Perhaps no dessert is so closely associated with a city than the beloved Boston cream pie. But its association with the Hub and the surrounding region goes deeper than just a name. And all this despite the fact that it has the most misleading name in the history of baked goods.
The origin of Boston cream pie officially goes back to 1856, when a French chef known as Monsieur Sanzian was credited with inventing it in the kitchen of the historic Parker House Hotel (the oldest continuously operated hotel in the U.S., now known as the Omni Parker House Hotel) in downtown Boston. Designed as two golden cakes layered with pastry cream, glazed with chocolate and dressed with slivered almonds, it was originally referred to as “Chocolate Cream Pie.” When the “pie” was invented, chocolate was mainly consumed in America as a beverage or pudding, so the use of a chocolate coating was very innovative. This story, though, has its doubters, and there are even those brazen enough to claim that Beantown’s quintessential confection was invented in New York. Apparently they’re not satisfied with just the cheesecake.
As far as the “pie” part of the name, the exact reason for the misnomer is lost to history, though the likely culprit is that the dessert was allegedly based on Colonial-era pudding-cake pies, as well as the fact that, in 19th century New England, pie tins were more common than cake pans. Regardless of the naming snafu, the dessert became so popular that over the years baking giants like Betty Crocker and Duncan Hines got into the act with boxed mix versions. For enterprising home bakers out there, the “original” recipe is available on the Omni Parker House website (omnihotels.com/blog/boston-cream-pie-recipe-original).
The legendary cake has such a strong following in Massachusetts that in 1996 it was named the Commonwealth’s official dessert, beating out such classic Bay State treats as the Toll House cookie, the Fig Newton and Indian pudding. Canton, Mass.-based super-chain Dunkin’ Donuts has further popularized the chocolatey sweet with its custard-filled “Boston Kreme” donut, which was declared the official donut of Massachusetts in 2003. And what self-respecting dessert doesn’t have its own national holiday? Boston cream pie does, on October 23.