Pastry Cream Recipe

Looking to add a touch of decadence to your desserts? Look no further than a homemade pastry cream recipe. This classic custard, also known as crème pâtissière, is a rich and creamy filling that will take your pastries and desserts to the next level. Whether you’re making éclairs, fruit tarts, or creamy cakes, pastry cream is the perfect indulgent addition.

Pastry Cream Recipe

This easy-to-follow recipe requires just a few simple ingredients like milk, eggs, sugar, and vanilla. By heating and whisking these ingredients together, you’ll achieve a luscious and smooth pastry cream. Its versatility allows you to experiment with different flavors and use it in various sweet treats, making it a must-have recipe in your baking repertoire.

Key Takeaways:

  • Pastry cream, also known as crème pâtissière, is a rich and creamy custard that is essential for many baked goods and desserts.
  • To make a delicious pastry cream, all you need are a few key ingredients: milk, eggs, sugar, and vanilla.
  • Proper technique is crucial when making pastry cream, including continuous whisking and careful heating to achieve the desired consistency.
  • Pastry cream can be flavored with vanilla, chocolate, or other variations to suit your taste preferences.
  • Use pastry cream as a filling or base for pastries, tarts, cakes, and more for a delightful indulgence.

The Importance of Technique in Making Pastry Cream

Making pastry cream requires proper technique and attention to detail to ensure a successful result. By mastering the art of pastry cream, you can create a smooth and luscious custard that adds a delightful richness to your desserts. To help you achieve pastry cream perfection, here are some essential tips, common mistakes to avoid, and techniques to elevate your pastry cream game.

1. Follow the Recipe Carefully

When making pastry cream, it’s crucial to follow the recipe instructions meticulously. Pay attention to ingredient quantities, temperatures, and timings. This will ensure that your pastry cream turns out just right with the perfect balance of flavors and textures.

2. Whisk Continuously

One of the common mistakes in making pastry cream is not whisking continuously. Whisking prevents lumps from forming and ensures a smooth consistency. Keep the whisk moving constantly, especially when combining the hot milk mixture with the egg yolks.

3. Tempering the Eggs

To temper the eggs, gradually add a small amount of the hot milk mixture to the beaten egg yolks while whisking vigorously. This technique brings the eggs to a similar temperature as the hot liquid, avoiding curdling when they are combined. It’s an essential step to achieve a smooth and creamy pastry cream.

4. Deactivating the Starch-Dissolving Enzyme

To prevent a runny pastry cream, it’s important to bring the mixture to a bubble and hold it at a near-boiling temperature for about a minute. This deactivates the amylase enzyme found in egg yolks, which can break down the starch and cause the cream to become thin and watery.

5. Straining for Smoothness

After cooking, strain the pastry cream through a fine-mesh sieve to remove any lumps or cooked bits. This final step ensures a silky smooth texture and enhances the overall presentation of your desserts.

“Technique is everything in making pastry cream. Attention to detail and precise execution will take your pastry cream to the next level.” – Pastry Chef Lisa Johnson

Common Mistakes to Avoid

  • Overheating the custard can result in curdling or a grainy texture.
  • Not whisking continuously can lead to lumpy pastry cream.
  • Using the wrong proportion of ingredients can affect the consistency and flavor of the cream.
  • Adding hot pastry cream directly to the dessert can cause a soupy result. Allow it to cool before incorporating it into pastries or layering it with other ingredients.


Mastering the technique of making pastry cream is the key to creating luxurious and delectable desserts. By following the recipe carefully, whisking continuously, tempering the eggs, deactivating the starch-dissolving enzyme, and straining for smoothness, you can achieve pastry cream perfection. Avoid common mistakes and elevate your pastry cream game to delight yourself and your guests with creamy and heavenly desserts.

The Key Ingredients in Pastry Cream

Pastry cream, also known as crème pâtissière, is a delightful custard that requires a few key ingredients to achieve its creamy and flavorful nature. Let’s explore the essential components that make up this delectable filling.


The foundation of pastry cream is whole milk, chosen for its rich flavor and smooth texture. The milk provides a creamy base that complements the other ingredients, resulting in a luscious and satisfying custard.


The inclusion of egg yolks is crucial in creating the desired richness and creaminess of pastry cream. The higher fat content in the yolks adds a velvety texture and enhances the overall flavor profile of the custard.


