Basic Pastry Cream #1

When it comes to pastry cream, I tend to jump from recipe to recipe.  It’s generally not a problem until I have a big pastry cream failure and remember I hated that recipe in the first place. Or when I make a Boston Cream Pie and can’t decide which filling to use because I’ve tried so many with mixed results. So starting with this post, I’m going to nail down one (or four or six) really good pastry cream recipes. Here’s the first, and I’ll tell you why I like it after the jump.

Pastry Cream

I found this one in the Make it Sweet recipe collection and on It’s a little different than some in that it starts with milk rather than cream, includes a whole egg in addition to the egg yolks, and has two tablespoons of butter for flavor and texture.

cream puff

Overall, it was very good. The texture was smooth and creamy but firm enough to stand up in the pie and it was very sweet — maybe a little too sweet for some, but I thought it was just right. For experimentation’s sake, I folded a little unsweetened whipped cream into some of the pastry cream. It really lightened the texture and made it more suitable (in my opinion) for eclairs or cream puffs. But for Boston Cream Pie, it was perfect as is. Next time I make it I’m going to use farm fresh eggs and infuse the milk mixture with some vanilla bean.

My Favorite Pastry Cream
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Very sweet, custard-like pastry cream that works well as a filling for Boston Cream Pie.
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: French
Serves: 2
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Optional -- 1/2 cup of whipping cream, whipped (to lighten if desired)
  1. In a heavy 3 quart saucepan, combine the milk and 1/4 cup of sugar. Bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks, egg, cornstarch and remaining 1/3 cup of the sugar together in a mixing bowl until thick and yellow.
  3. Very gradually, whisk the hot milk mixture into the egg yolks. Once it is all added, pour the mixture back into the saucepan with the saucepan set over medium low heat.
  4. Whisk mixture over medium low heat until it is as thick as pudding and starts to boil (thick, gloppy bubbles will appear. If your mixture doesn't thicken in 5 minutes, raise the heat a tiny bit. Different stoves and gas vs. heat might affect the rate at which your cream thickens).
  5. Set a sieve over a clean bowl and pour the pudding through the sieve and into the bowl. Add the butter and vanilla to the hot pudding and stir well.
  6. Put a circle of parchment paper over the mixture to keep a skin from forming and let cool at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Transfer to the refrigerator.
  7. If you want to lighten the texture or make it less sweet, whip 1/2 cup to 1 cup of whipped cream and fold it into the cooled cream. If you add the extra whipping cream, you might also want to throw in a little extra vanilla extract.
Most pastry cream recipes tell you to boil and stir the mixture for about 2 minutes before removing it from the heat. This kills the enzymes in the eggs which cause the pastry cream to thin out after cooling. Out of habit, I lboiled the cream for an extra minute and a half for the first batch. It did not thin out, nor did it taste starchy. I made a second batch and skipped the extra minute of boiling. The second batch didn't thin out or taste starchy either. I'd say this is a pretty fool-proof recipe, but if you do have problems with thinning or a starchy taste, try boiling the mixture for another minute and a half and stirring constantly to prevent curdling.


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  1. Darlene says

    This looks fabulous! During my childhood, my mother used to make this type of cream to fill our holiday cannoli shells (as opposed to a ricotta-based cream), and she found it difficult to keep my three sisters and I from eating all the delicious cream while it was still warm.

  2. says

    Darlene, if you see this — I’d like to know if your mom made the cannoli shells herself. I usually buy them, but I did make them once and they were good.

    Rebecca, thanks! I’ll take a look at that one.

    Gloria, I used the refrigerator as a giant light box.

  3. says

    Oh, I love when you do a series on recipe comparisons! Can’t wait to read about the tear and compare and final results.

  4. says

    See this is why you’re the best, you’re doing the leg work for me :). I have yet to have a need to make pastry cream but I know that as soon as I do, I would be frantically Googling “Best pastry cream” 🙂 and then slightly panicking trying to decide what to do.

  5. Beverly says

    Pastry Cream is a basic recipe in a pastry chef’s repertoire. It can be the base for many recipes including German-style Butter Cream or enriched with the addition of butter being whipped into it for the filling for Napoleon’s. I have a favorite, too, modified from the chef who worked the line next to me at the pastry station. He emphasized the importance of using half and half for the liquid and both flour and cornstarch for thickening; something about both starches helping to keep the pastry cream thick and not thinning out. My secret agent is a small amount of gelatin, softened and added when the pastry cream is removed from the heat. This allows me to beat the chilled pastry cream for extra creaminess.

  6. Jen says

    Can you believe I’ve never made pastry cream? For some reason, it is daunting to me. I am excited for this series.

  7. Stephanie says

    I always come here when someone in the blogosphere posts a pastry cream recipe in order to compare it to yours. I trust you! I was happy to see that their recipe (Mel’ Kitchen, another fave!) was the same, except she used powdered sugar. I think I may have to try both versions. Although your pastry cream #2 is a winner here at my house

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