Boston Cream Pie Recipe

On Patriots Day, I wanted a patriotic pie. Boston Cream Pie seemed perfect…except that it isn’t really a pie!

boston cream pie

Boston Cream Pie: very patriotic...
even though it's not really a pie!

April in New England means Patriots Day (April 19th, a holiday in Massachusetts), so in honor of that I chose the pie-that-is-not-a-pie, Boston Cream Pie, as Jane’s Pie of the Month.

Patriots Day commemorates the first shots of the American Revolution, fired on April 19, 1775. It’s a big event in Boston and my hometown of Concord. In Boston there’s the famous Boston Marathon, while in Concord we celebrate with parades of fifes and drums and reenactments of the “shot heard ‘round the world” at the Old North Bridge.

Feeling patriotic, I wanted a patriotic pie. Boston Cream Pie seemed perfect…except that it isn’t really a pie! History says that it was invented at the Parker House Hotel in Boston in the 1850s, but there’s still no explanation for why they decided to call it a pie. It lives on as a favorite, and in 1996 it was named the official state dessert of Massachusetts!

Consisting of cake, a pastry cream filling, and a chocolate glaze, there are many different approaches to Boston Cream Pie. I’ve opted for a single sponge cake, cut in half horizontally, vanilla cream, and a bittersweet glaze.

Pastry Cream Filling Ingredients
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
2 TB cornstarch
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla

Mix sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl.

Beat egg yolks in a kettle, and then add the sugar/cornstarch and stir well. Gradually add the milk, stirring constantly. When it is blended, heat over medium burner, stirring constantly, until it is thick and boiling; this will take about 6-8 minutes. Stir in the vanilla. Pour into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap (the plastic wrap should touch the cream to prevent a skin from forming). Refrigerate while you make the cake.

Sponge Cake Ingredients
2/3 cup sifted flour
3 eggs, separated
Dash of salt
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift the flour three times. Beat the egg yolks with a hand beater (or a fork) until thick and consistently yellow; set aside. Beat the egg whites until frothy, sprinkle in a dash of salt and beat until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the sugar, about 2 TB at a time. Using a rubber spatula, fold the egg yolks into the beaten whites. Add flour gradually, sifting about 1/4 cup at a time over the surface, and gently folding it in. Pour into an ungreased 9” springform pan and bake about 30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool on a rack for about 10 minutes, then use a knife around the edges of the pan. Remove side of pan and use knife to loosen bottom. Cool on a rack. Note: The cake may stick some to the sides and bottom; this is normal.

Chocolate Glaze Ingredients
2 oz. Bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, good quality
1/4 cup hot water
2 TB unsalted butter, softened and cut in small pieces

In a small glass bowl, melt chocolate in microwave, about 2 minutes. Stir until smooth and add hot water. Stir in butter one piece at a time. Let glaze sit until you’re ready to use it; it will thicken somewhat. (I make the glaze while the cake is baking.)

Assembling Boston Cream Pie
Using a large serrated knife (or other sharp knife) cut cake in half horizontally, creating two layers. Place bottom layer on cake plate. Stir the cooled filling and spread it on the cake. Make it a little higher in the middle and stop about 1/2 inch from the edge. Place other cake layer on top and press down gently. Spread glaze over top, letting it run down the sides a bit. May be eaten right away, but if you have time, chill it before serving. Cut into pie shaped wedges and enjoy! Cover any leftover pie and store in the refrigerator.

Tips from Jane

— Separating eggs isn’t hard, but you have to be careful. Here's how to do it.

— When you cut the cake, use a knife that’s large enough to cut quickly and evenly. Even though sponge cakes are light, the cake is also surprisingly sturdy, so you should be able to lift it easily.

— I like the contrast of the bittersweet glaze, but if you prefer a sweeter topping use the semisweet.

— You’ll have three egg whites left from the pastry cream. What to do? You can freeze egg whites in a sealed container and use them later, or you can make Marvelous Maple Meringues (invented by my daughter Lydia, a real bonus!)

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