Boston Cream Pie

Serves 12
It's called pie, but let's face it, it's a cake -- with an oozy, luscious pastry cream filling between moist layers and chocolate ganache dripping down the sides. It so gripped the taste buds of nineteenth-century Bostonians at the Parker House Hotel that it became a classic dessert -- in fact, in 1996 it was named the state dessert of Massachusetts. A good way to tackle this cake is to make the cake layers and the pastry cream in advance. When ready to assemble, make the ganache topping.



  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 cup safflower oil
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sour cream


  • 1 large egg
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk, heated
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 cup heavy cream, hot


  1. For the cake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the middle position. Oil and flour two 8-inch round cake pans. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
  2. Whisk together the oil and sugar in a large bowl. Whisk in the eggs and vanilla. Add the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the sour cream in 2 additions (beginning and ending with the flour). Divide the batter between the prepared pans.
  3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the cakes pull away from the sides of the pans. Cool in the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove from the pans to cool completely, right side up.
  4. For the pastry cream, lightly beat the egg and yolks together in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl using a hand mixer. Add the sugar a little at a time, and continue beating until the mixture falls in ribbons when the beater is lifted, about 5 minutes. Mix in the flour, then add the milk in a steady stream.
  5. Transfer the mixture to a saucepan, bring just to a boil, and boil gently over medium heat, whisking, until the mixture thickens, 8 to 10 minutes. Strain the pastry cream through a fine sieve into a large bowl. Stir in the vanilla. Press plastic wrap against the surface. Cool for at least 1 hour.
  6. For the chocolate ganache topping, put the chocolate in a medium bowl. Pour the cream over it and leave undisturbed for 1 minute. Stir gently, until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Let cool for 10 minutes.
  7. Slice off the domed top of 1 cake layer to level it. With your fingers, remove some of the cake to make a 1/2-inch hollow, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edge. Place on a cake stand or plate. Fill with the pastry cream. Top with the second cake layer, domed side up. Pour the topping over the cake, letting it run down the sides. Chill for at least 5 hours or as long as overnight, before serving.
cook's note
Master Recipe: This white cake can be used with other frosting options for a killer layer cake. Dessert recipes often have components that will make an excellent basis for another dessert. Maybe you make a pie and realize the crust is amazing. A favorite pudding or custard could become a pie filling. Chocolate ganache drizzles hot over cream puffs, rolls into truffles, spreads on bread for a sandwich filling. Keep a file of your go-to recipe building blocks as you discover them and use them as the base for your own desserts.
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Photo by Jonathan Lovekin