Boston Cream Pie Birthday Cake is a classic Boston cream pie - vanilla butter cake layers with a pastry cream filling and chocolate ganache topping. Even though it's called a pie, it's actually a cake. And perfect for a birthday!
I made this cake for my sweet friend's birthday. Her husband requested it as a surprise, then I found out it was her favorite cake that she has for her birthday every year. I was thrilled to be able to make it for her and glad that it turned out well because this was the first time that I ever made a Boston Cream Pie Birthday Cake!
A Little History about Boston Cream Pie
I've always wondered why this "cake" is called a "pie" so I looked up the history (on wikipedia of course). Turns out, the words cake and pie were interchangeable back in the day because they used the same pans for each. A French chef from the Parker House Restaurant in Boston claims to be the creator of the famous Boston Cream Pie. His name was Augustine Francois Anezin and he was the head chef from 1865-1881. The dessert was initially called a chocolate cream pie, then the Parker House chocolate cream pie and finally a Boston cream pie which is now the official dessert of the state of Massachusetts (as of December 12, 1996).
Recipe Research for Boston Cream Pie Birthday Cake
Since I'd never made this cake before, I had to search for a recipe. First I looked online but wasn't sure which recipe would be best. So I decided to do it the old fashioned way, looking through my very large library of cookbooks. I looked through lots of books but couldn't find one single recipe for Boston Cream Pie.
Then I realized I needed to check my old standby, The Joy of Cooking. That book never fails. There must be every recipe known to man in there! I found it but still wasn't thrilled. I ended up using something ironic, The Southern Living Cookbook! But Boston isn't in the South, you say? Never fear, us Southerners are very good bakers! I liked the recipe and I was off to the races. (Note: Even though I liked the recipe, I still made quite a few changes, so let's just say this is an adapted version.)
How to Make Boston Cream Pie
1st Step: Make the vanilla butter cakes.
2nd Step: Make the custard filling.
3rd Step: Make the chocolate ganache topping.
4th Step: Assemble cake, serve and enjoy!
Making the cake layers
Prepare the batter for two 9-inch layers of vanilla butter cake (recipe below). Some recipes call for a sponge cake, but I prefer a butter cake for this "pie"! Bake as directed, then let them cool while you make the filling.
Making the Custard Filling
The cream part of a Boston Cream Pie is actually homemade vanilla pudding or custard. Some call it pastry cream. Have you ever made homemade banana pudding? It's the same thing (without the bananas). You make it on the stove using your own ingredients such as sugar, cornstarch, milk, egg yolks, etc. (not instant pudding in a box). See below for the complete filling recipe.
Making the Chocolate Ganache Topping
This is my favorite part of the cake. Be careful as you melt unsweetened chocolate bars and butter on the stove over LOW heat. Make sure to use a heavy saucepan. I love the Le Crueset Dutch Oven! Scroll down for the recipe. Then slather on that luscious chocolate ganache and let it drip down the sides of your custard filled Boston Cream Pie!
Here I am with the birthday girl, Beth Joice. She was surprised that I was making her favorite cake (thanks to her hubby for telling me). I love baking for special friends like this darling young lady. Even though this has been her cake of choice every year since she was a kid, Beth said it was the first "homemade" Boston Cream Pie Birthday Cake that she had ever had. Yay! Happy Birthday, Beth!
Do you have a birthday cake tradition? Let me know in the comments below.
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Boston Cream Pie
For the cake
- ¾ cup unsalted butter softened
- 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs room temperature
- 3 cups cake flour
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup whole milk room temperature
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
For the custard filling
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 cups whole milk
- 4 egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the chocolate ganache
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate bar
- 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted Full disclosure: I sifted half and dumped in the rest
- ¼ cup boiling water
For the cake
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and line with parchment paper 2 (9-inch) round cake pans. (I used non-stick cooking spray before and after placing a parchment paper circle which I cut out myself after tracing the line of the pan onto the paper. Or you can buy them pre-cut.) Set aside.
- Place cake flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk until combined. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. With mixer on low, gradually add eggs (one at a time). Turn mixer to medium and beat for 30 seconds or until eggs are completely mixed in.
- Combine milk and vanilla in a small bowl, then with mixer on low, alternate adding milk mixture and flour mixture. Add about a third of the flour, then a third of the liquid. Mix until combined. Repeat with remaining dry and wet ingredients. Once all of the cake ingredients are combined, turn mixer up to medium and beat for about 30 seconds.
- Pour batter into prepared pans, dividing the batter equally between the two. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let cool.
For the custard filling
- In a medium sized, heavy saucepan, add sugar, cornstarch and salt. Stir to combine. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly. Add egg yolks and whisk together. Turn heat to medium and keep whisking. Let it come to a boil, whisking all the while. Once it comes to a boil, keep whisking for 1 minute or until thick. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla. Let cool slightly, then pour into a medium bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, letting it touch the top of the custard to prevent it from crusting. Set aside.
For the chocolate ganache
- Place butter and chocolate in a small, heavy saucepan. Turn the heat on low and let it melt, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and let cool about 3-4 minutes. Add powdered sugar and boiling water. Stir with a wooden spoon until smooth.
- Place one layer of cake on a serving plate. Spread custard on top. Add second layer of cake. Pour chocolate ganache on top, spreading it quickly so that some of it drips down the sides. Refrigerate at least one hour before serving. Slice and serve. Store leftover cake covered in refrigerator.
Another party pic...
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All text and images © Lise Ode for Mom Loves Baking. Please do not use my images without prior permission. If you want to republish this recipe, please re-write the recipe in your own words, or link back to this post for the recipe. Disclaimer: Nutrition information shown is not guaranteed to be accurate. This post may contain affiliate links.