Boston Cream Pie

Boston Cream Pie

Our friends know that when they come to our house for dinner, they are going to be guinea pigs. While I love having a bunch of tried-and-true recipes, I am always looking to add to my repertoire. And if I have a weak area, it’s dessert. So when I needed ideas for a recent gathering, Husband suggested I try Boston Cream Pie.

I thought it would be easy enough – my sister makes a fabulous version. If I could get my hands on that recipe, it would be a slam-dunk. Just one problem… She was traveling, which meant I would have to punt. Before we get to the recipe, I wanted to find out why a dessert that is clearly a “cake” is called a “pie.”

The dessert was made famous by a chef at Boston’s Parker House Hotel in 1856. {Hence, the “Boston” part of the name.} It typically has two layers of white sponge or butter cake that are sandwiched together with pastry cream. A chocolate glaze is then poured over the top of the cake and allowed to drip down the sides. So why “pie” and not “cake?”

“They” say {and by “they,” I mean “the internet”} that colonists didn’t own cake pans, so they baked their cakes in pie tins. I am not an expert on the early Americans, or their bakeware, so I’ll take Wikipedia’s word for it.

Back to the recipe.

I did my best to remember what my sister had told me about the way she makes it. She uses our mom’s Poppy Seed Cake recipe for the base – which gives this a nice twist. But for the filling and glaze, it would be up to me and Google to find something.

Martha Stewart had a custard recipe that sounded fairly simple, and I found countless chocolate glazes to pick from.

I’d give my first attempt a B.

First, Martha’s custard called for 6 tablespoons of cornstarch, but I found that was too much.

Next, the glaze recipe I used didn’t make enough to “drip” down the sides of the cake. So I made more for the next version. {Besides, it’s not like more chocolate could be “wrong”.}

Finally, I wanted to dress it up a little bit. It needed a garnish.  But not a garish garnish. Chocolate curls would work. I used my citrus zester for fun little curls, and just piled them on top of the glaze before it set.

I’m pleased to say that this Boston Cream Pie has been tested by our guests, Husband’s co-workers, and various neighbors, and it has {finally} received an A.

Boston Cream Pie
  • ¼ cup poppy seeds
  • ½ cup pineapple juice
  • 1 package white cake mix
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 small package instant vanilla pudding
  • ½ cup cooking oil
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 2 cups milk {I used almond milk}
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 Tbs cornstarch
  • 6 oz. 60-percent bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • 4 oz. 60-percent bittersweet chocolate
  1. Soak poppy seeds in pineapple juice for about 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 350º. Grease two 9" round cake pans. Combine poppy seed mixture with the remaining ingredients in electric mixer and beat for 5 minutes. Divide between prepared pans and bake until toothpick inserted in the middle does out clean, about 30 minutes. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto wire rack; let cool completely.
  1. In a medium saucepan, combine milk and ¼ cup sugar over medium heat, and bring to a simmer. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks and remaining sugar until well combined. Whisk in vanilla and salt.
  2. Whisk in cornstarch, 1 tablespoon at a time, until fully incorporated. While whisking egg mixture constantly, slowly add 1 cup of the heated milk to the egg mixture. Strain this mixture into milk remaining in saucepan. Continue cooking over medium heat, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens, 2-3 minutes.
  3. Transfer to a medium bowl, and cover with plastic wrap, pressing wrap against the filling to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate at least 3 hours and up to overnight. Mixture will be very thick. If it's too thick to spread smoothly, place in a blender for about 15 seconds.
  1. Place chocolate in a bowl. Bring cream to a boil in a 1-qt. saucepan over high heat; pour over chocolate and let sit for 1 minute. Slowly stir chocolate and cream until smooth and shiny; set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
  1. Melt chocolate in microwave safe bowl, in 15 second increments, watching carefully. Spread melted chocolate evenly over the back of a rimmed baking sheet to create a thin coating. Let stand at room temperature until it loses its sheen, about 15 minutes. Refrigerate until the chocolate is set, but not hard. About 10 minutes. Pull a citrus zester through the chocolate to create narrow curls.

Make Ahead! Bake the cake, cool and tightly wrap layers in plastic wrap. Freeze until ready to use.


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