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11/30/2021

~ Boston Cream Pie -- Why this Cake is called a Pie ~

6a0120a8551282970b01bb07f62f7c970dBoston Cream Pie, a feel-good dessert that won the hearts of Americans over a century ago.  The crazy thing is, it's a cake, not a pie -- not even close to a pie.  That said, this retro cake, sandwiched between a layer of pastry cream and topped with chocolate, is one of my favorite cake desserts.  Don't ask me why -- ok ask me why -- I find myself making Boston Cream Pie in the dead cold of Winter.  That's because my mom always made it for the Thanksgiving holiday, as a cake dessert to accompany her pies (and please the cake lovers).  She always chuckled when she offer dessert, saying, "you have a choice been pumpkin pie, apple pie, or, Boston cream pie."

A bit about the Boston cream pie:  Let's start with, it's the national dessert of Massachusetts' (over the Toll House Cookie and the Fig Newton). That's some very famous company.  Past that, it's not a pie, it's a cake:  two thin-ish layers of vanilla and/or rum-flavored, golden butter-cake with a vanilla- or rum-flavored egg-laced pastry cream sandwiched between the layers.  The op is glazed with a soft, elegant, almost drizzly chocolate.  It is attributed to be the culinary creation of French chef Sanzian of Boston's Parker House Hotel (now the Omni Parker House --  The Parker House was the first hotel in the city to boast hot-and-cold running water and an elevator ), although they have never explained why they named it "Boston Cream Pie", although during that period, chocolate was consumed in households in beverage or pudding form, and, pastry-creams were limited to use in "cream cakes" (aka cream puffs).  Their idea to incorporate the two into a cake called "Chocolate Cream Pie" (later renamed Boston Cream Pie) became quite the rage.

6a0120a8551282970b01bb07f49ab5970dSo why is this cake called a pie?  It's thin (like a pie), it's soft (like a pie), and, it gets cut into wedges (like a pie). There's a bit more to it than that.  It seems that in early American New England and Pennsylvania Dutch country, cooks were known for baking crossover-cakes (my word) meaning:  sometimes it was hard to tell them apart.  The Pennsylvania Dutch Shoo-Fly pie is a prime example.  That was because pie tins were more common than cake pans.  More often than not, these cooks baked pies and cakes in pie tins.  It is said that the precursor to Boston Cream Pie was the early American "Pudding-Cake Pie".  This "pie" became so popular, it was turned into a boxed mix by Betty Crocker and sold sold nationally in 1958.  At age three, this boxed mix was my introduction to Boston Cream Pie.

I won't lie, this convenient mix containing three packets, one each for mixing the cake, custard and chocolate glaze kept me very happy for a lot of years.  Like a good brownie mix, I always kept a box in my pantry for emergency purposes.  Then, without explanation, they stopped making it -- poof -- it disappeared.  I hate it when that happens.  Fast forward to the year 2000.  I was  hosting a birthday party for two of my neighbors and girlfriends, Carol and Maryann, who celebrate their birthdays on February 10th and 14th.  For their new millennium birthdays, I decided to serve a retro lunch:  my own recipes for Roasted Cream of Tomato Soup, Waldorf Chicken Salad, and, Boston Cream Pie.  For their birthday gifts:  I gave them each a fondue pot.

Try my recipe for Baby, it's Never to Cold for Boston Cream Pie:

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c752645b970b"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2021)

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