History of the Boston Cream Pie

Boston cream pie is synonymous with Boston and New England. In fact, did you know in 1996 it was named the Official Dessert of Massachusetts (beating out the Toll House cookie)?

If you’re not familiar with a Boston cream pie, it’s made by sandwiching pastry cream between two layers of yellow butter cake and covering the top in a chocolate glaze. It’s decadent and delicious.

But why is it called a pie when it’s really a cake? And who invented this fantastic dessert? We decided to find out.

French chef M. Sanzian created the “Parker House Chocolate Cream Pie” to celebrate the opening of Boston’s Parker House Hotel in 1856 (now called Omni Parker House).

Sanzian filled a butter sponge cake with rum-infused pastry cream, coated the sides with toasted sliced almonds and spread chocolate fondant on top. Then he decorated the cake with a white chocolate spider web. At this time, chocolate was mostly eaten in a beverage or as a pudding so coating a pie in it was considered cutting-edge. It was an immediate success.

There have been a few adjustments over the years, but the core of the pie remains the same today. One of the first uses of calling the cake a Boston cream pie (rather than chocolate cream pie) appeared was in 1878 in the Granite Iron Ware Cook Book.

Back then, pie and cake tins were interchangeable and people called pie a cake and cake a pie. This loose way to refer to the dessert may be why the Boston cream pie was called a pie rather than a cake.

The Boston cream pie has been widely popular over the past 150+ years. The recipe has been adapted to be made into cupcakes, ice cream, and donuts. In fact, back in 1958, Betty Crocker created a boxed mix allowing people to bake the cake at home.

If you want to make this beloved New England dessert at home, Megan Conner (Jumping Branch, WV) shared her recipe for Boston Cream Cupcakes. It’s what you love about the pie but in cupcake form. Everything is from scratch so there is a tiny bit of TLC in the preparation, but honestly, you’ll find the effort is well worth it. Or, you can have the Parker House Hotel will ship their cream pie directly to you.