Despite the name this tasty dessert is certainly not a pie. However, we’ll let that minor detail slide since this is a true American classic. This rich yellow cake is like a bigger version of shortcakes, but instead of strawberries this luscious layer cake is filled with a vanilla pudding and finished with a cherry topping. We’ve got a couple of shortcuts with this recipe that make it a really easy one to whip up anytime.
A newspaper article from 1908 humorously outlines the problem with the name “Washington cream pie” as it’s a cake not a pie and people in different areas make it to different specifications. By some measures the Boston cream pie and Washington cream pie are the same save for some jam, with the latter version said to have been a breakfast favorite of George Washington.
Our modern version is light, sweet, and full of flavor thanks to the filling and the topping. It’s a wonderful recipe for any time of year- but is especially welcome in summer.
To begin making this recipe you’ll need to cut out circles of wax paper to line 2 8″ cake pans. This is to make sure the cakes release properly after baking.
Once the cakes are baked and cooled you’ll be using the first of our quick tricks for the filling. Instead of making a custard from scratch we’re using an instant vanilla pudding mix instead. I like the “gourmet” style instant mixes that have real vanilla in them. The white chocolate pudding mixes also work well for this this recipe.
We’re using just a little bit less milk than is noted on the package directions so that the filling doesn’t run out as much when you cut into the cake.
Once the layers are assembled, simply give the cake a good dusting of powdered sugar. Serve each slice with a bit of canned cherry pie filling (our second shortcut) and some whipped cream. Or, you can use some jam, some homemade fruit sauce, or just plain fresh fruit. That’s what makes this a great dessert as you can change the recipe to use up seasonal fruits or what you have in the cupboard.
If you can look past the name this “pie” is a wonderful cake that has a simple yet satisfying flavor profile.
Washington Cream Pie
1h 45m prep time
20m cook time
For the cake:
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup butter, melted
- 4 eggs, beaten
- 1 1/4 cup self-rising flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 tablespoons milk
For the filling and topping:
- 1 3/4 cups whole milk
- 1 (3.9 oz) box vanilla or white chocolate instant pudding mix
- 1 (21 oz) can cherry pie filling
- powdered sugar for dusting
- whipped cream for topping
- Preheat oven to 375F˚. Grease 2 8” round cake pans and line with parchment paper. In a large bowl combine cake ingredients until smooth and uniform. Do not overmix.
- Pour batter into pans and bake for 20 minutes or until cake is springy when pressed with a spoon. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before tipping upside down and removing cakes from pan to a wire rack to finish cooling completely. Or refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
- Combine milk and pudding mix in a medium bowl. Allow to cool in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
- Arrange first cake on cake platter or stand. Spread vanilla custard over the top. Place second cake on top and dust with powdered sugar. Serve with cherry pie filling and a dollop of whipped cream on top of each slice.
Recipe adapted from Taste of Home.