You’ll love this small batch vegan Boston cream pie, with its soft and fluffy vegan sponges, rich vegan vanilla pastry cream and luxurious vegan chocolate ganache. The recipe is incredibly simple – no special equipment and no egg replacements required. And best of all: you couldn’t possibly guess that it’s vegan!!
Let me start by reassuring you that you are not seeing double. Yes, this is in fact the second (small batch) Boston cream pie recipe in the space of about one month, but whereas the last one was gluten free, this one is vegan.
When I published my Small Batch Gluten Free Boston Cream Pie recipe I most certainly didn’t expect the incredibly enthusiastic response it got – nor did I anticipate the huge number of requests for a similar vegan recipe. But I’m not one to back down from a challenge… so, here we are.
I have to say that I’m super excited to share this recipe with you. It’s honestly AMAZING: incredibly delicious and you genuinely can’t guess that it’s vegan (as confirmed by several non-vegan taste testers).
Here’s why you’ll LOVE this vegan Boston cream pie
- The vegan vanilla sponges are soft, fluffy, moist and delicate. It’s all down to using just the right ingredients and, crucially, using them in the right ratios and proportions. The sponges are also very easy to prepare – no egg replacements and no special equipment needed.
- The vegan vanilla pastry cream (custard) filling is velvety-smooth, rich and packed with vanilla flavour. And it’s surprisingly easy to make! It’s essentially a cornstarch-thickened custard with a generous amount of vanilla bean paste added to it (no egg replacements here either). For extra richness, I use a mix of dairy-free milk and dairy-free double/heavy cream alternative.
- The layer of glossy, luxurious vegan chocolate ganache. If you’ve been round these parts before, then you know that I firmly believe that chocolate makes anything and everything better – and in this case, the ganache topping really ties this vegan Boston cream pie together and takes it to a whole new level of deliciousness.
- It’s super easy to make! I know I say this for most of my recipes, but it’s 100% true: this recipe genuinely couldn’t be easier to prepare: no special equipment needed (no stand or hand mixers), no unusual ingredients and no egg replacements.
- I know I’ve said this a bazillion times by now, but it really bears repeating: no egg replacements!! That’s right, you don’t need to use any chia or flax eggs (or anything similar) in this recipe. Honestly, they’re just not necessary – you’ll get perfectly delicious results easily without any egg replacements whatsoever.
- It’s gorgeous and soooo delicious. I’m sure I don’t have to explain to you the deliciousness that is Boston cream pie. The combination of soft vanilla sponges, rich vanilla pastry cream and chocolate ganache is pure magic – and this vegan version of the classic is just as delicious as the “original”, non-vegan version.
Before we get to the bits and bobs of making this wonderful cake – if you like what you’re seeing, subscribe to my newsletter to keep up to date on the latest recipes and tips!
Note: the whole recipe, including the ingredient quantities, can be found at the bottom of this page – just scroll down to the bottom, or click the ‘Jump to Recipe’ button at the top of this post.
How do you make vegan vanilla cake sponges?
Making these (small batch, 6 inch) vegan vanilla cake sponges couldn’t be easier. You basically just need to mix the dry ingredients with the wet until only just combined, pop the batter into the prepared cake tins and bake. Yes, it’s that easy.
The crucial thing to keep in mind is that you mustn’t over-mix the batter. Over-mixing will cause gluten development (as we’re using regular all-purpose wheat flour in this recipe, though I am planning on developing a gluten-free version as well) and can result in a gummy sponge filled with large, irregular holes.
Therefore, when it comes to mixing the dry ingredients with the wet, I recommend that you use a rubber spatula and gently fold the ingredients together. Stop mixing the moment the ingredients are only just combined, and don’t use a whisk (as it’s easier to over-mix when whisking than it is when folding).
Here’s how you make the perfect vegan vanilla cake sponges:
- Sift together the dry ingredients (and sugar) into a large bowl: all-purpose flour, caster/superfine sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Make a well in the middle,
- and pour in the sunflower oil (or other neutral-tasting oil of choice),
- and a mixture of dairy-free milk (I used almond milk, but rice, oat or soy milk will also work), dairy-free yoghurt, vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract), almond extract and apple cider vinegar.
- Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the ingredients together until only just combined and there are no flour clumps. Be careful not to over-mix the batter!!!
- Divide the batter evenly between two prepared 6 inch (15cm) round cake tins and tap them a few times on the counter to get rid of any air bubbles trapped in the batter.
- And then, bake!
