Learn how to make pastry cream from scratch, along with tips, tricks and how to use it.

A white bowl filled with vanilla pastry cream and a spoon filled with it hovering above

What is Pastry Cream (Creme Patissiere)

Consisting of just 5 ingredients, Creme Patissiere (French for pastry cream), is a vanilla flavoured, thick custard used in so many desserts. You may already know it as the filling most often found in profiteroles, eclairs and custard horns but you may not know, the very same filling is used to fill fruit tarts and is even the basis for German Buttercream.

It’s silky smooth, creamy and fairly subtly sweet and most often flavoured with vanilla. 

How to make Pastry Cream (Creme Patissiere)

Step 1:

Whisk together some cornflour (cornstarch), milk and eggs

A glass bowl with egg yolks, milk and cornflour

Step 2:

Add hot milk, vanilla and sugar, slowly pouring it in so that the eggs don’t scramble.

Hot milk being poured from a saucepan into a bowl of beaten egg

Step 3:

Heat the mixture on the stove, over medium heat, until it gets very thick and pudding like. Make sure to whisk it constantly.

A custard mixture in a saucepanThick pastry cream in a saucepan with a whisk in it

Step 4:

Strain the creme patissiere to smooth it out and remove any lumps.

Vanilla pastry cream in a strainer over a glass bowl

Step 5:

Cover, with plastic wrap pressed right to the surface, and let it cool completely before using.

A glass bowl with pastry cream in it, covered with plastic wrap

Different types of custard

  • Creme Anglaise is a thick but pourable custard sauce. It is usually thickened only with egg yolks. 
  • Creme Patissiere is the thicker version of creme anglaise and uses the addition of starch in the form of cornflour (cornstarch) to thicken it even further to more of a set consistency.
  • Baked Custard, as the name suggests, is a baked version of custard. It relies only on eggs to thicken it (no starch) and becomes things like Pots De Creme or Creme Brulee.
  • Custard Powder (<– recipe) is the powdered and shelf stable form of creme anglais. While it’s normally served as a pourable custard, starch is the thickener in order to keep it shelf stable. 

Custard in it’s various forms is used as a base for a multitude of different desserts from those mentioned above to creme caramel and blancmange. 

What is creme patissiere used for?

Once you master making creme patissiere, the options for how you can used it are endless

Birdseye view of a bowl filled with vanilla pastry cream

Tips and tricks for perfect pastry cream

This vanilla pastry cream recipe is so incredibly easy to make at home, you’ll wonder why you’ve never done it before and be looking for new desserts to use it in. Here’s some notes that may be helpful.

  • Fluff up the cornflour first – for this recipe, I fluff up the cornflour, then lightly scoop it and then level the cup measure off with a knife.
  • Make it richer – by adding an extra egg yolk. 
  • Don’t boil the milk – you’ll start by heating milk but it only needs to be hot enough that it is steaming and it’s ready to add to the eggs. This really just gives time enough for the sugar to dissolve before the next step.
  • Tempering the eggs – when you add the hot liquid to the eggs, make sure to pour it in slowly and whisk constantly. Too quick and you may scramble the egg yolks.
  • Cook it until it boils, just – many creme patissiere recipes will say you need to boil the mixture. The only purpose for this is that cornflour / cornstarch normally starts to thicken things at boiling point. I find it will thicken before this though and it works perfectly fine. 
  • Whisk it constantly while cooking – if you don’t, you’ll end up with lumpy custard.
  • Straining the pastry cream isn’t absolutely necessary but helpful in case of any stray lumps.
  • Cover while cooling – press plastic wrap directly to the surface of the pastry cream as it will form a skin if you don’t which will mean you have to waste some valuable delicious pudding.

How to store pastry cream

  1. Store the pastry cream in a container or bowl with plastic wrap pressed to the surface for 3-4 days.
  2. Once it has been stored in the fridge, it will set quite firm. To use it, bring it to room temperature, then whisk until smooth before use.
  3. Pastry cream does not freeze very successfully.

Click here to pin this recipe for later!

A bowl filled with vanilla pastry cream with a tea towel wrapped around it

If you’ve never made your own pastry cream, I urge you to give it a try and then try not to eat it by the spoonful before filling something with it. Also, keep an eye out later this week for a delicious buttercream recipe using this pastry cream.

More custard recipes

 

Birdseye view of a bowl filled with vanilla pastry cream

How to make Pastry Cream (Creme Patissiere)

5 from 1 vote
Vanilla pastry cream, aka crème patissiere, is a thick French custard base for so many desserts. Rich, smooth and pudding-like in texture, pastry cream is used as a filling for tarts and profiteroles and can even be turned into buttercream.

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups whole milk
  • cup white granulated sugar (or caster sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup cornflour (cornstarch)
  • 2 egg yolks from large eggs

Instructions
 

  • Pour 1 ¼ cups of milk into a heavy based saucepan, and add sugar and vanilla, then heat on low-medium heat until steaming, stirring regularly to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining 1/4 cup milk, egg yolks and cornflour until smooth and fully combined.
  • While whisking, very slowly pour the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture in a slow but steady stream. Don’t pour it too quickly or the heat will scramble the eggs.
  • Once everything is combined, return the mix to the saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring with a whisk constantly, until it gets very thick and no longer settles into itself when you move it around. This will happen quite quickly after about 5 minutes so it’s important to keep gently whisking increasing intensity as it gets very thick. You will end up with lumpy custard if you don’t.
  • Swap to a silicone spatula and pass the custard through a strainer into a clean bowl, then press plastic wrap to the surface and allow to cool to room temperature.

Notes

  1. Store the pastry cream in a container or bowl with plastic wrap pressed to the surface for 3-4 days.
  2. Once it has been stored in the fridge, it will set quite firm. To use it, bring it to room temperature, then whisk until smooth before use.
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A bowl filled with vanilla pastry cream with a tea towel wrapped around it