Cornstarch serves as the thickening agent in pastry cream, ensuring a smooth and luxurious consistency. By binding the ingredients together, cornstarch helps create a custard that holds its shape while remaining irresistibly creamy.


Sugar not only adds sweetness but also assists in preventing the eggs from coagulating and creates a smooth texture in the finished pastry cream. It balances the flavors and enhances the overall decadence of the custard.


To elevate the taste of pastry cream, vanilla extract or vanilla bean is often added. The subtle and aromatic notes of vanilla enhance the creaminess and provide a delightful flavor that pairs well with an array of desserts.

These key ingredients come together harmoniously to create a delicious and versatile pastry cream that can be used as a filling or base for various sweet treats. Let’s indulge in the irresistible allure of homemade pastry cream and discover its endless possibilities.

Adjustments for Different Pastry Cream Consistencies

When it comes to making pastry cream, achieving the perfect consistency is key. The texture of pastry cream can vary depending on your needs and preferences. Whether you’re aiming for a softer cream, a firmer consistency, or the thickest pastry cream imaginable, here are some adjustments you can make to achieve your desired result.

Softer Pastry Cream

If you prefer a softer and lighter pastry cream, you can adjust the amount of cornstarch used. Decreasing the amount of cornstarch to about 30g per recipe will give you a spreadable and delicate filling. This softer consistency is great for lighter pastries and desserts.

Firmer Pastry Cream

For a firmer pastry cream that holds its shape well and is suitable for cake fillings and tarts, you can increase the amount of cornstarch. Adding around 40g of cornstarch per recipe will give you a denser and more stable consistency that can withstand heavier toppings and decorations.

Thickest Pastry Cream

If you’re looking for the thickest, sturdiest pastry cream possible, you can take it a step further and use 50g or even up to 60g of cornstarch. This will result in an ultra-thick and stiff cream that can be piped or molded into intricate designs. Keep in mind that the texture will be substantially thicker and more robust than standard pastry cream.

Sweetening Pastry Cream

In addition to adjusting the consistency, you can also customize the sweetness of your pastry cream. The amount of sugar can be adjusted according to your personal preference. A common guideline is to use around 6 tablespoons of sugar for every 2 cups of milk. However, feel free to sweeten it to your liking, adding more or less sugar as desired.

To summarize, adjusting the pastry cream consistency is as simple as tweaking the amount of cornstarch used. Soften it for delicate fillings, firm it up for sturdier creations, or go all out for the thickest cream imaginable. Don’t forget to sweeten to taste, and you’ll have the perfect pastry cream for your delectable desserts.

Different Variations and Uses of Pastry Cream

When it comes to pastry cream, the possibilities are endless. This versatile ingredient can be flavored in various ways to create different taste profiles that cater to your cravings. Here are some popular variations of flavored pastry cream:

  • Chocolate: Indulge in the rich and decadent taste of chocolate pastry cream. Perfect for chocolate lovers!
  • Mint: Refreshing and cool, mint-flavored pastry cream adds a delightful twist to any dessert.
  • Lemon: Tangy and citrusy, lemon-infused pastry cream is a delightful addition to pies and tarts.
  • Peanut Butter: For all the peanut butter enthusiasts, this creamy and nutty variation will satisfy your cravings.
  • Sesame Oil: Add a hint of savory complexity with sesame oil, creating a unique pastry cream flavor.

These are just a few examples of the countless flavor variations you can explore. Now, let’s dive into the various uses of pastry cream!

Pastry cream is not just for filling cream puffs and éclairs. It can be utilized in a multitude of ways to enhance your desserts. Here are some creative uses of pastry cream:

  1. Spread it on puff pastry to create a delicious mille-feuille.
  2. Use it as a base for fruit tarts, adding a creamy and luscious layer to complement the fresh fruits.
  3. Incorporate it into cake fillings, elevating the taste and texture of your cakes.
  4. Fill donuts, adding a burst of flavor and creamy goodness to every bite.

Advanced Creams with Pastry Cream as a Base

“Pastry cream serves as a perfect base for other advanced creams, allowing for a whole new level of dessert creativity.”

Chef’s Note: Pastry cream can serve as the foundation for more complex and sophisticated creams. Here are a few examples:

Advanced Cream Description
Crème Légère A lightened version of pastry cream, incorporating whipped cream for a delicate and airy texture.
Crème Chiboust A combination of pastry cream and Italian meringue, creating a light and fluffy confection.
Crème Mousseline Pastry cream enriched with butter, resulting in a smoother and creamier consistency.

