Is it pie, Is it pudding, Is it cake

Everybody will tell you that this is not a pie. Not a pie? Then why call it pie? Its called Boston Cream Pie. But it's a cake?

Boston cream Pie

Confused? I was too, but Boston Cream Pie is really a cake - it is made with 2 layers of yellow cake sandwiched with a vanilla custard and topped with a chocolate ganache or glaze. The origins of the cake are slightly fuzzy, but it's fairly certain that it first appeared in in a hotel in Boston called The Parker House Hotel. Nigella explains in her book How to be a Domestic Goddess that Boston Cream Pie was invented when the pastry chef at the hotel, in 1850, added a chocolate glaze to an ordinary Boston Pie (vanilla cake sandwiched with vanilla custard). Its also called Pie and not cake because in the early 9th century, cakes were made in Pie dishes, and the name sort of stayed. But what's probably the most interesting tidbit I read was that this dessert is also the official dessert of the State of Massachusetts!

At first this seemed to be a fairly simple cake - with a fairly common flavour. Too 'everyday' for a birthday cake that I had intended it to be? Where was the frosting? Where was the rolled fondant? Where were the multiple layers with multiple fillings? But I was wrong. This cake, as it happens, has so much flavour, that really, one piece is just not enough. You see, I don't really believe in large, ostentatious cakes with shiny multi-coloured frosting for Birthday Cakes. They taste of everything but cake and are often too sweet to handle and more often end up on the Birthday Girl's face and hair than any one's stomach. While all that butter maybe good for the skin (or so we like to believe) it seems to be too much of a waste to me (I know. How booorring). So when I decided to bake a cake for a birthday, I had a large list to choose from -  Brownies? Black Forest? Chocolate Tart? All good, but not unique enough to me. Which is when I remembered this. This recipe from the book How to be a Domestic Goddess by the lovely Nigella Lawson. For years and years I had no idea that this in fact was a book about baking, and searched for Nigella's recipes high and low on the Internet when it was all there, in one book.

I don't think you would you want me to get you cake now, because I won't let you smear any of the frosting.

Boston Cream Pie
Adapted from Nigella Lawson's How to be a Domestic Goddess

Even though you are reading about the Crème patissiѐre in a row, I managed to burn my first batch when I made this cake. While it wasn't completely bad (discovered after it sat in the fridge for 24 hours and as I nicked spoonfuls of it two days later), it wasn't usable as a Birthday Cake filling, and I couldn't bring myself to separate 2 more eggs and end with four whites. So in the spirit of experimentation (and a completely impulsive decision) I used just one whole egg for the custard, and you know what, it worked. But I'd recommend this only as an alternative - because it's not a tried and tested standard. There are some changes to the original recipe - I did not use any self raising flour, instead I went with plain flour and added baking powder. I also halved the recipe and have adjusted the ingredients as such - so they are easier to weigh and mix.
You will need -

For the Cake

100 gm unsalted butter, softened
100 gm powdered sugar
½ tsp vanilla
2 large eggs
100 gm plain flour
2 ½ tsp cornflour
½ tsp baking powder
2 tbsp milk

For the Crème patissiѐre

60 ml milk
60 ml fresh cream
½ vanilla pod or ½ tsp vanilla
2 small egg yolks
25 gm (2 tbsp) powdered sugar
1 tbsp plain flour

For the Icing

½ cup [American measure] dark chocolate
½ cup [American measure] fresh cream
½ tsp unsalted butter

To make the cake:

Preheat the oven to 180 degree Celsius. Grease and line an 8 inch cake pan. Sift the flour, cornflour and the baking powder and keep aside.
Cream the butter with the sugar till its pale, light and fluffy. This takes at least 5 minutes.
Add the vanilla and one egg and beat until the egg is incorporated. Then add the second egg and beat again.
Gently fold the sifted dry ingredients into the butter mixture. Add the milk and fold until the batter reaches a soft dropping consistency.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake for about 25 minutes until a cake tester/toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Turn the cakes out after 10 minutes and let them cool completely. Once cooled, cut the cakes horizontally into two with a sharp knife.

To make the Crème patissiѐre:

In a deep bottomed saucepan, warm the cream and milk. Scrap the seeds from the vanilla pod and add them the bean itself to the pan. Bring the liquid to the boil and cover and let it stand to infuse for at least 10 minutes. Beat the yolks in a medium bowl with the sugar and the flour. If you are using vanilla extract, add it the eggs. Strain the slightly cooled milk slowly into the eggs, and whisk it until it’s smooth. Pour this entire liquid into the saucepan and set it over low heat, stirring it all the time. When the custard starts to thicken, turn off the heat and transfer the mixture into a bowl. Cover with a plastic wrap and leave it to cool.
Set one half of the cake on a flat plate/cake board. Spread the Crème patissiѐre on top of this until you have a good ½ inch layer of filling. Lay the other half of the cake on top of this.

To make the icing and assemble the cake:

Chop the chocolate into small pieces and then measure out half cup and set aside. In a saucepan, warm the cream, butter and vanilla and bring it to the boil. Turn off the heat and add the chopped chocolate to it and leave it for about a minute. Then with a fork or a whisk, stir this vigorously until the chocolate is completely incorporated and you have a thick, smooth chocolate mixture. When this mixture is still warm, pour it on top of the cake and spread it gently, so that it drips invitingly around the sides. You can smooth this out if you wish to have a completely chocolate covered cake.
Chill in the fridge for an hour before serving.

Serves 3 hungry (or 4 normal) people.


  1. ha! i always wondered why it was called a pie instead of a cake. gorgeous!

  2. You asked on Deb's site about left over vanilla bean. You can put it in a jar with granulated sugar. Shake around a bit every few days and presto! You have vanilla sugar. It'll keep that way forever.

    1. Thanks! I am going to try that next...


Post a Comment

I would love to hear from you! If you have seen anything, eaten anything or been to anyplace mentioned here write in! If you want to share something interesting, go ahead! Want to make an obesrvation or want to give me your feedback, I am all ears. But derogatory, racist, rude or comments that are just plain mean, are not welcome around here. Comments are moderated for now; and any promotional campaigns will promptly filtered.

Popular Posts