Pastry Cream (Crème Pâtissière)

Chicken Eggs in Straw

Chicken Eggs in Straw

By Cat, Jan, 2008 (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Includes: 1. Pastry Cream I; 2. Pastry Cream II; 3. Pastry Cream III; 4. Light Pastry Cream; 5. Chocolate Pastry Cream; 6. Coffee Pastry Cream

See also:1. Buttercream: Chocolate, Coffee, Mocha, VanillaCream Cheese Frosting

Pastry Cream, a custard filling, is used to fill eclairs, cream puffs and other desserts.  It is a creamy, eggy custard thickened with flour or starch, and cooked on top of the stove.  Many European cultures have developed similar recipes.  The French call it Crème Pâtissière, the Italians call it Crema Pasticcera.

Three Versions for Making Pastry Cream

The first two versions use vanilla extract; the third uses a vanilla bean.  You can use either in any of the versions.  If using the bean, heat it with the milk and then strain milk through a sieve before whisking with the egg mixture (Refer to Pastry Cream III).  If using vanilla extract, add it after the milk and eggs have been whisked together.

Scalding Milk

All versions presented here scald the milk before whisking with the eggs.  This is a very important step.  You want to bring it to the point just before it boils (bubbles), when the steam begins to gather over the surface, about 1800 F.  You must not boil the milk or it will curdle (boils at 2120F).

Boiling Custard

Some recipes say to boil the custard after the eggs, milk and flour are mixed; others caution not to boil.  Mastering the Art of French Cooking (7) indicates the addition of flour in the recipe allows it to survive a boil. Cooking the custard in a double boiler is a good idea, although it takes longer for it to come to a boil, but it should prevent it from scorching in bottom of pan.

To prevent a skin from forming on the cream:

  • Cover the top of the cream with a sheet of buttered/oiled parchment (or a clear plastic film).  You must press this against the custard all across the surface.
  • The Art of Fine Baking by Paula Peck recommends brushing a thin layer of melted butter over the top of the cream to prevent a skin from forming.  Then whisk it into the cream before serving/using
  • Italian Food (about) (6) offers another method to prevent this skin: “Reserve a tablespoon of the sugar aside and sprinkle it over the cream when you set it to cool: It will keep a crust forming as the cream cools. It will melt and create a ‘watery’ surface that you can simply stir into the cream before use”

Pastry Cream I

This recipe is adapted from Wonderful Wonderful Danish Cooking, by Ingeborg Dahl Jensen.  This version uses the whole egg rather than just the yolk.  Fewer eggs and more flour are used to thicken the custard, than the other versions presented here.  It is also sweeter, and makes about 2 1/2 cups of pastry cream.

Ingredients & Equipment:

* NOTE:  2 tsp Brandy, Grand Marnier or other liqueur can be used to flavor the pastry cream, instead of vanilla extract.


  1. Combine milk and light cream in top of a double boiler, and scald over low heat until steam lingers just above the surface, but do not boil.
  2. Sift sugar (or stevia), flour and salt together into a bowl.  Add the warmed milk/cream slowly, stirring constantly.   If using maple syrup, stir it in too.
  3. Return this mixture to top of double boiler and boil until thick, stirring to keep smooth, and to prevent scorching.  Make sure the water in the bottom of the double boiler does not boil dry.
  4. Beat eggs in large bowl until frothy.  Add the cooked mixture to them.  Return again to top of double boiler and cook a few minutes longer, stirring continually.  Remove from heat and whisk in vanilla (or liqueur).
  5. Press a sheet of waxed paper against the entire surface of the custard (to prevent a skin from forming).   Allow to cool, then store in refrigerator if not using immediately.

Pastry Cream II

This recipe is adapted from, and makes about 2 cups of pastry cream. This is perhaps the simplest version. (To halve the recipe, use 3 egg yolks, ½ cup milk, 2 ½ Tbsp sugar, 2 Tbsp cornstarch or 3 Tbsp flour, and a pinch of salt)

Ingredients & Equipment:

  • 6 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup raw whole milk or light cream
  • ⅓ cup Rapadura or white cane sugar
  • 3 ½ Tbsp Organic cornstarch (or 6 Tbsp flour or tapioca starch)
  • pinch Unrefined sea salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract,* or to taste.
  • medium bowl
  • egg whisk
  • 2-quart enameled cast iron saucepan or double boiler

* NOTE:  2 tsp Brandy, Grand Marnier or other liqueur can be used to flavor the pastry cream, instead of vanilla extract.


