Pastry Cream Recipe (Crème Pâtissière)
Pastry Cream is the key ingredient for so many of your favorite desserts. If you’re a baker, this will quickly become your go-to recipe for smooth, silky, vanilla-flavored Pastry Cream. Serve this on a Tart Crust for the best homemade Fruit Tart.
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Pastry Cream Recipe
Pastry Cream is a French dessert that is also called Crème Pâtissière. It sounds fancy, but it’s truly easy to make it from scratch. It’s like a pudding but thicker, creamier, with a more pronounced vanilla flavor, and perfect for adding to many desserts, from Boston Cream Pie to Chocolate Eclairs.
If you’ve ever admired a Fruit Tart at your favorite bakery, with layers of glistening, artfully arranged fruit set over a layer of creamy vanilla filling, then you’re very familiar with the importance of good pastry cream. Here’s why you’ll love this recipe:
- No fancy equipment needed – A saucepan and a whisk are all you’ll need.
- Sets properly – This pastry cream is silky, smooth, and sets beautifully. Most people take it off the stove too early or keep it on too long which can result in grainy pasty cream.
- Bakery-style at home – Yes, there are hacks that use instant pudding mix to make a pastry cream substitute, but this from-scratch version is so much better. You’ll feel like you’ve been whisked away to a Parisian bakery once you give it a taste.
Scroll down to the recipe card below for print-friendly ingredients and instructions.
- Egg and yolks– At its core, pastry cream is custard and custard starts with eggs.
- Granulated sugar – AKA white sugar.
- Cornstarch – This is what thickens the cream.
- Fine sea salt – balances the sweetness
- Whole milk – creates a creamer consistency than skim milk
- Heavy whipping cream – Creates a rich, luxurious texture
- Unsalted butter – If using salted butter, reduce the salt.
- Vanilla extract – this is the traditional flavor for pastry cream, but you can substitute with almond extract.
How to Make Pastry Cream
As I mentioned above, this pastry cream recipe isn’t hard, but it does require you to follow along closely to get the technique right. Here’s what you’ll need to do.
- Mix the first 5 ingredients – In a medium heat-proof bowl, add the egg, yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium heat-proof mixing bowl. Whisk vigorously until smooth and lightened in color, about 2 minutes.
- Warm milk, cream, and butter – Combine the milk, heavy cream, and butter in a large saucepan and bring it to a light boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. As soon as it reaches a boil, immediately remove the pan from the heat.
- Temper the eggs – Slowly add 1/3 of the milk mixture to the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Don’t dump the milk in, or you’ll scramble the eggs!
- Cook the cream – Pour the egg mixture into the saucepan with the remaining milk mixture and set over medium heat, whisking constantly until the pastry cream thickens; about 2 minutes. After this, stop mixing for a few seconds and once the mixture starts bubbling, reduce the heat and let it continue to cook at a very low boil for 1 minute, whisking constantly. The cream will be thick, smooth, and glossy.
- Add the vanilla – Remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla extract.
- Chill – Pour the cream into a shallow bowl and gently press a layer of plastic wrap onto the surface to prevent skin from forming. Once the pasty cream is at room temperature, refrigerate at least 2 hours before using.
Pro Tip: Use a slimmer whisk to reach the inner corners of the pan and prevent overcooked bits of custard.
Pastry cream is a thick, smooth cream used in a variety of desserts, including cream puffs, eclairs, and fruit tarts. Although it originates in French cuisine, it’s used in American recipes like Boston cream pie, too.
Bringing pastry cream just to a boil activates the starch and sets the eggs, which is key to its thick, creamy texture.
We have made this with just 2 cups of milk, without heavy cream, but the heavy cream does create a more luxurious texture. If you are looking to cut calories, you can use 2 cups of milk instead.
Pastry cream is a type of custard; in other words, all pastry creams are custards, but not all custards are pastry cream. Custard simply refers to any liquid that is thickened with eggs.
You can double this recipe, but you’ll need a larger bowl and saucepan, and you’ll have longer cooking times.
If you have followed the steps above, it usually isn’t necessary but if you see any thickened or coagulated bits of egg in your custard, you can strain it through a fine mesh sieve for a smoother cream.
How to Use Pastry Cream
In addition to using pastry cream in a Fruit Tart, you can get creative and add it to all kinds of different desserts and pastries:
- Use it as a filling for Baked Donuts instead of jelly.
- Swap out the cheesecake filling for pastry cream in my Berry Puff Pastry Tart.
- Add a layer at the base of these Easy Peach Tartlets.
- Fill Eclairs or Cream Puffs with this Pastry Cream
- To Refrigerate: Once at room temperature, pastry cream should be refrigerated for at least 2 hours to set and can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. this pastry cream should be refrigerated for at can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.
- Freezing: Because this recipe is made with cornstarch, it should not be frozen.
- To Use: Use pastry cream in your favorite recipes as directed.
More French Desserts
If you love this pastry cream, then you won’t want to miss these homemade French dessert recipes:
Pastry Cream Recipe
- In a medium, heat-proof mixing bowl, combine egg, yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and salt, and whisk vigorously until completely smooth and lightened in color, 2 minutes.
- In a large saucepan add milk, heavy cream and butter and heat over medium heat until it just starts to boil, stirring occasionally to prevent the milk from scalding or a film from forming. As soon as it starts to boil, remove from heat.
- While whisking the egg mixture constantly, slowly drizzle in 1/3 of the hot milk mixture. This slow process of adding milk or tempering the eggs ensures you don’t scramble the eggs.
- Pour the warm egg mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining milk and whisk to combine. Set over medium heat and whisk constantly until thickened, about 2 minutes. The cream will thicken quickly but you want to give it a chance to cook off the corn starch so the cream doesn’t separate. Stop mixing for a few seconds and as soon as you see it’s starting to boil, reduce the heat to keep it at a very low boil and continue whisking vigorously for 1 minute. When it’s done, the cream should be thickened, smooth and glossy.
- Remove from heat and whisk in vanilla extract. Transfer cream to a shallow bowl and place plastic wrap directly over the surface of the hot cream to prevent a skin from forming and let it come to room temperature then refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 3 days ahead.