Boston Cream Pie

Phew. I made it through birthday season! I cooked, I decorated, I celebrated, I cooked some more and I found the perfect gift for each child. Thankfully, three-fifths of the kids chose their dad’s extra wonderful specialty (extra crispy fried chicken) for dinner, but that didn’t leave me off the hook. Oh, no no no it didn’t.

There were still pig tails (my kids’ name for these), French fries, coleslaw, and various other side dishes to make with those meals. Above all else, though, there were the cakes to be made. Yes, those cakes.

Last year, my studiously wacky second born asked for a three-dimensional Tardis cake. My policy to is to deliver whatever the requested cake is no. matter. what. So I toiled with fondant (blech!), and cake sticks and printable edible transfers and what not. And after the kids went on a three day food colouring induced nutso bender, I prayed that there would be no more Ace of Cakes style requests.

When Aidan approached me this year announcing he’d decided on his cake, I held my breath. “I want a Boston Cream Pie!” Not only was there zero required food dye, he’d chosen one of my all time favourite desserts. Woo to the hoo, people.

I asked the birthday boy why he wanted a Boston Cream Pie (file this question under the “Mom Trying to Understand Male Children” category) and as he ran out of the room he yelled, “Because it’s called a pie but it isn’t one. Isn’t that great?”


Yes, it is.

Boston Cream Pie is no pie. It is a cake. It is a darned good rich butter cake filled with vanilla flecked pastry cream and topped with a gooey chocolate glaze and it is also the perfect metaphor for my boy. Playful and silly,


irresistible, surprising, charming, and easy on the eyes.

Aidan and Boston Cream Pie, two great things that go great together.


Happy Birthday, little fire. You are strong, loyal, hilarious and loving. You keep my life full of joy!


Boston Cream Pie
Layers of tender, buttery cake and rich, custardy pastry cream with a bittersweet chocolate glaze are irresistible for any occasion. This is well worth the little bit of effort required to produce it. Used with thanks from the King Arthur Flour's The Baker's Companion.
For the Cake:
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons softened butter
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ cup milk
For the Vanilla Pastry Cream:
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 4 tablespoons cold butter plus 1 tablespoon
  • 1 cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks
For the Bittersweet Chocolate Glaze:
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
To make the pastry cream:
  1. In a heavy-bottomed medium or large saucepan, stir together 2 ½ cups of the milk, the sugar, salt and split vanilla bean with its scrapings. Place the pan over medium heat and bring to a boil.
  2. While the mixture is coming to a boil, whisk together the cornstarch, flour and egg yolks with the remaining ½ cup of milk in a separate bowl.
  3. Carefully ladle some of the boiling milk mixture into the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly. Pour the egg yolk mixture back into the boiling milk, again, whisking constantly. Return to a boil for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat immediately and pour through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. Add 4 tablespoons of butter to the custard (and the vanilla extract if using) and stir until completely melted and combined. Smooth the top of the custard, rub the remaining piece of butter over the surface of the custard and place a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the custard. Refrigerate until completely chilled.
While the custard is chilling, prepare the cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Beat together the sugar, butter, salt and vanilla extract in a stand mixer or in a large bowl with a hand mixer until the mixture is fluffy. Beat in the oil, scrape down the sides, and then add the eggs, one at a time, beating until the mixture is even fluffier.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch and baking powder.
  4. Alternate adding about ⅓ of the dry mixture and ⅓ of the milk, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition, until the batter is even and smooth.
  5. Grease and flour an 8”x8” square baking pan or a 9” round baking pan and spoon the batter into the pan. Bake for 38-45 minutes, or until the cake tests clean with a skewer or tooth pick and the edges pull away from the pan. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning onto a rack to cool completely.
While the cake is chilling, prepare the chocolate ganache:
  1. Pour the heavy cream into a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium high heat and bring it to a boil. Pour over the chopped chocolate, corn syrup, vanilla extract and salt and let rest for 5 minutes, undisturbed. When the 5 minutes have elapsed, stir slowly in one direction until the mixture becomes smooth and glossy. Add the pinch of salt and stir in gently. Set aside for 10 minutes at room temperature.
To finish the pastry cream and assemble the cake:
  1. Fold the whipped cream into the chilled pastry custard and set aside.
  2. Level the top of the cake using a serrated knife if necessary then split the cooled cake in half horizontally and carefully transfer the top layer, cut side down, to a cake plate or serving platter. Pile the pastry cream onto the cake layer to within ½-inch of the edges. Carefully invert the remaining cake half cut side down onto the pastry cream. This will leave the smoothest surface of the cake on top to be covered with glaze.
  3. Refrigerate the cake without glaze if you do not plan to serve it immediately as the glaze hardens into an almost taffy-like consistency in the refrigerator.
  4. Shortly before you're ready to serve the cake, pour the glaze down onto the center of the cake. This will allow the glaze to spread over the top and drip down the sides of the cake. Slice and serve.

We have one more birthday post coming up, even though Aidan’s birthday wrapped up our birthday season. Even though it’s coming out of order, it’s such a spectacular dessert that it’s worth saving for last. Stay tuned for a tale of Mama pride and a gorgeous dessert.


  1. Lisa@TheCuttingEdgeofOrdinary says

    I LOVE BOSTON CREAM PIE….CAKE…I’m with ya Aidan. Great choice! I need to make this!

  2. da papa says

    You had me when you used butter and cream in the same sentence. mmmmmm Now where is that extra vial of insulin?

  3. says

    Oh my, this look decadent!!!! I’m not a cake fan, but I’m all for boston cream pie! Just might have to save this one for a “make soon” day. Thanks for the recipe!!!!

    • says

      Great question! The reason is that when you’re adding the hot milk to the egg mixture (this is called tempering) sometimes you may miss stirring a bit of the milk/egg just long enough to get the tiniest wee bit of scrambled egg. When you put it through the sieve, it’s basically insurance that your end product will be smooth with no grains. If you don’t mind a bit of curd here and there, you can skip the step, but I like my pastry cream silky!

  4. ann marie says

    Hi! I made the cake last night (smelled heavenly!)and am making the pastry cream right now and I see that cornstarch is called for in the directions but its not in the ingredients. Can someone help me with the amount! thanks!!!

  5. ann marie says

    Quick update – I went to King Arthurs website and it’s 1/4 cup cornstarch.

    Wow, this cake looks yummy. Wish me luck!!! Thanks for sharing this recipe!!!

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