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Profile: The Boston Cream Pie

Picture of Harry Gustafson
Updated: 27 February 2018
In a region more famous for its seafood rather than sweets, it is impressive that the Boston Cream Pie has become a quintessential Boston food. Though it got its start in the Massachusetts city, in the nearly two decades since it was first made, it has become a dessert favorite across the world. Now, it ranks up there with clam chowder as one of the city’s top signature dishes.

History of the Boston Cream Pie

The Boston Cream Pie’s history dates back to 1856. The Omni Parker House Hotel, the longest still-operating hotel in the United States, opened the year before. This historic site claims that a French-Armenian chef named Sanzian cooked the first Boston Cream Pie in their kitchen. Later on, in 1872, the Methodist Almanac gave the dessert its name, a combination of its place of origin as well as its ingredients.

omni parker house
Omni Parker House Hotel | © Kimberly Vardaman / Flickr

What is it?

Boston Cream Pie is a yellow butter cake filled with a sweet cream or custard. On top of the layers of cake and cream is a thick chocolate glaze that adds a rich flavor to the sweetness of the rest of the dish. Though it is technically a cake, it was called a pie because chefs cooked cakes and pies in the same kind of pan in the 19th century.


The cream pie’s local origins didn’t stop the dish from rising to international status, but Boston residents take special pride in its popularity. In 1996, Massachusetts made the Boston Cream Pie the official state dessert. The pie had some stiff competition for this title, considering the Toll House-style chocolate chip cookie traces its roots back to Whitman, MA.

boston cream cupcake
Boston Creme Cupcake | © Ubi Desperare Nescio / Flickr

In the years since, Ben & Jerry’s, another famous New England dessert-maker, converted the pie into an ice cream flavor, filled with yellow cake chunks, fudge, and creamy pastry swirls. Pepperidge Farm also makes a cookie version of the pie. The Boston cream donut is a popular flavor at pastry shops around the U.S., especially at Dunkin’ Donuts, which has its roots in Massachusetts. Recently, in anticipation of Super Bowl LII, the city of Philadelphia banned the dessert to show support for the hometown Eagles as they beat the New England Patriots. The ban was only temporary, however; it would be hard to resist this classic American dessert for very long!