Pastry cream is the iconic custard you use to fill eclairs, cream puffs and fruit tarts. It’s super easy to make but beyond delicious so be forewarned. Once you try this recipe you might become addicted!
Pro Tips for the best Pastry Cream
- Using the corn starch is a bit of a cheat, you can reduce or omit it if you’re feeling the brave traditionalist.
- You can fold melted and cooled chocolate into this or add a fruit reduction, so many options!
- Don’t walk away when you’re pastry cream is over heat. Keep stirring, and make sure to hit the corner of the pot with that whisk.
- This custard can be made up to 24 hours in advance. Refrigerate until 1 hour before using. I whipped some cream up and folded it into my chilled custard to lighten the filling up, this is now called Ambassador Cream.
Frequently asked questions
Is Pastry Cream and Custard the Same?
Pastry cream is thicker than custard because there’s more starch. In some ways they can be interchangeable but pastry cream is better for tart and eclair fillings. Pastry cream is also more stable at room temperature.
What is Pastry Cream Used For?
You can put pastry cream in EVERYTHING! It’s great in eclairs and cream puffs, as the base of fruit tarts, cake fillings, and in any number of other desserts. Check out my Eclair Recipe for an amazing treat featuring pastry cream. While eclairs are typically long bars you can also pipe them in any shape! I made a batch of donut eclairs and they were basically the best thing ever!!!!
Why is my custard “rubbery” after being chilled?
After chilling your custard will set become a bit of a gelatinous solid. Don’t Panic! You’ll just need to give it a whisk, it will come back to life, be silky smooth and perfect for piping.
What can I use instead of a vanilla bean?
For a VERY similar taste with all those beautiful specks try using a vanilla bean paste. It comes in a small jar and unlike vanilla extract there’s no alcohol. For this recipe I would add a tablespoon an a half to two tablespoons of vanilla bean paste if your substituting that in. Add to the milk after scalding, and mix in. Of course you can also use vanilla extract! I would add two tablespoons to the milk after scalding.
How long will pastry cream keep for?
Pastry cream is just fine hanging out in the fridge overnight. You can stretch this to two days if needed but make sure to cover well and give it a quick whisk to break it up as it will set and loose that silky texture.
How to Make Pastry Cream
1. Cut a vanilla bean down the middle to open it then use a knife to scrape the seeds out. In a medium saucepan, heat the milk and vanilla bean by bringing it to a boil over medium heat. Immediately turn off the heat then set it aside to infuse for 15 minutes.
2. Separate the egg whites and yolks into a separate bowls. Don’t throw out those egg whites, you can use them to make a batch of Italian or Swiss meringue buttercream! Transfer the yolks into a large bowl along with 2/3 cup of sugar.
3. Whisk the yolks and sugar together until the color lightens and texture thickens.
4. Sift in the cornstarch and whisk vigorously. You don’t want any lumps remaining!
5. Whisk in 1/4 cup of the hot milk mixture until it is incorporated then slowly drizzle in the remaining hot milk mixture while whisking. This is easier if you set your bowl on a silicon mat or wrap it in a wet towel so there’s less sliding around.
6. Strain the mixture back into the saucepan.
7. Place pot over medium-high heat and cook while whisking continuously until thickened and slowly boiling. Now go ahead and remove from the heat and stir in the butter.
8. Let the custard cool slightly then pour it into a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, lightly pressing the plastic against the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Chill it for at least 2 hours or until ready to serve. If I’m using the custard to fill cream puffs or eclairs I almost ALWAYS end up whipping a cup or a cup and a half of heavy cream and fold it into the pastry cream to lighten it up and fill more pastries.
If you’ve tried this pastry cream recipe then don’t forget to rate the recipe and let me know how you got on in the comments below, I love hearing from you!
- 2 cups whole milk 473mL
- 1/2 vanilla bean split lengthwise
- 6 egg yolks
- 2/3 cup sugar 135g
- 1/4 cup cornstarch 37g
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter 15g, cold
- Cut the vanilla bean lengthwise then use a spoon or knife the scrape the seeds out. Add the milk and vanilla bean to a medium saucepan, heat then place over medium heat and bring to a boil.
- Immediately turn off the heat and set aside to infuse for 15 minutes.
- In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the cornstarch and whisk vigorously until no lumps remain.
- Whisk in 1/4 cup of the hot milk mixture until incorporated. Whisk in the remaining hot milk mixture, reserving the saucepan.
- Pour the mixture through a strainer back into the saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until thickened and slowly boiling.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the butter. Let cool slightly.
- Cover with plastic wrap, lightly pressing the plastic against the surface to prevent a skin from forming.
- Chill at least 2 hours or until ready to serve. The custard can be made up to 24 hours in advance. Refrigerate until 1 hour before using. I whipped some cream up and folded it into my chilled custard to lighten the filling up, this is now technically called diplomat cream.
- This recipe makes a good amount of custard but you can make it go further and lighten it up by folding in whipped cream. The whipped cream can be sweetened or just plain. This dreamy combination is called diplomat cream and it's quite lovely.
- Try incorporating melted and cooled chocolate for an indulgent variation.
- You can also add passion fruit juice for an amazing tropical flavor, or you can add in some other fruit reduction.
- This custard can be made up to 24 hours in advance. Refrigerate until 1 hour before using.