For four years, I spent the majority of my days down the street from the Omni Parker Hotel in Boston. Among other things, this posh hotel is credited with being the birthplace of the Boston Cream Pie, a decadent dessert where two sponge cakes are layered with vanilla custard and encased in chocolate.
As the story goes, since the hotel’s opening in 1856, the pie (which is really a cake-pudding mashup) has been on the menu, having been created by French chef Sanzian. The hotel also boasts having invented or created the Parker House Roll (which I recently also made), being the first hotel with an elevator and hot/cold running water and having such notable people such as Charles Dickens, John Wilkes Booth and Malcolm X pass through its doors.
Yet, I don’t think I’d ever had Boston Cream Pie until a few weeks ago and definitely never when I was in Boston… shame on me, I know! Fun fact – in 1996 this dessert was decreed the official dessert of Massachusetts!
Inspired by a store bought version I sampled not too long ago, I decided to try my hand at the real deal myself. It’s a bit of a complicated undertaking – one of those recipes that has multiple components that come together at the end to create a wonderful dessert – but it’s these kind of dishes that I love making!
But, don’t let this recipe intimidate you. You’ve got three components – the cake, custard and chocolate sauce – but you can do each individually, stretching it over a couple days would be ideal as you have to wait for things to cool and each in it of itself isn’t too difficult.
I did the whole thing a night after work, which I don’t recommend as we finally sampled the whole thing around 11:30p, but in a pinch it can be done!
And while that first piece is delicious, it’s a dessert that’s better the second or third piece especially after it’s chilled a bit the flavors have come together. It was definitely worth all the wait and effort!
I’ve got to say, this is probably one of the best things I’ve baked… quite possibly ever! It’s a solid dessert. The vanilla custard was amazing. The cake was super moist and had great flavor and with that hint of chocolate on top, it was pretty delicious. I shared some of it with my coworkers to rave reviews. Gotta pat myself on the back with this one!
- 12 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pan
- 1½ cups flour, plus more for pan
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- ½ tsp. kosher salt
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 3 eggs
- ⅔ cup buttermilk
- 1 cup sugar
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- ½ tsp. kosher salt
- ½ vanilla bean, seeds scraped and reserved
- 6 egg yolks
- 1½ cups milk
- 4 tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 4 oz. 60-percent bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- ½ cup heavy cream
- Heat oven to 350°. Grease and flour a 9″ round cake pan; set aside. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl; set aside. In another bowl, beat butter, sugar, and vanilla on medium-high speed of a hand mixer until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each, until smooth. Alternately add dry ingredients and buttermilk in 3 batches, beginning and ending with dry ingredients; beat until just combined. Pour into pan; smooth top with a rubber spatula. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes, and then invert onto a wire rack; let cool completely.
- Whisk together sugar, cornstarch, salt, and vanilla seeds in a 4-qt. saucepan; add yolks, and whisk until smooth. Stir in milk, and place pan over medium heat; cook, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, and add butter one cube at a time, whisking until smooth; stir in vanilla extract. Transfer pudding to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap; chill until firmed, at least 2 hours.
- Place chocolate in a bowl. Bring cream to a boil in a 1-qt. saucepan over high heat; pour over chocolate and let sit for 1 minute. Slowly stir chocolate and cream until smooth and shiny; set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
- Using a serrated knife, split cake horizontally into two layers so that the top layer is slightly smaller than the bottom. Spread chilled pudding over cut side of bottom layer and cover with top layer; pour chocolate glaze evenly over cake, letting it drip down the side of the cake.
- Refrigerate cake until glaze is set, at least 30 minutes. Serve chilled or at room temperature.