Basic Pastry Cream #2 — This Might Be The One

I thought I’d be making bowls upon bowls of pastry cream since I’m searching for a favorite, but thanks to Katrina’s friend Paige, I may have found “the one”.

Cream Puff

Like yesterday’s pastry cream, this one starts with 2 cups of whole milk. However, instead of 2 yolks and a whole egg, it uses 4 yolks. In addition to the yolks, it gets extra thickening power from a combination of cornstarch and flour. Given the thickening power of yolks, cornstarch and flour, I expected this cream to be super stiff. But no — it was “just right” stiff without being gelatinous or custard-like. I also appreciated the color, which was yellower than yesterday’s due to the extra egg yolks and maybe the fact I used brown eggs from free roaming chickens. Pastry cream is one of those recipes where splurging on the best eggs you can find and maybe even using butter from pasture fed cows (etc. etc. etc.) is totally worth it. And it goes without saying that infusing vanilla bean into the milk would make this amazing, but I didn’t have any vanilla beans (as usual) and used extract.

Boston Cream Pie

By the way, the cream in the cream puff has some extra whipped cream folded in. However, for Boston Cream Pie the pastry cream is perfect as is. And if you’re wondering why my Boston Cream Pie is a rectangle, it’s because I finally found the right cake to go with the Epcot Strawberry Shortcake Copycat recipe (hint — it’s a genoise) and have been making it over and over and carving it trying to figure out the most geometrically efficient way to make that strawberry cake. So I have loads of cake scraps in the freezer and used a scrap to make one single piece of Boston Cream Pie.

Basic Pastry Cream #2 -- This Might Be "The One"
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
A thick and creamy, non-chalky, non-lumpy pastry cream recipe that's perfect for Boston Cream Pie.
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Serves: 2
  • 2 cups of whole milk
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour (1 oz.)
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch (1 oz.)
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 2 to 3 T. unsalted butter (I used three)
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • Optional: 1 cup heavy cream, whipped
  1. Place the milk and half of the sugar in a medium saucepan (see note). Slowly bring to a gentle boil.
  2. While you're waiting for the milk mixture to come to a boil, whisk the remaining 1/3 cup sugar into the egg yolks until thick and pale. Combine the flour and cornstarch in a small bowl, then whisk the combined flour and starch into the egg/sugar mixture.
  3. When the milk comes to a boil, whisk some (I used about a cup) of the hot milk into the egg mixture to temper and thin.
  4. Reduce the heat to medium or if using a large burner, medium low, and add the tempered egg yolks to the boiling milk, whisking constantly. The pastry cream will thicken almost immediately. Continue to cook and stir until 1 or 2 large bubbles break the surface (this might take a minute or two, but it helps kill the enzymes that cause thinning). Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter and vanilla.
  5. Transfer the pastry cream to a clean container. Press a piece of plastic wrap to the surface and chill until cold.
  6. If desired, you may lighten the texture of the pastry cream by folding in the whipped cream after the pastry cream if fully chilled. You may want to sweeten the cream with 2-3 tablespoons of powdered sugar and add a little more vanilla before folding it into the pastry cream because the cream itself is just the right level of sweetness and adding unsweetened cream will make it slightly less sweet.
I use a 3 quart All-Clad without any coating on it since this requires lots of vigorous whisking and you don't want flecks of coating in your cream.


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  1. says

    Glad you love the recipe I sent you from Paige. I don’t love cream puffs, but Kevin and the boys do. I’d rather have Boston Cream Pie…..oh what am I thinking, I can’t have either one…..sigh….(Well, I CAN, I just choose not to, but it’s nice to know I can splurge if I want to.) Great idea to freeze the cake and be able to make individual desserts later.

  2. says

    Thanks Paige! It’s a great recipe and I’m going to make it again soon with a vanilla bean. I’ve been on a vanilla kick for the past few months and pastry cream is such a good way to showcase it.

  3. stephanie says

    Wow! Great find. I wonder if the method changed if results would be the same. I have read to mix the sugar and flour together before adding the egg yolks, rather than the classic method of ribboning the sugar and yolks and then adding the flour. I think this is from Joanne Chang of Flour Bakery…maybe? Also, I have seen some recipes that use cake flour. I wonder if that would be any different then AP. All that aside, this will be my new recipe because I always trust you! Thanks!

  4. says

    Hi Stephanie, I thought I would jump in and try to give a partial answer to your question. I have tried making this recipe with the method you describe–combining the sugar with the flour/cornstarch mixture and then adding that to the egg yolks. (One of the reasons you would do it this way is that it insures that you won’t have lumps of flour and cornstarch in your custard..but if you sift your flour/cornstarch it isn’t really an issue) This method does work well with some recipes, but not this one. By whisking in the sugar first, you are increasing the volume of the liquid that will be recieving the flour/cornstarch…without this step, there is such a large volume of dry ingredients going into such a small volume of liquid (yolks) that the mixture is unmanageably stiff. (It really is amazing what a difference it makes in the liquid volume when you add the sugar to the yolks first.) Hope this helps!

  5. BriAnne says

    If I were to use the vanilla bean instead of extract do I need to add anymore liquid? Or do I just scrap the vanilla bean, remove the seeds and place in the milk with no added liquid?

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