Oct. 23 is National Boston Cream Pie Day! With two layers of light sponge cake, creamy custard and chocolate icing, the Boston cream pie is really more of a cake than anything else. But it’s been over 140 years since the dessert was first invented — perhaps a little too late for a name change.
Boston cream pie became the official state dessert of Massachusetts in 1996, but the rich, chocolately version we enjoy today was invented in 1867 at Boston’s Omni Parker House. Back then it was one of the few desserts featuring chocolate — an extravagant treat reserved mostly for the wealthy (as was a stay at the luxurious Parker House in those days).
“People really only had chocolate if they had it in cocoa,” David Ritchie, the hotel’s director of marketing told TODAY.com. “Chocolate was becoming more of an option to use in desserts, and bakers wanted to continue looking forward and doing new things.
Our relationship to chocolate has changed over the years, but the Parker House’s recipe has not (except for the addition of shaved walnuts).
People often come in looking for a taste of the original recipe, Ritchie said. The desserts are still made in pie tins, despite their cake-like consistency, and while the traditional style is a large cream pie cut into wedges, the hotel also offers a festive individual version for those who want their pie all to themselves.
The historic hotel has also kept up with the times, experimenting with Boston cream pie flavors in sweet treats like cocktails and ice cream.
Not planning a trip to Boston anytime soon, but dying for a taste of this American classic? Now you can make the original version right at home with the recipe below. Happy Boston Cream Pie Day!
Boston Cream Pie
- One 10-inch round sponge cake
- Pastry cream
- 4 oz. toasted almonds
- Chocolate icing
For sponge cake (for 1 10-inch pan):
- 7 eggs, separated
- 8 oz. sugar
- 1 cup flour
- 1 oz. melted butter
In two bowls, separate egg yolks and whites. Add ½ of the sugar to each bowl. Beat both until peaked. When stiff, fold the whites into the yolk mixture.
Gradually add flour, mixing with a wooden spatula. Mix in the butter. Pour this mixture into a 10 inch creased cake pan.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until spongy and golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool fully.
For pastry cream:
- 1 tbsp. butter
- 2 cups milk
- 2 cups light cream
- ½ cup sugar
- 3 ½ tbsp. cornstarch
- 6 eggs
- 1 tsp. dark rum
Bring to a boil in a saucepan the butter, milk and light cream. While this mixture is cooking, combine the sugar, cornstarch and eggs in a bowl and whip until ribbons form.
When the cream, milk, butter mixture reaches the boiling point, whisk in the egg mixture and cook to boiling. Boil for one minute. Pour into a bowl and cover the surface with plastic wrap. Chill overnight if possible. When chilled, whisk to smooth out and flavor with 1 tsp. dark rum.
- 6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, melted
- 2 oz. warm water
Melt the chocolate. Combine with warm water
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 tsp. corn syrup
1 tsp. water
Combine ingredients and warm to approximately 105 degrees. Adjust the consistency with water. It should flow freely from the pastry bag.
Level the sponge cake off at the top using a slicing knife. Cut the cake into two layers.
Spread the flavored pastry cream over one layer. Top with the second cake layer. Reserve a small amount of the pastry cream to spread on sides to adhere to almonds.
Top the cake with chocolate icing as described.
Spread sides of cake with a thin coating of the reserved pastry cream. Press on toasted almonds.
Danika Fears is a TODAY.com intern who preferred cake to pie as a youngster. That's why she could often be found ogling a Boston cream through the glass of her family's favorite pie shop.