This creamy, silky French pastry cream (crème pâtissière) recipe is a perfect filling for many desserts such as millefeuille, tarts, cakes and choux pastries. It takes almost 10 minutes to prepare this delicious custard.
Today I am sharing a French pastry cream recipe which is my favorite vanilla dessert filling.
Pastry cream is a starchbound custard that is thickened with egg-starch mixture. Unlike baked custards such as Crème Brûlée, it is not meant to be eaten on its own, but should be used as a dessert filling.
Mille-feuille, choux pastries and fruit tarts are the most common desserts that are filled with this custard cream. You can fill your cake layers as well.
I’ll be honest with you. When I make pastry cream, I always eat some with a spoon. It is so delicious but as I said it is not meant to be served this way.
Now I’ll continue with the ingredients, different fillings by using pastry cream, tips to make this recipe perfect (talk about a little bit about tempering), and continue with step-by-step instructions.
Ingredients you’ll need
You can find the exact quantities at the bottom of my post, in the recipe card.
- Milk-I use whole milk which makes this custard creamy. This is a smooth, soft, silky custard. I don’t use any butter or heavy cream in the recipe. So I would suggest you use whole milk to get the same creamy result.
- Cornstarch-It thickens the cream.
- Eggs-I find the best texture with 3 egg yolks, not heavy with a perfect taste. They work as a thickener and also make this custard creamy. Classic pastry cream involves either egg yolks or egg yolks with a whole egg. If you wonder if you can use whole eggs only, yes you can but it won’t be as rich as this recipe but still be delicious. In this case, you should be using 2 whole eggs instead of 3 egg yolks. I share this option in the recipe card under the notes section.
- Sugar-I use just enough sugar to sweeten it. If you look for sweeter cream, I would just add extra 2 tablespoons.
- Vanilla-In general I use vanilla extract. But you can use vanilla bean or vanilla bean paste to have little specks. I share how you should use vanilla bean below.
Making Other Creams by using Pastry Cream
Although it is delicious as is, you can lighten it with whipped cream and make crème légère.
When you mix pastry cream with almond cream, you can turn it into frangipane.
Key to success
- whisking the eggs, cornstarch and sugar until smooth
- tempering the eggs (I talk about tempering below)
- boiling the mixture after the first boil for 2 minutes to cook the pastry cream and avoid any raw starch taste
What is tempering?
Tempering is the process of bringing two ingredients’ different temperatures slowly into the same temperature.
In this recipe, before I combine the milk and egg, I have to increase the eggs’ temperature slowly. If I add in egg mixture to the milk mixture without tempering, the eggs will cook and turn into scrambled eggs. So I have to prevent this from happening. Below under step by step instructions, I share it in detail.
Step by step instructions
First I place the milk and half of the sugar in a saucepan, stir and bring to a boil over high heat.
If you are using a vanilla bean instead of vanilla extract, you should split the vanilla bean lengthwise, down the middle, scrape the seeds into the milk, and also add the bean.
While the saucepan is on the stove, I mix egg yolks and half of the sugar in a medium bowl with a whisk.
This step takes just a few seconds. Room temperature egg yolks make the combining step easy.
Once mixed, I add the cornstarch and stir until combined well.
Once the milk comes to a boil, I remove the pan from the heat and pour almost ⅓ of the milk very slowly into the egg mixture. You can either use a measuring cup for this purpose or directly pour it from the pan.
While I am pouring the milk, I whisk the mixture constantly to prevent it from curdling. Since the eggs’ temperature is raised, I pour the tempered eggs into the milk.
Then I add the vanilla extract, stir the mixture and place the saucepan over medium-high heat.
I constantly stir with a whisk and carefully scrape the edges and bottom of the pan and let it boil. This step takes almost 2 minutes.
I stir and let it boil for extra 2 minutes to thicken the mixture and to avoid any cornstarch taste. After that, I remove the pan from the heat.
If you use vanilla bean, it is time to remove the bean from the cream.
I pour the pastry cream into a shallow large pan to let it cool fast. Then I immediately cover the top with a plastic film that touches the cream to prevent skin from forming on top.
First I keep it at room temperature to let it cool and then keep it in the fridge to let it cool completely. This whole cooling step takes 2-3 hours, depending on how large the pan you use.
Don’t surprise when you remove the pastry cream from the fridge. It will be very firm.
I simply place it into a medium bowl, press it with a whisk first to a couple of times and then start to stir. As I continue to whisk, it comes to its creamy consistency in seconds.
You can pipe it or spread it when you use this filling.
I hope you find this post helpful and love this filling as much as I do!
You can keep the pastry cream in the fridge for up to 4 days.
Filling and sauce recipes you may enjoy!
- Homemade Lemon Curd
- Blueberry Topping for Cheesecake
- Homemade Caramel Sauce Recipe
- How to Make Chocolate Ganache
- Almond Cream
I love hearing from you! If you try this recipe or my other recipes please leave a comment and give a star rating!
French Pastry Cream
- 490 grams (2 cups) whole milk
- 70 grams (⅓ cup) granulated sugar
- 3 large egg yolks, room temperature
- 33 grams (¼ cup and ½ tablespoon) cornstarch
- 1 and ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract or ½ vanilla bean
- Put the milk and half of the sugar in a saucepan, give it a stir and bring to a boil at high heat. (If you are using a vanilla bean instead of vanilla extract, you should split the vanilla bean lengthwise, down the middle, scrape the seeds into the milk, and also add the bean.)
- While the saucepan is on the stove, stir half of the sugar and egg yolks in a heat proof mixing bowl with a whisk. When combined, add the cornstarch and stir until there are no lumps in the mixture.
- Once the milk comes to a boil, remove the saucepan from the heat and temper the eggs: pour almost ⅓ of the milk very slowly into the egg mixture, whisking constantly at the same time to prevent it from curdling. Pour the tempered eggs into the milk mixture and whisk at the same time. Whisk in the vanilla extract.
- Place the saucepan over med-high heat, whisking constantly and let the mixture boil first and then let it boil for extra 2 minutes until it is thick and smooth.
- Take the pan from the heat. (If you are using vanilla bean, it is time to remove the bean from the mixture). Pour the pastry cream into a large and shallow bowl to let it cool fast. Immediately cover the pastry cream with a plastic film and lightly press so the plastic film can touch the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming on top. First, let it cool at room temperature and then keep it in the fridge until ready to use. Depending on how large and shallow your pan is, it can take 2-3 hours to cool. You can keep it in the fridge for up to 4 days.
Update Notes: I originally shared this post on February 1, 2017. Today I republish it with a new egg amount, new photos and extra information.