- The sponges are done when they’re golden brown on top, they start coming away from the sides of the tins,
- and an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tins for about 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
A few notes on the vegan sponge ingredients and their amounts
- Raising agents: I use both baking powder and baking soda in this recipe, and you might notice that the combined amount of raising agents is slightly higher than in a non-vegan recipe. That’s because eggs tend to provide lift and aeration in non-vegan cakes, and in their absence you need a slightly larger quantity of raising agents to achieve the same fluffy sponge texture.
- Apple cider vinegar: Much like the slightly larger amount of raising agents, the apple cider vinegar is here to make the sponges fluffier and softer. As vinegar is acidic, it reacts with the baking soda and the basic component of baking powder, giving the raising agents an extra boost. But don’t worry, you won’t be able to taste it in the final cake.
- Oil: Note the relatively small amount of fat, especially if you compare this recipe to a non-vegan, butter-based cake. That’s because in non-vegan cakes, eggs provide structure to the sponges. Oils and other fats, on the other hand, have a tenderising effect (effectively partially destroying or softening that structure). So, in the absence of eggs, you need to use a smaller amount of oil, otherwise you’ll end up with a dense, stodgy sponge.
- Almond extract: In the absence of eggs and dairy products, these vegan vanilla sponges don’t contain many flavour-imparting ingredients, except for the vanilla bean paste or extract. I’ve found that adding just a small amount of almond extract gives the sponges an almost buttery undertone, without overwhelming the whole flavour profile of the cake.
The baking setup and procedure
I’ve found that going with the standard baking method (baking at 350ºF/180ºC on the middle oven rack, uncovered for the full 30 minutes of baking) can result in a somewhat hard top crust on the sponges that makes it difficult to easily trim them.
That’s why I’ve developed a slightly adapted baking procedure:
- Bake the sponges at 350ºF/180ºC on the lower middle oven rack.
- Cover the sponges with a sheet of aluminium foil (shiny side up) after 20 minutes – that is, the sponges should be covered for the last 10 minutes in the oven.
These relatively small changes give perfect results every single time – the sponges will come out of the oven with a soft, golden brown top and an even bake, with minimal doming.
How do you make vegan pastry cream?
Just like with the vegan vanilla sponges, making this vegan vanilla pastry cream is incredibly simple. Here’s how:
- In a saucepan, combine dairy-free milk, dairy-free double/heavy cream alternative and vanilla bean paste. (I used almond milk, but rice, soy or oat milk will work as well. For the cream alternative, I used the Elmlea brand, but most good quality vegan double or heavy cream alternatives should work.)
- Add the sugar
- and cornstarch (called cornflour in the UK),
- and whisk well until combined and no cornstarch clumps remain.
- Cook over medium-high heat with constant stirring (or whisking) until thickened, about 3-4 minutes.
- Remove from heat and stir in the vegan butter.
- Add in a bit more of the dairy-free double/heavy cream alternative – this will help with the emulsification (more on that below).
- Chill in the fridge for about 15 minutes with occasional stirring, and voila: you’ve made the perfect vegan vanilla pastry cream!
A few notes on the vegan pastry cream ingredients
- Use a mix of dairy-free milk and dairy-free double/heavy cream alternative. The latter gives a much richer flavour and a creamier texture, resulting in an incredibly delicious vegan pastry cream.
- Cornstarch acts as the only thickening agent (taking on the role of egg yolks in non-vegan pastry cream). It works perfectly and the amount listed in the recipe will give a pastry cream with an ideal consistency – it pipes and spreads like a dream, without oozing out of the assembled cake. (Note that cornstarch is known as cornflour in the UK.)
- Dairy-free butter alternative is a great replacement for “regular” dairy butter, but it doesn’t emulsify quite as easily as dairy butter – more on that below!
On the texture and emulsification of the vegan pastry cream
After you’ve stirred the vegan butter and the extra splash of dairy-free cream into the cooked and thickened pastry cream, likelihood is that you’ll get a rather unappetising, greasy looking mess. The oil (from the vegan butter) is likely to separate out and it will all look like a disaster.
If that happens: don’t panic. It’s completely normal and your finished vegan pastry cream most certainly won’t look like that.
There are two things that will help you get a nice and silky-smooth vegan pastry cream:
- The extra splash of dairy-free cream will somewhat help with the emulsification (that is, with making sure that the vegan butter gets incorporated with the other ingredients).
- More importantly, as the pastry cream chills in the fridge, the vegan butter will re-solidify and give a perfectly smooth, luscious pastry cream.
So, just be sure to add the extra dairy-free cream and to thoroughly chill your pastry cream (with occasional stirring), and you’ll get the most perfect, can’t-believe-this-is-vegan results.
