Everyone who bakes, even occasionally, should have this classic pastry cream recipe.
It’s one of those decadent classics that’s never out of fashion, always in season, and there are TONES of ways it can be used.
Starting from enjoying it as a treat all on its own.
Simply top it with seasonal berries, cinnamon or crushed chocolate and scoop it spoon after spoon after spoon...Yum!
All the way to using it for layering cakes, filling tarts, bigne, pastry pockets etc.
Pastry cream is very rich and delicate at the same time. And for this reason it pairs beautifully with fresh fruit.
For example, use it for Fresh Peach Crostata or Millefoglie Cream Cake with Berries.
Too good to resist!
It, literally, takes minutes to make!
With simple ingredients and a whisk you ‘ll have the job done in no more than 15 minutes.
Now, there are just a few secrets to making a perfect pastry cream every time.
- Whisk continuously aka don’t even think of stepping away!
Whisking will prevent cornstarch setting at the bottom of a pan and as a result you’ll have lumps free smooth and silky custard.
- Do not overcook the cream.
Once it reached desired thickness remove from the heat asap.
- Stop the cooking process immediately once the cream is removed from the heat.
It can be done 2 ways, and I’m pretty sure there’s one you haven’t heard.
First: preserve approx ⅓ of all milk used in the recipe before heating it in the pan.
Add preserved cold mix to the custard once it’s cooked.
NOTE: Since adding more milk to the custard that is already cooked will make it more fluid, your cooked custard should have a slightly thicker consistency than you actually want it to be at the end.
Second: Use all milk for the recipe. Once pastry cream is removed from the heat transfer it to a large bowl placed over another bowl filled with ice. In this case you don’t need to preserve cold milk.
In this recipe I’m using the first method since I don’t always have a tone of ice handy. But as I said, you can do it both ways.
Classic Pastry Cream Recipe (For Desserts, Cakes, Tarts and More!)
- Beat egg yolks with sugar until creamy.
- Add cornstarch, vanilla extract and a little bit of milk. Whisk well breaking all the lumps from the cornstarch. Mixer does this job really well but you can certainly use a hand whisk instead.
- On a stove top heat whipping/heavy cream and 1 ½ cup of milk (reserving the remaining milk for later).
IMPORTANT: Don’t bring the milk to a boil. Heat it slowly on a low heat until it becomes really hot but not burning when you touch with the inside of your wrist.Pour in the egg yolk and cornstarch mixture and still on LOW heat whisk continuously.In a couple of minutes the cream will start to thicken.NOTE: At this point it should be a bit thicker than the final result.If it starts too thicken to quickly and you get a lumpy texture faster than you whisk - simply remove the cream from the heat for a bit while still continuing to whisk.Once ready, transfer pastry cream to a large bowl and stop the cooking process.Pour the remaining 1 cup of cold milk. Stir well until your cream becomes smooth, even and velvety. And you're done!
NOTE: As an alternative, to stop further cooking of the cream once it’s removed from the heat place a bowl with a cream into a large bowl filled with ice. In this case you don’t need to preserve cold milk. Just heat up 2 ½ cups straight at the beginning of this step.
What other flavorings can I use?
- Lemon peel or orange peel added to milk before heating it up will give an amazing lemon or orange flavor and aroma to your pastry cream. Lemon peel is a classic ingredient in Italian Crema Pasticcera.
- You can also flavor pastry cream with brandy, rum or lemon liqueur like this Homemade Limoncello. Add a few tablespoons once pastry cream is completely cool.
- Classic pastry cream can be easily transform into chocolate pastry cream by simply adding chocolate, cut in cubes to the pastry cream while it's still warm.
- Pastry cream with pistachio or hazelnut flavor is also delicious. Simply add a few tablespoons on pistacchio or hazelnut paste to the pastry cream while it's still warm.
- Last but not least is coffee flavored pastry cream. Add a teaspoon or more according to your taste of instant coffee to your pastry cream before chilling it, mix well.
What is your favorite pastry cream flavor?