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Cook the Book: Boston Cream Pie

Cook the Book: Boston Cream Pie

[Photograph: Christopher Hirsheimer]

While Boston Cream Pie does in fact hail from Boston (from the Parker House Hotel to be exact) there are a few other inconsistencies to this dessert. You see, it is neither cream-filled or a pie and if we're getting technical. We should probably be calling it Boston Custard Cake since that's exactly what it is. But when you're met with a big slice of chocolate glazed vanilla cake filled with an eggy yellow custard, arguing semantics just seems kind of silly.

This version of Boston Cream Pie from Christopher Hirsheimer's and Melissa Hamilton's Canal House Cooking Volume No. 6 is a spot-on version of a classically American dessert. The cake layers are light and fluffy thanks to a batter that involves beating eggs and sugar for a solid 15 minutes (don't be a hero, use the stand mixer). The custard filling is gooey and tinged with a hint of orange from a few tablespoons of Grand Marnier, and the chocolate icing is thick coat of chocolate and cream.

Just a quick note: This recipe makes two cakes so be prepared to do some serious cake eating or make someone's day by dropping off a gorgeous Boston Cream Pie.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Canal House Cooking Volume No. 6 to give away this week.

Reprinted with permission from Canal House Cooking Volume No. 6 by Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton, copyright © 2011. Published by Canal House.

Cook the Book: Boston Cream Pie

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About This Recipe

Yield:10 to 12
Active time:1 hour
Total time:1 hour plus cooling time
Special equipment:Two 8½-inch round cake


  • For the cake:
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup cake flour, plus more for the pan
  • ¼ cup pastry flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • For the custard:
  • 2½ cups milk
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 egg yolks
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier, optional
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • For the chocolate icing:
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • ½ cup heavy cream


  1. 1

    For the cake, preheat oven to 400°. Put the eggs and sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a whisk, and beat for 15 minutes. (Be patient; this long beating is what makes this cake so light and delicate.)

  2. 2

    Sift together the cake flour, pastry flour, salt, and nutmeg. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the beaten eggs while continuing to whisk. Add the milk and vanilla.

  3. 3

    Grease two 8½-inch round cake pans and dust them with flour, tapping out any excess. Divide the batter between the 2 pans and bake until the tops are golden and a skewer poked into the center of the cakes comes out clean, 17–20 minutes. Unmold the cakes onto wax paper or parchment paper that has been sprinkled with sugar.

  4. 4

    For the custard, heat 1½ cups of the milk and the sugar in a heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Whisk together the remaining 1 cup milk, cornstarch, egg yolks, salt, vanilla, and Grand Marnier, if using. Gradually add it to the hot milk, stirring with a wooden spoon until the custard is thick and smooth, about 20 minutes. Keep heat low and stir from the bottom of the pan so the custard doesn’t scorch. Stir in the butter then set aside to cool.

  5. 5

    For the chocolate icing, heat the chocolate and cream in a small heavy pan over low heat, stirring until melted and smooth (or heat for about 1 minute in the microwave, then stir the cream and chocolate together).

  6. 6

    To assemble, split each cake into 2 layers, spread the bottom layers with cooled custard, put on the top layers, and spread chocolate icing evenly over the tops.


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