Assembling the vegan Boston cream pie
So, now that you have all the components ready to go, you can start assembling the vegan Boston cream pie!
First up, place one of the (baked, cooled and levelled) sponges on a cake stand or platter of choice, and then spread the (chilled and perfectly smooth) pastry cream on top in an even layer. Make sure that you spread the pastry cream to the edges of the sponge, but not over the edge, as the weight of the second sponge on top will cause it to spread out slightly anyway.
For a neater finish, you can actually pipe the pastry cream on top of the sponge in concentric circles, using a large round nozzle, before smoothing out the top with a small offset spatula.
Then, place the other sponge on top of the pastry cream, so that its bottom faces upwards – this will give your cake a nice flat top.
Pour or spoon the vegan chocolate ganache onto the top sponge, and use a small offset spatula to smooth it out into an even layer and to guide it to gently drip down the sides. You can create a few swirls on top for a bit of extra decoration.
Allow the ganache to set at room temperature for about 30 minutes (or in the fridge for about 15 minutes) before slicing and serving.
A quick note about the consistency of the vegan chocolate ganache
Unlike with drip cakes, you don’t want your ganache to be very runny for a Boston cream pie. Here, the drips shouldn’t be thin or reaching far down the sides of the cake (like, for instance, with my Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake or Triple Chocolate Cake).
Instead, the ganache should be thicker, so that the drips down the side of the Boston cream pie are shorter and wider.
For this, you want the ganache to still be runny, yet also thick enough so that it falls off a spatula almost like a “waterfall” rather than a thin drizzle. Also, when the ganache falls off the spatula back into the bowl, it shouldn’t immediately level out and disappear into one chocolate ganache pool – instead, it should pile upon itself.
To get the right vegan ganache consistency, you need to cool it with occasional stirring either at room temperature for about 30-40 minutes or in the fridge for about 15 minutes. If you happen to “overshoot” and it thickens too much, just re-heat it very briefly in the microwave to get the right consistency.
And there you have it – everything you might possibly need to know about making THE BEST vegan Boston cream pie. Although this is a small batch recipe that makes a two-layer 6 inch cake and serves 4-6 people, you can easily double it to make a two-layer 8 inch cake.
It’s really incredibly easy to make and the results as so, so very delicious.
I hope you’ll love it as much as I do.
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Small Batch Vegan Boston Cream Pie
For vegan vanilla sponges:
- 225 g (1 ¾ cups + 2 tbsp) plain all-purpose flour
- 200 g (1 cup) caster/superfine sugar
- 1 ½ tsp baking powder
- ¾ tsp baking soda
- ¼ tsp salt
- 80 g (⅓ cup + ½ tbsp) sunflower oil, plus extra for greasing the tins (or other neutral-tasting oil of choice)
- 120 g (½ cup) dairy-free milk, room temperature (I used almond milk, but rice, soy or oat milk will also work well.)
- 90 g (⅓ cup + 1 tbsp) unsweetened plain dairy-free yoghurt, room temperature (I tested the recipe with Tesco's own brand and Alpro plain yoghurt, but other good quality dairy-free yoghurt alternatives will also work well.)
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- ½ tsp vanilla bean paste (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
- ¼-½ tsp almond extract (optional, the amount depends on how intense you want the almond flavour to be)
For vegan vanilla pastry cream:
- 120 g (½ cup) dairy-free milk (I used almond milk, but rice, soy or oat milk will also work well.)
- 140 g (⅔ cup + ½ tbsp) dairy-free double/heavy cream alternative, divided (I used the Elmlea brand, but most good quality dairy-free double/heavy cream alternatives should work well.)
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste (or 2 tsp vanilla extract)
- 75 g (⅓ cup + ½ tbsp) caster/superfine or granulated sugar
- 35 g (5 tbsp) cornstarch (US)/cornflour (UK)
- 20 g (1 ½ tbsp) vegan butter
For vegan chocolate ganache:
- 80 g (2.8 oz) chopped dark chocolate chocolate, 60-70% cocoa solids (Make sure to use a vegan chocolate.)
- 80 g (⅓ cup + 1 tbsp) dairy-free double/heavy cream alternative (I used the Elmlea brand, but most good quality dairy-free double/heavy cream alternatives should work well.)
For vegan vanilla sponges:
- Adjust the oven rack to the lower middle position and pre-heat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Lightly grease two 6 inch (15cm) round cake tins with oil and line their bottoms with rounds of baking/greaseproof paper.
