How to Make the Best Pastry Cream

How to Make the Best Pastry Cream

Pastry cream, also known as crème pâtissière, is a rich and creamy custard that serves as a key ingredient in many classic desserts. Whether you're filling éclairs, tarts, or cream puffs, mastering the art of making perfect pastry cream can elevate your baking game. This guide will show you how to create a delicious, velvety pastry cream with simple steps and high-quality ingredients.


  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 vanilla bean (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Luxurious homemade pastry cream in a bowl, surrounded by fresh vanilla beans, eggs, and baking utensils, ready to be used in gourmet desserts


Step 1: Prepare the Milk

In a medium-sized saucepan, combine the whole milk, 1/4 cup of granulated sugar, and the seeds from the vanilla bean (or vanilla extract). Heat over medium heat until the mixture begins to simmer, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.

Step 2: Prepare the Egg Mixture

In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, the remaining 1/4 cup of granulated sugar, and the cornstarch until smooth and pale.

Step 3: Temper the Eggs

Slowly pour about one-third of the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture while whisking constantly to prevent the eggs from curdling.

Step 4: Combine and Cook

Pour the tempered egg mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining milk mixture. Place over medium-low heat and whisk continuously until the mixture thickens and starts to bubble, about 2-3 minutes. Continue cooking for an additional 1-2 minutes to ensure the cornstarch is fully cooked.

Step 5: Add Butter and Strain

Remove the saucepan from the heat and immediately whisk in the butter until melted and smooth. If using vanilla extract, add it now. Strain the pastry cream through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean bowl to remove any lumps.

Step 6: Cool and Store

Press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming. Allow the cream to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least 2 hours.

Tips for Perfect Pastry Cream

  • Use Fresh Ingredients: Fresh milk, eggs, and butter enhance the flavor and texture of your pastry cream.
  • Whisk Continuously: To ensure a smooth texture and prevent lumps, whisk the mixture continuously while cooking.
  • Strain the Cream: Straining removes any bits of cooked egg, resulting in a silky smooth texture.
  • Proper Cooling: Prevent a skin from forming by placing plastic wrap directly on the surface of the cream.


  • Chocolate Pastry Cream: Stir 4 ounces of chopped dark chocolate into the hot pastry cream after removing it from the heat. Whisk until the chocolate is melted and fully incorporated.
  • Coffee Pastry Cream: Dissolve 2 tablespoons of instant coffee granules into the hot milk mixture before tempering the egg mixture.

Serving Suggestions

  • Éclairs and Cream Puffs: Pipe the chilled pastry cream into éclairs or cream puffs for a classic French dessert.
  • Layer Cakes: Use as a rich, creamy filling between layers of cake.
  • Fruit Tarts: Spoon pastry cream into pre-baked tart shells and top with fresh fruit for a beautiful and delicious dessert.

Learning how to make pastry cream opens up a world of possibilities for creating delectable desserts. By following these steps and tips, you can master this versatile ingredient and impress your family and friends with your baking skills. Enjoy the rich, smooth flavor of homemade pastry cream in your favorite desserts.

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