Experimenting with different variations and uses of pastry cream opens up a world of dessert possibilities. Let your imagination run wild and explore the countless ways to elevate your sweet creations with the creamy goodness of flavored pastry cream.

Tips for Making Dairy-Free Pastry Cream

For those who follow a dairy-free diet, enjoying the creamy goodness of pastry cream is still possible. By making simple substitutions, you can create a delicious dairy-free version that will satisfy your sweet cravings. Here are some tips to help you make dairy-free pastry cream:

  1. Use plant-based milk alternatives: Replace traditional milk with dairy-free options such as almond milk, coconut milk, cashew milk, or soy milk. These alternatives provide a similar creamy texture and can be easily found in most grocery stores.
  2. Substitute dairy butter: Instead of using regular butter, opt for a dairy-free or vegan butter. This will ensure that your pastry cream remains rich and flavorful without the use of dairy ingredients.

The process of making dairy-free pastry cream is similar to the traditional recipe. It involves heating the milk alternative and thickening it with cornstarch, sugar, and vanilla. By following the same steps, you can create a dairy-free version of the classic pastry cream that is equally delicious.

So, whether you have a lactose intolerance or simply prefer to avoid dairy products, you no longer have to miss out on the joy of enjoying a delectable pastry cream. With these tips and substitutes, you can create a dairy-free vanilla pastry cream that will be a hit with everyone, regardless of their dietary preferences.

By making the necessary substitutions and using dairy-free alternatives, you can create a dairy-free pastry cream that is just as creamy and flavorful as the traditional version. Don’t let dietary restrictions hold you back from indulging in the delightful world of pastry cream!

The Role of Cornstarch in Pastry Cream

Cornstarch plays a crucial role in thickening pastry cream and creating a smooth texture. Unlike flour, which can result in a heavier and floury taste, cornstarch produces a bright and clean flavor that enhances the taste of the dairy and other flavorings.

Cornstarch is also gluten-free, which is beneficial for those with gluten sensitivities. Other starches like potato and tapioca are not recommended for pastry cream as they can create a jello-like consistency with a stringy texture.

To understand the thickening power of cornstarch, it is important to know how it works. When cornstarch is mixed with liquid and heated, the starch granules swell and absorb the liquid, creating a thickened and smooth consistency. This process, known as gelatinization, gives pastry cream its creamy and velvety texture.

Cornstarch vs. Flour in Pastry Cream

Cornstarch is the preferred thickener for pastry cream over flour. Here’s why:

Cornstarch Flour
Produces a lighter and smoother texture Can result in a heavier and floury taste
Gluten-free, suitable for those with gluten sensitivities Contains gluten, not suitable for gluten-free diets
Enhances the flavor of the dairy and other ingredients May impart a starchy taste and mask the flavors

By using cornstarch as a thickener, you can achieve a professional-quality pastry cream with a luscious and silky consistency.

Using Cornstarch as a Thickener

Using cornstarch as a thickener in pastry cream is simple and effective. Here’s how:

  1. Combine the cornstarch with a small amount of milk to create a slurry.
  2. Whisk the slurry into the heated mixture of milk, eggs, and sugar.
  3. Continue whisking the mixture over medium heat until it thickens to the desired consistency.
  4. Remove from heat and let the pastry cream cool before using or refrigerating.

Whether you’re making a classic vanilla pastry cream or experimenting with different flavors, cornstarch is the go-to thickener that ensures a perfect, velvety texture. Enjoy the richness and smoothness it brings to your homemade desserts!

How to Properly Heat Pastry Cream

Properly heating the custard base is crucial for the thickening process in pastry cream. The goal is to achieve a consistency that is stiff, thick, and smooth while preventing a runny or gritty texture. Heating the pastry cream allows for gelatinization of the starch, where the starch granules absorb water and thicken the custard base. Additionally, the eggs’ proteins denature and coagulate to create a strong network within the cream. To prevent amylase, the starch-dissolving enzyme, from breaking down the starch and causing the pastry cream to become runny, the cream must be brought to a bubble and held at a near-boiling temperature for about a minute while whisking continuously.

