This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my full disclosure for details.
Hi Bold Bakers!
WHY YOU’LL LOVE THIS RECIPE: My Simple Pastry Cream recipe, or Creme Patissiere, (or Crème Pâtissière, if we’re using the correct French spelling!), is super easy to make and is perfect for filling eclairs, donuts, cream puffs, and more!
Crème Pâtissière (or even Crème Pât,) is one of my husband’s favorite dessert accouterments, so having a super simple pastry cream recipe is a must-have in our kitchen. Using my homemade pastry cream to fill your desserts gives them a totally new texture and a different kind of sweetness. Think about it: a Boston Cream donut tastes a lot different than just a plain chocolate donut, right?
This rich and creamy custard is simply irresistible, and it’s made with just a few ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen! If you’re trying to get into more pastry making (and who would ever complain about you having that hobby?!), this is a fantastic, easy recipe to perfect because you’ll be using it again and again.
My vanilla pastry cream works perfectly in Homemade Cream Puffs, Chocolate Ganache Covered Eclairs, and delicious Fruit Tarts, so feel free to whip up a batch of this versatile dessert filling for all your creamy dessert needs!
Table Of Contents
- What Is Pastry Cream?
- Tools You Need
- How To Make Simple Pastry Cream
- Do I Need Eggs For Pastry Cream?
- Can I Make Pastry Cream Ahead Of Time? How To Store
- Gemma’s Pro Chef Tips
- Make More Creams, Frostings, And Sauces!
Crème Pâtissière (AKA Crème Pât) is a French pastry cream that is, essentially, a thick custard that is often used to fill desserts. It is made with very simple ingredients and flavored with vanilla. I use vanilla scrapped directly from the pod, giving you a lovely flavor and beautiful black specs throughout.
There are a few key techniques for having this simple recipe come out perfectly every time. Don’t worry; I’ll walk you through all of them!
To make homemade vanilla Pastry Cream, you only need a few common staples in your kitchen. For my recipe, you need the following:
- Whole milk: To make a nice, creamy, thick custard, you need to use full-fat dairy milk or creamy non-dairy milk (almond milk, coconut milk, cashew milk or soy milk).
- Vanilla pod: Take a vanilla pod, split it lengthwise, and scrap the seeds. Use both the seeds and the pod.
- Granulated sugar: White sugar will give you the ideal sweetness.
- Egg yolks: You can’t make custard without egg yolks. Be sure they are at room temperature.
- Cornstarch: Starch helps thicken the custard.
- Butter: Butter helps thicken the custard, too, and gives it a nice creamy taste.
- Combine the milk, vanilla pod, vanilla seeds, and 1/2 of the sugar in a medium saucepan and let it come to a simmer.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks, cornstarch, and remaining sugar.
- Temper eggs: be sure to whisk constantly and slowly pour in 1/3 of the hot milk mixture. Once it has been incorporated, pour that mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until it thickens.
- Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter. Pass the mixture through a sieve to prevent lumps. Place plastic wrap directly over the custard to stop a skin from forming, and let it cool to room temperature then store it in the fridge for at least 4 hours before serving.
Eggs are a crucial ingredient for pastry cream as they add thickness and flavor. I allow three large eggs to come to room temperature before I separate the yolks and the whites. You can save your whites by placing them in a plastic bag and freezing them for when you want to make Meringues!
Yes, in fact, you need to prepare pastry cream hours before you plan to use it. Pastry cream needs to cool to room temperature then in the fridge for at least 4 hours to allow it to set. You can prepare your pastry cream up to 3 days ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator in an airtight container, with a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the custard.
I don’t recommend freezing pastry cream.
Do I need to use whole milk to make pastry cream?
Yes. You’ll need to use full-fat dairy milk or creamy non-dairy milk (almond milk, coconut milk, cashew milk or soy milk) to not only make this recipe easier for yourself but to make it taste as delicious as possible.
Do not use skim milk, half and half, or heavy cream for this recipe. Half and half will make your custard too thick and detract from the flavor, heavy cream will separate and make your custard greasy, and skim milk will be too thin.
Why is my pastry cream lumpy?
Your pastry cream may be lumpy for a few reasons, but the most likely culprits are heating it too high or not stirring it well enough when it was coming to a simmer.
To avoid the stress, I always pass it through a sieve as soon as I’ve cooked it to remove lumps.
Why is my pastry cream too thin?
A simple fix for pastry cream that is too thin is to add a little more cornstarch. Just add a bit at a time until you reach the proper consistency.
My pastry cream is too thick.
The opposite problem, now you’ve added too much cornstarch or have cooked it for too long. Slowly add in the tiniest amount of milk while stirring.
What to use instead of vanilla pod?
Sometimes, you just can’t find vanilla pods, or they’re too expensive for your budget. But you can still make pastry cream! Use either vanilla paste, as it has vanilla seeds, or use vanilla extract. If you use vanilla extract, hold back the same amount of milk to make sure the mixture doesn’t become diluted.
- Use full-fat dairy milk or creamy non-dairy milk for this pastry cream. Fat equals flavor, and the texture is ideal for custard.
- Flour is traditionally used as a thickener, but I find that cornstarch works just as well and is gluten-free!
- When baking, I always use large eggs. For this recipe, be sure to use 3 large egg yolks at room temperature.
- If you don’t have a vanilla pod, I recommend using vanilla bean paste as it has seeds!
Simple Pastry Cream (Crème Pâtissière)
- 2 cups (16 fl oz/480 ml) full-fat dairy milk or creamy non-dairy milk
- ½ vanilla pod (split lengthwise, seeds scraped out)
- ½ cup (4 oz/115 g) granulated sugar, divided
- 4 large egg yolks, room temperature
- 4 level tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons (1 oz/28 g) salted or unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- In a medium saucepan, combine milk, vanilla pod, and seeds and ½ the sugar. Place over medium-low heat until mixture comes to a simmer.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks, cornstarch, and remaining sugar.
- Temper eggs: while whisking constantly, slowly pour ⅓ of the hot milk mixture into the egg-yolk mixture, until it has been incorporated. Pour mixture back into the saucepan, and cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, for roughly 3-4 minutes, until it thickens a lot.
- Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter. Pass the mixture through a sieve to remove the vanilla pod and any lumps.
- Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface of the pastry cream to prevent skin from forming and allow it to cool down to room temperature then store in the fridge for a minimum of 4 hours or up to 3 days before serving. Use to fill cream puffs, profiteroles, or pastry tarts.