a “cream pie”, a “chocolate cream pie”, or a “custard cake”.
Owners of the Parker House Hotel in Boston claim that the Boston cream pie was first created at the hotel by Armenian-French chef M. Sanzian in 1856. Called a “Chocolate Cream Pie”, this cake consisted of two layers of French butter sponge cake filled with crème pâtissière and brushed with a rum syrup, its side coated with crème pâtissière overlain with toasted sliced almonds, and the top coated with chocolate fondant. While other custard cakes may have existed at this time baking chocolate as a coating was a new process, making it unique and a popular choice on the menu.
The name first appeared in the 1872 Methodist Almanac. Another early printed use of the term “Boston cream pie” occurred in the Granite Iron Ware Cook Book, printed in 1878. The earliest known recipe of the modern variant was printed in Miss Parloa’s Kitchen Companion in 1887 as “Chocolate Cream Pie”.
The Boston cream pie is the official dessert of Massachusetts, declared as such on 12 December 1996.
A Boston cream doughnut is a name for a Berliner filled with vanilla custard or crème pâtissière and topped with icing made from chocolate.
For the cake
- 2 cups sugar
- 4 large eggs
- ⅓ cup vegetable oil
- 2 cups plain flour (all-purpose flour)
- 1 ¼ teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at cool room temperature, 18°C - 20°C
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the filling
- 2 ½ cups whole milk
- ½ cup sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ⅓ cup cornflour (cornstarch)
- 3 large egg yolks
- 1 large whole egg
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the glaze
- ¼ cup heavy or whipping cream
- ⅓ cup chopped dark chocolate or chocolate chips or wafers
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- To make the cakes: Preheat the oven to 165°C. Lightly grease two x 23 cm round pans.
- Beat the sugar and eggs together until they're light and fluffy, about 2 minutes at medium-high speed using an electric or stand mixer. Slowly beat in the vegetable oil.
- Measure the flour by gently spooning it into a cup, then sweeping off any excess.
- Add the flour, salt, and baking powder to the egg mixture in the bowl, beating just enough to combine. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, then beat again, to fully incorporate any sticky bits.
- In a saucepan set over medium heat, bring the butter and milk just to a boil. Add the vanilla. Remove the pan from the heat, and stir the mixture until the butter is completely melted.
- Slowly add the hot milk mixture to the cake batter, mixing until everything is well combined. Scrape the bowl and mix briefly, just until smooth. The batter will be very thin.
- Divide the batter evenly among the prepared pans.
- Bake the cakes for 30 - 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean, and the top feels set. Remove the cakes from the oven, cool them in the pans for 10 minutes, then turn them out onto a rack to cool completely.
- To make the filling: In a medium-sized saucepan, stir together 2 cups of the milk, the sugar, and the salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
- Meanwhile, whisk the cornflour, egg yolks, and whole egg with the remaining ½ cup milk.
- Whisk some of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolks/cornflour to temper the yolks. This keeps them from turning to scrambled eggs when you add them to the simmering milk.
- Pour the egg/milk mixture back into the remaining simmering milk in the pan, pouring it through a strainer to capture any bits of egg.
- Bring the mixture to a low boil over medium heat (this may happen very quickly), stirring constantly with a whisk, and cook for 2 minutes; the mixture will thicken significantly.
- Remove the filling from the heat and stir in the vanilla.
- Transfer the filling to a heatproof bowl, and top it with a piece of buttered plastic wrap (make sure it touches the top of the filling so it doesn't develop a skin). Refrigerate until cool.
- When the cakes and pastry cream are completely cool, spread the filling in an even layer over one layer then stack the second layer on top. Set aside.
- To make the glaze: Melt the chocolate and cream together until smooth and lump-free. Add the vanilla and stir well. Pour the glaze over the filled cake. Serve immediately, or cool to room temperature, and refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Store any leftovers in the fridge, well wrapped in plastic.