“Red Hot” Boston Cream Pie

Boston Cream Pie Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

This week was my husband’s birthday and he requested a true American classic for his cake, Boston cream pie. Light pillowy sponge cake with layers of rich vanilla pastry cream and topped with a smooth chocolate glaze. Why do we call this cake a pie? It was invented in the 1850s by a French pastry chef working in Boston. My theory is that he got lost in translation and mistakenly called it a pie! (But I’m making that last bit up.) Whether the name fits or not hardly matters, it is delicious. In fact, my family loved it so much the four of us ate the entire 8-inch cake in one sitting. I was thrilled except I never got a picture of it for this post.

The next day a package arrived in the mail from the White On Rice Couple, Diane and Todd. It was a perfect stick of Vietnamese cinnamon bark. I had won it during a giveaway they had on their fabulous website. It is not an exaggeration to say that this gift has changed my life. I dream of the day when I can visit Vietnam and experience the place that produces such a fragrant and extraordinary spice as this. I opened the bag and the smell was intense, I broke off a piece of the bark and chewed on the sweet and spicy cinnamon. The bark is actually sweet just like the “Red Hot” candies I remember from my childhood. It tastes as though it were soaked in sugar. Wild! I had to make another Boston Cream Pie because I needed pictures and my family loved the first one. This time I just had to incorporate the Vietnamese Cinnamon bark. I shaved some of it with my nutmeg grater to put in the sponge cake and I steeped some in the milk when I made the pastry cream. Fabulous! Here is how I made “Red Hot” Boston Cream Pie:

Vietnamese Cinnamon Bark | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

The Vietnamese cinnamon bark in all of its glory!

Cinnamon Sponge Cake:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 large eggs

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons hot water

3 large egg whites (you will need two yolks for the pastry cream recipe below)

1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350° and prepare two 8-inch cake pans with butter and parchment rounds.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon, set aside.

In a stand mixer whip the eggs until light. Slowly add the sugar and whip until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Add the hot water and vanilla, beat for another minute. Remove from mixer and gently fold in the sifted flour.

In a clean bowl whip the egg whites until stiff peaks, but don’t let them get dry or they will be hard to fold into the batter. Gently fold the egg whites into the cake batter.

Divide evenly (they will not be very deep) into the prepared pans and bake for about 20-25 minutes or until the top is golden brown and a tester comes out clean. Set aside to cool completely.

Pastry Cream with whipped Creme Fraiche:

1 cup milk

1/4 cup sugar plus 1 tablespoon

pinch salt

2 large egg yolks

2 teaspoons cold unsalted butter

1/2 vanilla bean

1 stick cinnamon

1/3 cup creme fraiche

Milk, cinnamon bark and vanilla bean in a pot | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Bring the milk, 1 tablespoon sugar, vanilla bean and cinnamon stick to a gentle simmer. Remove from heat and cover the pot. Let sit for at least 20 minutes, but as long as 8+ hours. The longer you let the spices steep in the milk the more intense the flavor will be.

Follow these directions for making the pastry cream. Cool completely! Once the pastry cream i9s cooled it will set up to be pretty stiff, you will have to stir it or even whip it in your mixer to break it up and make it smooth again.

Whipping creme fraiche in a mixer | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

whip the creme fraiche in your mixer until stiff peaks. Fold the creme fraiche into your pastry cream.

Spreading pastry cream | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Spread the pastry cream onto one layer of your cake and cover with the other later. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes to allow the pastry cream to set up again.

Meanwhile make the chocolate glaze:

6 ounces high quality semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces (I ran out of unsalted and ended up using salted butter. I thought it was great!!! Take into consideration that I love the contrast of salty and sweet, especially with chocolate.)

3 tablespoons corn syrup or Lyle’s Golden Syrup

3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

Melt all together over a double boiler until completely smooth. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. The chocolate should not be too hot and runny or it won’t cling to the cake nicely.

Pouring chocolate glaze on Boston cream pie | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Pour the chocolate glaze over the top of the cake and allow to drip over the sides.

Boston Cream Pie Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

You will want to use Spatula to spread it evenly.

Boston Cream Pie Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

To cut the cake evenly use a very thin bladed Knife that has been dipped in hot water and wiped dry.

Thank you so very much to Diane and Todd for the glorious gift of cinnamon!

You can find an updated recipe for Boston Cream Pie in my cookbook Zoë Bakes Cakes.

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20 thoughts to ““Red Hot” Boston Cream Pie”

  1. When you fed this rare delicacy to Mark and I during our photoshoot, I didn’t focus closely enough on its unique flavor. Well, regrets now, all I can do is visualize with a more open mind.


    Please, let me taste this Boston Cream Pie. Someday?


  2. It’s so pretty! For some reason, I thought that boston cream pie was more complicated but it looks so easy. Bake the cake, whip up some custard, and toss some ganache on top. Voila!

  3. Oh…goodness. It’s hard to describe the pure agony that we’re going through right now. The pain of seeing your amazing boston cream (cake) pie without being able to taste it is painful!!! 😀
    Happy belated birthday to your husband…what a lucky guy!!
    We’re so thrilled that you were one of the winners and you put it to phenomenal use!
    Now, if only our sponge cakes can come out as good as yours, we’d be set!

  4. I was going to make this for my husband’s birthday because he loves boston creme pie BUT how much sugar goes into the cake?????

  5. Hi Nancy,

    Thank you so much for spotting my mistake. I’ve fixed the recipe to reflect the much needed sugar in the cake recipe!

    Enjoy and Happy Birthday to your husband!


  6. Hi,

    The cake looks perfect and I bet it’s delicious too. Im actually from Vietnam, a typical Hanoi girl. Im glad to hear that you’d love to visit Vietnam. Im sure you’ll fall in love with that country and especially the food. You gotta go to Hanoi and try Pho (Vietnamese rice noodle soup) and coffee over there. Oh im having so much feeling talking about Hanoi!

    Thanks a lot for your recipe. Im so excited to make this Red Hot!!!

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