Boston Cream Pie

Even Foodie in Miami has fails.

When we were asked to Christopher and Courtney’s house for dinner, I decided to bring a Boston Cream Pie, since we hadn’t been able to try it in Boston. It was invented at the Parker House Hotel, where we stayed, so I decided to try the original recipe, or at least what I found on Google to be the original recipe. Boston Cream Pie is the official state dessert of Massachusetts.

The Boston Cream Pie, according to Joy of Cooking, was invented in the Parker Hotel in the 1850’s by a German pastry chef when he decided to add a dark chocolate topping to the classic two-layer, custard-filled sponge cake known as Boston Pie. When I read the recipe termed “The Original Boston Cream Pie recipe”, it seemed a little clunky and old-fashioned, with cornstarch being added to the custard and the topping consisting of melted chocolate chips and water.

Still, I was undeterred and set about to begin my Boston Cream Pie for that night’s dessert.

“Despite its name, it’s not a pie at all,”

said the website.

It’s actually a light, fluffy cake (known as a Sponge Cake), filled with pastry cream and topped with a rich, chocolate icing.

The Sponge Cake part of it was relatively straight forward, with 7 eggs, separated, sugar, flour and melted butter. You mixed the egg whites with sugar, egg yolks with sugar and then combined them with the flour (folded in) and melted butter. I was instructed to put this mixture into one 10-inch cake pan, but when I did, it was too much batter, so I divided it between two and baked it.

Then came the cream filling, where I brought butter, milk and light cream to a boil. In another bowl I was to whip sugar, cornstarch and eggs in a bowl until ribbons formed. My first whipping by hand didn’t do much ribbon-making, so I switched it to my stand mixer, turned it on high, where ribbons did indeed form. This mixture was to be chilled overnight, but I didn’t have that much time, so it chilled for about six hours.

Making the Pastry Custard for the filling in the Boston Cream Pie.

I removed the cakes from the oven to let them cool completely, as instructed. The original recipe required fondant, which I didn’t have, so went with the alternative, which was melted chocolate chips with water. I assembled the whole cake, adding the custard to the middle, frosting the top with the chocolate mixture and spreading more custard to the sides to stick toasted almonds to it.

I tried to add a decorative swirl with some white icing in a tube, to look like the dessert pictured on the website. You basically just make circles on the cake, then drag it down the center to create a spiderweb-like design. I then stuck the whole pie/cake into the fridge until it was time to leave for dinner.

The end result? There really wasn’t enough custard in between the layers to make the cake moist and it glopped over the sides. I had imagined the topping to be a delicate, translucent glaze, but this one just hardened up like a chocolate bar, so that when I cut it, the top kind of shattered into shards. All my hard work for a dessert that was just meh! Oh well, I had to try it.

Looking at other recipes, I probably would have gone with the old reliable Joy of Cooking. Apparently different types of cakes can be used to make Boston Cream Pie. A Hot-Milk Sponge Cake is traditional, but a Yellow Cake or Gold Cake can also be used, so you could even start this dessert with a cake mix. This Pastry Cream recipe also contains cornstarch but the topping is a “very sophisticated glaze” with chocolate, butter and liqueur, more in keeping with what I had in mind. Joy of Cooking rarely steers me wrong!

Up Next: No phones at the Dinner Table, si vous plait!

Published by gleeguilford

Born and raised in Miami, the daughter of a pilot and stay-at-home Mom, I love food in all forms. My great grandfather opened the first Italian restaurant in Miami in the 20's, The Boathouse on the Miami river. I love exploring my heritage and linking food and recipes to personal stories. I've been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Food and Love and wrote restaurant reviews and news as the Miami Dining Examiner for three years. I love exploring Miami's latest hot spots, hole in the walls and institutions. I'm always looking for innovative ways to use the plethora of tropical fruits and vegetables South Florida offers, especially from my own garden.

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