- In a large bowl, sift together the plain all-purpose flour, caster/superfine sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients.
- Add the oil. Mix together the dairy-free milk, dairy-free yoghurt, apple cider vinegar, vanilla and almond extract, and add them to the dry ingredients.Tip: The apple cider vinegar helps to make the sponges fluffier and softer. As vinegar is acidic, it reacts with the baking soda and the basic component of baking powder, giving the raising agents an extra boost. Don’t worry, you won’t be able to taste it in the final cake.
- Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the ingredients together until only just combined and you get a smooth cake batter with no flour clumps.Tip: The crucial thing when making these vegan sponges is that you mustn’t over-mix the batter. Over-mixing will cause gluten development and can result in a gummy sponge filled with large, irregular holes. That's why I don't recommend whisking the batter, but rather folding the ingredients together. Stop mixing the moment the ingredients are only just combined.
- Evenly divide the cake batter between the two lined cake tins and tap them a few times on the counter to get rid of any air bubbles trapped in the batter.
- Bake at 350ºF (180ºC) for about 30 minutes. After 20 minutes, cover the sponges with a sheet of aluminium foil (shiny side up) and continue baking until done. The final sponges will be well risen, golden brown on top and an inserted toothpick should come out clean.Tip: Covering the sponges with aluminium foil prevents them from forming a somewhat hard top crust that makes it difficult to trim them.
- Allow to cool in the cake tins for about 10 minutes before turning them out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
For vegan vanilla pastry cream:
- In a saucepan, combine the dairy-free milk, 120g (about ½ cup + 1 tbsp) of the dairy-free double/heavy cream alternative, vanilla bean paste, sugar and cornstarch. Whisk well until combined and no cornstarch clumps remain.
- Cook over medium-high heat with constant stirring (or whisking) until thickened, about 3-4 minutes.
- Remove from heat and stir in the vegan butter until the butter has fully melted.
- Add in the remainder of the dairy-free double/heavy cream alternative – this will help with the emulsification.Tip: At this point, likelihood is that your pastry cream will look rather unappetising and greasy, as the oil (from the vegan butter) will have separated out. Don't worry – the next chilling step will fix this, and transform the pastry cream into creamy, velvety-smooth deliciousness.
- Chill in the fridge for about 15 minutes with occasional stirring, until you get a silky-smooth, homogeneous pastry cream. Store in the fridge until needed.
Assembling the cake:
- If necessary, level off the sponges with a sharp serrated knife.
- Place the bottom sponge on a cake stand or serving plate of choice.
- Give the cooled pastry cream a good whisk to smooth it out, then transfer it into a piping bag fitted with a large round nozzle. Pipe the pastry cream (in concentric circles) on top of the sponge, then use a small offset spatula to smooth it out into an even layer that fully covers the sponge. Tip: You could omit the piping and just dollop the pastry cream on top of the sponge and smooth it out, but I’ve found that piping gives a much prettier finish. Make sure that you pipe and spread the pastry cream to the edges of the sponge, but not over the edge, as the weight of the second sponge on top will cause it to spread out slightly anyway.
- Place the other sponge on top, with the bottom of the sponge facing upwards (this will give you a nice flat top). Gently press down on it to ensure that it sticks to the pastry cream layer.
For vegan chocolate ganache:
- Place the chopped dark chocolate into a heat-proof bowl.
- In a saucepan over medium-high heat, cook the dairy-free double/heavy cream alternative until it only just starts boiling.
- Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and allow to sit for 2-3 minutes, then stir together until smooth and glossy.
- Allow it to cool and thicken slightly at room temperature (for about 30 minutes) or in the fridge (for about 15 minutes) with occasional stirring.Tip: Unlike with drip cakes, you don’t want your ganache to be very runny for a Boston cream pie. Instead, the ganache should be thicker, so that the drips down the sides of the Boston cream pie are shorter and wider. For this, you want the ganache to still be runny, yet also thick enough so that it falls off a spatula almost like a “waterfall” rather than a thin drizzle. Also, when the ganache falls off the spatula back into the bowl, it shouldn’t immediately level out and disappear into one chocolate ganache pool – instead, it should pile upon itself.
- Pour or spoon the ganache onto the top sponge, and use a small offset spatula to smooth it out into an even layer and to guide it to gently drip down the sides. You can create a few swirls on top for a bit of extra decoration.
- Allow the ganache to set at room temperature for about 30 minutes (or in the fridge for about 15 minutes) before slicing and serving.
- The vegan Boston cream pie keeps well in a closed container in the fridge for 3-4 days.