Budget Baking: Boston Cream Pie with Vanilla Bean pastry cream & Dark Chocolate Ganache


I love to bake. I don’t need a reason or an occasion, I just need a good recipe and a free evening. We have a lot of desserts at our house.

You can pay a lot for a really good dessert – we have a favorite bakery where the cupcakes alone are $3.00 a piece – but you don’t have to!

This is one of my fiance’s favorite desserts – Boston Cream Pie. It seemed appropriate to make this week since he just got back from a business trip in Boston. Let me show you how to spend very little – and not spend hours in the kitchen – and come out with a VERY gourmet tasting cake!

Turning boxed cake mix into gourmet cake

I don’t know how some people follow the recipe on a boxed cake mix. Sure, it’s simple, but you can make it SO MUCH BETTER with just a few tweaks.

1. Instead of water, ALWAYS use milk. I think you get the best results when you don’t use fat-free milk, so keep that in mind.

2. Don’t use oil – EVER. Use melted butter. You’ll want to double the amount called for on the box. So, if they tell you to use half a cup of oil, use one cup of butter (or two sticks). And it needs to be melted, not just softened.

3. Eggs, eggs, eggs. Even if they don’t call for it in the recipe, add two eggs. They will help make the cake extra fluffy. If the recipe DOES call for eggs,  make sure you use at least two. if the recipe calls for three eggs, use four. And so on.

I promise you, this will make a HUGE difference, and you will wind up with the moistest, richest, butteriest cake you ahve ever had – and it’s STILL from a box!

Now, on to the recipe!

Boston Cream Pie with Vanilla Bean pastry cream & Dark Chocolate Ganache


1 box yellow cake mix

4 eggs

1 cup of milk

2 sticks of butter, melted

Melt the butter in a mixing bowl and add the eggs. Mix until smooth (about a minute) and then add the milk. Add the cake mix little by little, mixing while you do. Mix until all lumps are gone, and you have a uniform batter.

Grease two round cake pans with butter and sprinkle flour in the pans. You want the cake to pop out of the pans easily.

Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and give them each a little shake. Shaking them will bring air bubbles to the top and ensure that your cake bakes flat and evenly.

Bake for 30-35 minutes at 350.

When finished, remove the cake from the pans and allow them to cool.

Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream

You need:

1 and 1/2 cups of 2% or whole milk

1/2 cup of WHIPPING cream

1 whole vanilla bean (You can use vanilla extract, but the vanilla bean adds SO MUCH MORE depth and flavor)

6 egg yolks

2/3 cup sugar

1/4 cup cornstarch

1 tablespoon butter

1 packet French Vanilla dry pudding mix (I suppose this is optional, but it really gives it an extra vanilla punch and adds a really nice, thick texture)

1. Add the milk to a medium non-stick saucepan. Cut open the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds out. Add the seeds and the beans to the milk and bring to a slow boil, stirring constantly. Once it reaches a boil, take it off the heat and set it aside for half an hour. This will really help the flavors develop

2. Add the egg yolks and sugar in a separate bowl and whisk together until smooth.

3. Add the cornstarch to the egg mixture and whip thoroughly, making sure there are NO lumps.

4. Take the hot vanilla milk mixture and remove the vanilla bean. Then, add 1/4 cup at a time of the milk to the egg mixture. Make sure you incorporate all the milk before you add more. Whip for 2-3 minutes when all the milk is added to make sure it is smooth. Add the dry pudding mix and mix well.

5. Add the mixture back to the saucepan and put it on medium heat, STIRRING CONSTANTLY. You want to keep stirring until it JUST begins to boil. Immediately take it off the heat when you see it boil, otherwise you can burn the milk. Once it is off the heat, stir in the butter until fully incorporated.

6. Add the whipping cream and (if you have one) use an electric mixer to beat the mixture on medium to high for 2-3 minutes.

7. Place the pastry cream in a bowl and refrigerate at LEAST 4 hours. You want to get it to thicken. Or, even better, let it sit for a full 24 hours. If you can’t wait that long, 4 is enough 😉

Once your cake is cool and the pastry cream has set, layer the cakes and pastry cream. Be careful with putting the top layer on – do it gently do you don’t squish the filling out the sides.

Dark Chocolate Ganache

A little of this stuff goes a VERY long way, so I make a smaller version.

1/4 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup dark chocolate

1. Heat the cream to a near boil and pour it over the chocolate. Stir until smooth.

Pour slowly over the middle of the cake and use the back of a spoon to smooth out the ganache. I like just enough to get to the edges and run down the sides a little. By all means, use more or less if you like.

(Fun fact: this ganache can be saved and refrigerated and makes an AWESOME sundae topping or dipping sauce)

Put the cake in the fridge for 15 minutes and you’re good to go!

Budget Baking Breakdown

All together, this cake costs about ten dollars to make, and you get 8-10 servings out of it. That’s a dollar OR LESS per person, per slice. You can’t even get a decent cupcake for a dollar!

What desserts would you like to see a budget recipe for?

5 thoughts on “Budget Baking: Boston Cream Pie with Vanilla Bean pastry cream & Dark Chocolate Ganache

    • One tablespoon to one and a half. I like a stronger vanilla taste. Add a tablespoon and taste it. If you want stronger, add half a tablespoon until you get it where you like.
      If you have it, Madagascar vanilla extract is the absolute best!

  1. Thank You! This is one of my faves & I used to buy it at a bakery in a suburb of Atlanta. Since we’ve moved, I haven’t had a descent version. I love to cook, but baking is something I never seem to have enough time to do except on special occasions and holidays. I think I may make this soon. I always enjoyed it more when I was PMSing for some reason, well, this and Nutella. I haven’t made time to check out your blog lately & I’ve missed a lot of cool stuff. Dang facebook. It’s of the “debil”.

  2. Pingback: Valentine’s on a Dime Part II: Valentine’s Dinner | The Happy Idiot

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