Heating Pastry Cream: Do’s Heating Pastry Cream: Don’ts
  • Gradually heat the pastry cream over medium-low heat to prevent burning or curdling
  • Whisk continuously to create even heat distribution and prevent lumps
  • Bring the cream to a bubble, just before boiling, to deactivate amylase and thicken the custard
  • Hold the cream at a near-boiling temperature for about a minute to ensure proper thickening
  • Heat the cream too quickly or over high heat, as it can cause scorching or curdling
  • Stop whisking or stir intermittently, as it can result in uneven heat and lumpy texture
  • Boil the cream vigorously, as it can cause the mixture to separate or become grainy
  • Underheat or rush the process, as it can lead to undercooked or runny pastry cream

Tempering and Infusing for Flavor in Pastry Cream

When making pastry cream, using proper techniques for tempering eggs and infusing milk can greatly enhance the flavor and texture of the final product. Tempering is a crucial step in preventing the eggs from curdling when combining them with hot milk. It involves gradually whisking the hot milk into the eggs to bring them to a similar temperature before incorporating them into the rest of the ingredients.

If you’re infusing the milk with flavors such as vanilla bean or lemon zest, tempering becomes even more essential to ensure the flavors are evenly distributed throughout the pastry cream. By gradually incorporating the hot, flavored milk into the eggs, you create a smooth and well-infused base for your cream.

However, not all recipes require preheating the milk for infusion. In some cases, all the ingredients can be combined and heated together, as is often the case with recipes like chocolate pastry cream. The goal is to create a cohesive blend of flavors that complement each other and result in a delicious pastry cream.

Infusing the milk with various ingredients offers a world of opportunities for flavor variations in your pastry cream. Experiment with different additions such as spices, herbs, or even extracts to create unique and exciting flavors. The infused milk will lend its taste to the entire cream, ensuring a well-balanced and delightful treat.

Try the following variations:

  • Vanilla Bean: Split a vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds, then infuse them into the milk for a rich and aromatic vanilla flavor.
  • Lemon Zest: Add fresh lemon zest to the milk and let it infuse for a citrusy and refreshing pastry cream.
  • Almond Extract: A few drops of almond extract in the milk will give your pastry cream a lovely almond flavor.

By tempering your eggs and infusing the milk, you’ll create a pastry cream with layers of flavor and a velvety smooth texture that will elevate your desserts to new heights.


In conclusion, pastry cream is a delightful and versatile custard that can take your desserts to the next level. By mastering the key ingredients and techniques, you can confidently create a homemade pastry cream that is creamy, flavorful, and perfect for filling or complementing various sweet treats.

Whether you choose to go with the classic vanilla flavor or experiment with unique variations, pastry cream adds a touch of luxury and richness to any dessert. The possibilities are endless when it comes to using pastry cream in your creations.

So, don’t be afraid to get creative in the kitchen and let your imagination run wild. Dive into the world of pastry cream and enjoy the process of baking and indulging in the delightful results of your homemade pastry cream masterpieces.


What is pastry cream?

Pastry cream, also known as crème pâtissière, is a rich and creamy custard that can be used as a filling or as a base for various sweet treats.

What are the key ingredients in pastry cream?

The key ingredients in pastry cream include milk, eggs, cornstarch, sugar, and vanilla.

How do you make pastry cream?

To make pastry cream, heat the ingredients together, whisking continuously until a thick and smooth consistency is achieved.

Can pastry cream be flavored?

Yes, pastry cream can be flavored with vanilla, chocolate, mint, lemon, peanut butter, and other flavors.

What desserts can be made with pastry cream?

Pastry cream can be used as a filling for pastries, tarts, cakes, and donuts, as well as a base for fruit tarts and other desserts.

Can dairy-free pastry cream be made?

Yes, dairy-free pastry cream can be made by using plant-based milk alternatives and dairy-free butter.

Why is cornstarch used in pastry cream?

Cornstarch is used as a thickener in pastry cream because it creates a smooth texture and enhances the flavor of the custard.

How should pastry cream be heated?

Pastry cream should be heated to a near-boiling temperature while whisking continuously to achieve the proper thickening process.

What is tempering in pastry cream?

Tempering involves gradually whisking hot milk into the eggs to bring them to a similar temperature before combining them with the rest of the ingredients.

Can different flavors be infused into pastry cream?

Yes, milk can be infused with various ingredients like vanilla bean or lemon zest to enhance the flavor of the pastry cream.

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