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Pastry cream, also known as crème pâtissière, can be used in a number of ways. It’s similar to a custard and cooked over the stove. This recipe is velvety smooth with just the right amount of sweetness. You can use it in a Boston Cream Pie or layered in a napoleon or a trifle. However you use it, this recipe is pure magic.
Why This Pastry Cream Recipe Works
Pastry cream is one of those things that people have a hard time getting right, but it’s really not hard to make and is so good. There are just a few details that need attention so that you don’t end up with pastry cream that’s too thin. This recipe will guide you through those details, including the following:
- How to work with the right temperature.
- How to properly temper the eggs.
- How to cook the pastry cream just long enough so that it thickens but not so long that the cornstarch starts to break down.
It’s all a fine balance but so long as you pay attention to the fine print, you’ll be making pastry cream like a pro.
What You’ll Need
You won’t need much to make this velvety smooth dessert addition. Here’s a list of ingredients for you. Be sure to scroll to the recipe card below for more detailed instructions.
- Egg yolks – Make sure to use large size eggs, not medium or extra large. They contribute flavor to the pastry cream and add structure. You won’t want to use whole eggs or it’ll thin out your cream and it’ll lack flavor.
- Sugar – Helps add body and sweetness to the pastry cream.
- Cornstarch – To thicken the cream. I prefer this over flour. You don’t need as much of it, so it helps thicken the cream without adding too much texture or flour-y taste.
- Whole milk – You want to be sure to use whole milk. Other types of milk don’t have the same high fat content and will make your pastry cream too thin.
- Unsalted butter – For some flavor.
- Vanilla extract – Also for flavor.
How to Make Pastry Cream
Here’s a quick overview of how to make this velvety smooth pastry cream filling. Don’t forget to scroll to the recipe card below for more thorough instructions.
- Beat the egg yolks. Gently beat the egg yolks together in a bowl. Set aside.
- Combine. In a saucepan, whisk together the sugar and cornstarch until lump-free and then whisk in the milk.
- Cook. Cook the milk mixture over medium heat, stirring continuously, until barely simmering. Remove the pan from the heat.
- Temper the egg yolks. Add a bit of the milk mixture to the egg yolks and quickly whisk together, then whisk the egg mixture back into the milk mixture.
- Cook some more. Return the pan to the heat and bring its contents to a light boil. Boil for 1 minute, stirring continuously.
- Finish it off. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the butter and vanilla extract.
- Strain (optional). If the pastry cream seems lumpy, you can strain it to remove any lumps.
- Chill. Pour the contents of the pan into a bowl, lightly press a layer of clear wrap over the top, and chill for 1-2 hours.
- Stir. Give the pastry cream a stir before using it to smooth it out.
Tips for Success
If you want to achieve perfect results every time, take a moment to carefully study the following tips and tricks. You won’t regret it.
- Keep it moving. From the moment you start heating the milk mixture to the moment the pastry cream is finished, you want to be whisking it continuously. This will ensure that it cooks evenly, doesn’t overcook and reduces the chance of lumps and burned spots.
- Temper the eggs. Adding a bit of the warm milk to the egg yolks before whisking them into the bulk of the warm milk mixture brings them subtly up to meet the temperature of the rest of the milk mixture, which helps ensure that the eggs don’t scramble.
- Don’t overcook. Cook just until the cream has thickened to the desired consistency, no more than a minute after it starts to boil. Cooking it for too long will cause it to break down rather than get thicker. Similarly, resist the temptation to crank the heat up to move things along more quickly. Slow and steady wins the race, here.
- No film, please. Before chilling the pastry cream in the fridge, cover it with a layer of clear wrap lightly pressed onto it. This will help ensure that an unpleasant film doesn’t develop on the top of the mixture.
- Chill. When it comes off of the stove, it will be a bit thinner than you might be hoping for. It will thicken to the proper consistency in the fridge.
- Give it a stir. After chilling, it will be quite thick. Before using this decadent pastry cream in your favorite dessert, give it a stir to smooth it out.
Once the pastry cream has chilled, transfer it to an airtight container, lay plastic wrap over the top to prevent a film from developing, and seal the container. You can store it in the fridge for up to 3 days.
I don’t recommend freezing it.
More Filling & Frosting Recipes
Looking for more incredible dessert additions? Here are some other favorite fillings and frostings from my kitchen to yours. Happy whisking!
- Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting
- Easy Lemon Curd
- The Best Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe
- Raspberry Cake Filling
- Chocolate Buttercream Frosting Recipe
- Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
Watch How to Make Pastry CreamPrint
Striving for velvety smooth, just-the-right-amount-of-sweet pastry cream? This easy, foolproof recipe will get you there every time.
- 4 large egg yolks
- 3/4 cup (155g) sugar
- 4 tbsp (32g) cornstarch
- 2 cups (480ml) whole milk
- 2 tbsp (28g) unsalted butter
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- Put the egg yolks in a medium sized bowl and gently beat them together. Set aside.
- Add the sugar and cornstarch to a large saucepan and whisk together until no more lumps of cornstarch remain, then add the milk.
- Cook, stirring continuously, over medium heat until mixture just begins to thicken and simmer. Be careful not to boil it.
- Stream a little bit of the milk mixture to the egg yolks, while whisking together continuously so that the eggs don’t scramble. Add the egg mixture to milk mixture, putting it all back in the pan. This process ensures that you don’t cook the egg yolks too quickly and get scrambled eggs.
- Place the pan back on the heat and bring to a light boil. You should see large bubbles slowly popping on top. Allow to boil for 1 minute, stirring continuously. Don’t boil for too long, or you can overcook it and it’ll actually break down, rather than get thicker.
- Remove from heat and add the butter and vanilla extract. Stir until smooth, then pour into a bowl. If it seems lumpy, you can strain it to remove any lumps. Cover with clear wrap pressed against the top so that it doesn’t get a film on top and set in the fridge to cool completely, 1-2 hours.
- When ready to use, whisk or stir the pastry cream until smooth.
- Serving Size: 1/4 cup
- Calories: 110
- Sugar: 14.7 g
- Sodium: 20.6 mg
- Fat: 3.5 g
- Carbohydrates: 17.3 g
- Protein: 2.3 g
- Cholesterol: 67.4 mg