Food & Drink

Boston Cream Pie VS. Key Lime Pie


Created in the late 19th century in port cities, the evolution of both Boston Cream and Key Lime Pies were greatly influenced by the exchange of people, ideas, and goods. The initial version of these desserts are a far cry from the sweet treats that we enjoy today, but centuries of adapting and honing the baking of these delights are what make them so irresistibly delicious.

Boston Cream Pie | credit bhofack2 from Getty Images


Boston Cream Pie: The first Boston Cream Pie was served at the 1856 opening of the Parker House Hotel in downtown Boston. The hotel chef at the time, M. Sanizan, is responsible for the creation of this now famous dessert.

Key Lime Pie: Local lore asserts that Key Lime Pie came from the kitchen of William Curry in the 1890’s at the hands of a Key West cook named Aunt Sally. In 2006 Key Lime Pie became the official state pie of Florida.


Boston Cream Pie: Many know the donut version of Boston Cream Pie, which from Dunkin is as close as some can get to a Boston experience. However the true Boston Cream Pie is a cake with a name of mysterious origins. A vanilla sponge and vanilla cream cake with a chocolate glaze, the Parker House still serves it with a decorative spiderweb design on top and a crust of crushed almonds. At the time of its debut, the chocolate glaze was a particularly inventive use for chocolate which was generally served in pudding or beverage form. As for the name, some may attribute it to the crust-like appearance of the almond coating, however, the name “pie” most likely comes from the early 19th century when cakes and pies were baked in the same tins.

Key Lime Pie | credit nathan lemon on unsplash

Key Lime Pie: Despite the common belief that Key Lime Pie comes from the Florida Keys, it has recently come to light that the earliest recorded version of the recipe comes from the test kitchen of Borden Condensed Milk in New York City as a way to market their milk. The recipe was not the one we know today but called a Lemon Cream Pie. Therefore it can be argued that Key Lime Pie did not reach its true form until it was brought to Florida. Whatever your position on this hot button issue, I hope we can all agree on a good graham cracker crust.


Boston Cream Pie: The Boston Cream Pie is now, after the advent of refrigeration, classically served cold to ensure the integrity of the cream. Since its inception, the pastry cream filling has become more commonly replaced with a vanilla custard. The cake layers have also evolved from a more dense pound cake-like consistency to a lighter sponge, but the rum brushing remains the same.

Key Lime Pie: The original recipe was a lemon cream pie, but the beloved Florida version used the citrus native to the region, giving the dessert that unmistakable tart-sweet Key lime flavor. These days, Key limes in Florida are scarce. Most of the staple citrus is grown privately due to aggressive hurricanes and a vegetal disease called citrus canker.

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