Baking History

A Taste For The Past

Boston Cream Pie

Posted by bakinghistory on January 20, 2008

The official dessert of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts: delicious Boston Cream Pie
taste300.jpg This is my entry for the blog event “A Taste of Terroir” hosted by Anna’s Cool Finds for which entries should highlight a specific food typical of a given area.
I write from beautiful Massachusetts, and there are many wonderful foods that are typical of this area: from chowder to corn muffins, from cranberries to chocolate chips cookies to Parker House rolls.
One of my favorites is Boston Cream Pie, which is Massachusetts official dessert—A light sponge cake filled with vanilla cream and then iced with a dark chocolate icing, which provides a nice counterpart to the sweetness of the filling.
The version I propose here is the most known, and was created in 1856 at the famous Parker House Hotel in Boston by French chef M. Sanzian. An earlier version was made without the chocolate icing and simply sprinkled on top with powdered sugar.
As for why it is called a “pie” while it is in fact a cake is not entirely clear, one possible explanation is that pie plates were once more common and easily available and were used to bake cakes as well.
Whether this is the actual reason for the name or not, it is indeed a delightful dessert.
The recipe I used is an antique receipt and gives outstanding results—it is really worth trying.
Of course, if you have a chance, do visit Massachusetts and taste the Boston Cream Pie in its home State.
From the original recipes by Fanny L. Gillette
In: The White House Cook Book” , 1887—USA
2 cups (475 ml) whole milk
2 eggs
1 cup (200 g) sugar
1/2 cup (60 g) flour
2 tbsp (30 g) butter
1 tsp (5 ml) pure vanilla extract or paste
3 eggs, divided
1 cup (200 g) sugar
1-1/2 cups (180 g) sifted flour
1 heaping tsp (6 g) baking powder
2 tbsp (30 ml) milk or water
Plain Chocolate Icing
1 oz (30 g) bittersweet chocolate
3 tbsp (45 ml) milk or cream
1 tbsp (15 ml) water
scant 2/3 cup (120 g) sugar
Make the Cream Filling: Scald the milk and set aside to cool. Mix together the flour and sugar, then beat the eggs and add the flour-sugar mixture, stirring until well incorporated. Add the warm milk in a thin stream, mixing well. Place on medium-low heat and cook stirring continuously, adding the butter as soon as the mixture starts to simmer. Cook the cream, always stirring to prevent scorching, until it thickens–it will offer some resistance to the spoon while you stir. Take the cream off the heat and stir in the vanilla, mixing well.
If any lumps should form, you can either strain the cream once it is ready, or blend it briefly with an immersion blender. Let the cream cool and then refrigerate it in a glass container with an airtight lid.
Make the Cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease two 9-inch (23 cm) cake pans, line the bottom with parchment paper, then grease the paper as well.
Sift the flour with the baking powder. Beat the egg whites until stiff and glossy, being careful not to overbeat them. Set aside.
Beat the yolks at high speed for at least 15 minutes, adding the sugar little by little until the mixture is pale yellow and thick. Add the milk or water, then add the flour-baking powder mixture little by little. Finally fold in the egg whites, making sure not to deflate them. Divide the batter between the prepared pans and bake for about 20-25 minuets, until golden. Let the cakes cool in the pans for five minutes, then unmold them and let them finish cooling on racks.
When the cakes are cold, assemble the cake: spread a thick layer of cream on top of one of the cakes, then place the second one on top.
Make the Chocolate Icing: Melt the chocolate on very low heat, then mix in the cream or milk and the water, finally adding the sugar little by little. Place on low heat and mix until the sugar is dissolved. If any sugar granules adhere to the sides of the pan, wash them off with a pastry brush dipped in cold water, or the icing will be grainy. Stir the mixture until it starts to boil, then let it cook, without stirring, for five minutes. Immediately pour the hot chocolate icing on top of the cake, starting form the center and letting the icing fall down the sides. Do not use a spatula to spread the icing or it won’t be glossy. The icing hardens quickly, so you need to be fast pouring it on the cake.
Let the icing set, then place the cake in the refrigerator in a closed container large enough that the lid does not touch the top of the cake. Serve the cake slightly chilled.

14 Responses to “Boston Cream Pie”

  1. Ann said

    One of my favorite desserts! Yours looks wonderful!

  2. Simona said

    It looks gorgeous! Last October the Daring Bakers made Bostini Cream Pie and for the occasion I heard about the original Boston Cream Pie, but I did not check it up. Now thanks to you I know what it is and how it is made.

  3. bakinghistory said

    @ Ann and Simona: Thank you both! It is really a good dessert, one I make often and we never tire of 🙂

  4. That looks great! I don’t think that there is any official dessert in Germany 🙂

  5. That’s a beautiful Boston Cream Pie! I have read similar research about pie plates being used to bake cake layers. Last year, I made an historic recipe called “Washington Pie” which is the same style — two layers with apple butter between and powdered sugar on top.

  6. bakinghistory said

    @ Ulrike: Hi! Thank you. Even if you don’t have an official dessert, German pastry and breads in general are wonderful.

    @ T.W.Barritt: Hello! “Washington Pie” is also a great variation on the same type of filled cakes, and one I like very much too. Which antique recipe did you make?

  7. chanit said

    Hi !!

    Can I eat the vanilla cream first ?..
    A classic cake and yours looks So good. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  8. sciopina said

    Hi!How can u get tired of this fantastic cake? Please a big slice for me!Gnam gnam…
    ciao a presto

  9. bakinghistory said

    @ Chanit: Hi!!

    @ Sciopina: true, you just cannot tire of it 🙂

  10. Gorgeous Boston cream pie! The crumb is perfect and the custard looks tasty. This has always been one of my mom’s favorite desserts. On the pie vs. cake issue, in Greece both of these things are called pita (plural pites). So an apple cake would be milopita and an apple pie would also be milopita. I know here, it is probably what you say about using pie pans…

  11. I used a recipe from Sturbridge Village as the model, but then played with some variations – don’t remember if it called for apple butter, but another recipe did, and that sounded “Early American” to me.

  12. bakinghistory said

    @ Laurie: Thank you!

    @ T.W. Baritt: Oh, Sturbridge Village is such a lovely place! My understanding is a Washington Pie is a sponge cake with any fruit jam filling, so apple butter would work beautifully I think.

  13. Beth said

    My husband just requested a pudding filled cake for his birthday coming up this week and today I came across your blog. This is perfect, I can’t wait to try it! 🙂

  14. bakinghistory said

    Hello Beth! Thank you! 🙂

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