  1. Warm egg yolks to room temperature and beat lightly with egg whip. Add sugar, cornstarch (or flour), pinch of salt, and whisk to combine.
  2. Scald milk in enameled saucepan or top of double boiler, until steam gathers just above the surface.
  3. Spoon a third of the milk into the eggy mixture, whisking to combine, then whisk the eggy mixture back into the remaining scalded milk in the saucepan.  If using liqueur, whisk in at this time.
  4. Cook over very low heat (or in top of double boiler over simmering water), stirring rapidly with the whisk, until the mixture is thickened and smooth.  Do not allow it to boil.
  5. Remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla (if using)
  6. Press a sheet of waxed paper against the entire surface of the custard (to prevent a skin from forming).

Pastry Cream III

This is the classic French pastry cream, and  is adapted from and  If your eggs are small or medium, use 4 yolks instead of 3.  Makes about 1 cup.

Ingredients & Equipment:

  • 1 ¼ cups raw whole milk or light cream
  • ½ vanilla bean
  • 3 large egg yolks, room temperature
  • ¼ cup Rapadura or white cane sugar (or a scant 1/4 tsp stevia extract powder)
  • 2 Tbsp unbleached white flour
  • scant 3 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 tsp brandy or liqueur (optional)
  • 5 – 6 tsp butter, in bits (optional)
  • 2-quart enameled cast iron saucepan or double boiler
  • large bowl for ice bath
  • medium bowl, preferably with lip
  • waxed paper
  • egg whisk


  1. Pour milk into enameled cast iron saucepan or top of double boiler.  Halve the vanilla bean, scoop seeds into the milk and add the pod as well.  Scald over medium heat until steam gathers at the surface; don’t let it boil.  Remove from heat.
  2. Whisk yolks and sugar (or stevia) together in medium bowl. (Don’t let it sit too long). Whisk in flour and cornstarch.
  3. Carefully pour a third of the hot milk into the egg mixture while whisking constantly (you don’t want to cook or curdle the egg).
  4. Whisk this mixture into the remaining hot milk in the saucepan or double boiler.  Bring to a boil for 1 to 2 minutes, whisking constantly to keep from scorching.  The mixture will thicken.
  5. Immediately remove from heat and strain through a fine sieve over a medium bowl.  Allow the pastry cream to cool slightly, then whisk in the liqueur (if using) and the optional bits of butter.
  6. Cover with waxed paper pressed against the surface of the pastry cream, or brush on a thin layer of melted butter (to keep a crust from forming) and allow to cool to room temperature over optional ice bath.*   Allow custard to cool to room temperature, then remove from ice bath and store in refrigerator.
  7. When ready to use, whisk with egg whip until smooth.

* Optional ice bath: Fill a large bowl with ice cubes halfway.  Set bowl of custard over the ice and add water to the ice bath.

Light Pastry Cream

This is light and fluffy in texture, not light in calories, and is excellent filling for cream puffs.

Ingredients & Equipment:

  • 1 recipe pastry cream
  • ½ – ¾ cup raw heavy cream or whipping cream
  • small bowl, chilled
  • egg whisk or hand mixer


  1. Prepare pastry cream (as above) and allow to cool.
  2. Whip the cream in small chilled bowl to soft peaks.
  3. Fold into cooled pastry cream with vanilla or liqueur.

Chocolate Pastry Cream

  • 1 recipe pastry cream
  • 2 oz bittersweet chocolate *

*alternately use 6 oz unsweetened cocoa, and stir into cream after cooling.

  1. Break or chop chocolate into small pieces.
  2. If using Pastry Cream I, add chocolate to hot milk before adding other ingredients to melt the chocolate.
  3. If using pastry Cream II, you must heat the milk with the chocolate before pouring it into the sugar/starch mixture.

Coffee Pastry Cream

  • 1 recipe pastry cream
  • 1 Tbsp extra-strong coffee or espresso

Stir coffee into pastry cream after cooked


  1. Wonderful Wonderful Danish Cooking, by Ingeborg Dahl Jensen
  2. Cooks (,1937,151169-228197,00.html)
  3. Joy of Baking recipe (
  4. E-How recipe (
  5. The Art of Fine Baking by Paula Peck
  6. Italian Food (about) (
  7. Mastering the Art of French Cooking, by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck

About Cat

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