Classic Crème Pâtissière (Vanilla Pastry cream filling) is a creamy custard that is the perfect filling for your cakes, eclairs, donuts, cream puffs, fruit tarts, etc. It has a super silky texture and delicious creamy flavor loaded with vanilla bean. My easy pastry cream recipe is rich, buttery, custardy, sweet but not overly sweet, you will love it!
- What is pastry cream (Crème pâtissière)
- Why this is the best recipe
- Ingredient notes
- 5 Expert tips to make Crème pâtissière filling
- Pastry cream Troubleshooting
- How to make pastry cream gluten-free
- How to flavour Crème Pâtissière
- Recipes to use pastry cream
- 🍰 More Cream recipes
- RECIPE CARD
- Professional Crème Pâtissière (Pastry cream filling)
What is pastry cream (Crème pâtissière)
Crème pâtissière, also known as pastry cream or ‘crème pât’, is a rich, creamy custard that is thickened with egg yolk and starch and/or flour. It is super silky, creamy, melt in your mouth, extremely delicious! Pastry cream is the key ingredient of many French desserts such as fruit tarts, mille-feuille, or choux pastry eg. cream puffs, eclairs, or profiteroles. It can be also used to fill donuts or just pipe on anything! Pastry cream is traditionally flavored with vanilla bean, but it works perfectly with many other flavors like chocolate, coffee, hazelnut praline, etc.
Crème pâtissière is also the base of other custard-like creams
- Crème Diplomat: Crème Diplomat - also called Bavarian cream - is a lighter version of the French Pastry Cream (Crème Pâtissière). Basically, it is Crème Pâtissière with added whipped cream and gelatin (optionally). Whipped cream makes it lighter and fluffier and the gelatin makes it more stable. Gelatin is not strongly needed, depending on the type of cake.
- Crème Mousseline: Crème Mousseline is classic Pastry Cream enriched with fluffy butter that makes the pastry cream extra rich and also more stable to pipe kind of like buttercream but way more delicious.
Why this is the best recipe
- It is rather easy – As fancy as it sounds, making this pastry cream is extremely easy and quick! The one part you need to pay attention to is cooking the cream for long enough so it thickens, but I will teach you how to do it, keep on reading
- It is super delicious – I never compromise on taste! My pastry cream has the most luxurious vanilla bean taste that is creamy, silky, wonderfully pipeable, and the perfect texture to fill your donuts, cream puffs, etc. It is rich, but very well balanced in sweetness and sugar is not overpowering its vanilla custard taste! You will love it!
- It is an honest, detailed tutorial – While this recipe might look long, all the information - incl. a Troubleshooting - I have written here, every tip and trick will help you achieve the perfect results without any issues on the way. Remember, baking is science, and every little detail written here is to help YOU!
- Milk: Use high-fat content milk, the highest you can get! It makes a huge difference when it comes to the deepness of the taste
- Sugar: Simple, white granulated sugar is perfectly fine
- Egg: Some pastry cream recipes call for whole egg however I strongly advise using egg yolk only for the best texture and flavor. Perhaps try my pavlova recipe if you want to use up your egg whites? Another, maybe not so obvious note is that the color of your egg yolk will dictate the color of your pastry cream. Farm eggs make super yellow pastry cream, on the other hand, supermarket eggs are usually way paler
- Flour: Flour is one of the thickening agents in this pastry cream recipe, use All-purpose flour. No, it won’t taste like flour!
- Starch: Corn starch is the other thickening agent in the recipe, theoretically you could only use flour OR only starch however I prefer 50%-50%. If using starch only, it will become a gluten-free pastry cream
- Vanilla: Vanilla is THE heart of making pastry cream! Avoid using artificial vanilla. I personally love to make my own vanilla extract. Alternatively use vanilla sugar.
- Butter: Always use unsalted butter as you want to be in control of the quality of the salt. In my recipes, I always use 82% European-style butter. Room temperature is key here. If too cold, it won’t incorporate properly. If too hot/liquid, it will make the pastry cream runny
🛒 You’ll find detailed measurements for all Ingredients in the printable version of the Recipe Card at the bottom of this post
5 Expert tips to make Crème pâtissière filling
It’s a super simple recipe and comes together in a few minutes. You don’t have to overthink, however, there are some important notes worth considering to make sure that your pastry cream will turn out exactly as you wish for, smooth, silky, and creamy having the right texture and consistency.
1. How mix the ingredients
As a first step of making Crème Pâtissière, you will need to mix all the ingredients together (except milk) into a smooth paste. Smooth is key here to avoid lumps and bits of starch and/or flour later in your pastry cream.
- In a large enough bowl with the help of a Hand whisk, whisk together sugar and room temp egg yolk first for a minute or two until the mixture slightly increases in volume. No need to fully whip it, 1-2 minutes is ok
- When the mixture is already foamy, sift (sifting is important to avoid lumps) in corn starch and flour and whisk throughout until you achieve a smooth paste. If the paste is not smooth enough you might end up with flour bits in the pastry cream and we want to avoid that
Make sure, that you mix these ingredients while milk is already heating up as the paste can get dry out quickly.
2. How to temper egg yolk
You might wonder why not heat all ingredients together and cook until it thickens? Because we don´t want to end up with milky scrambled eggs. How to avoid it? After you are ready with your smooth egg yolk paste, you will need to temper it with simmering milk in order to reduce the chances of scrambled eggs.
Tempering the egg yolk mixture is super easy but like with everything in baking, you have to be precise. It's very important that you heat up the milk over medium heat just until simmering. You have to wait until it starts simmering so that the milk reaches a high enough temperature to temper the egg yolk. Equally, it's also important to remove the milk from the stove as soon as it is simmering to avoid too hot temperature which would cook the egg yolks, and again, you would end up with a scrambled egg.
So once the smooth egg yolk & flour paste is ready and milk is simmering, slowly but constantly pour warm milk over the egg yolk mixture (that is why you need a big enough bowl). While tempering the egg yolk mixture, make sure you whisk it vigorously. You will be using both of your hands at the same time so it might require some practice. Or, if making it the first time, it is a good idea to place the bowl with the egg yolk mixture over a kitchen towel to prevent slipping.
3. How to cook Crème Pâtissière
After tempering the egg yolk, pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook it over medium heat for a few minutes until it thickens.
While cooking the Crème pâtissière, you absolutely have to whisk the mixture all the time. It is normal to get some lumps in the cream once as it is reaching a higher temp, but don't worry, just keep whisking and the cream will get smooth and glossy. Cook the mixture whisking vigorously for about 1 min after the first boil.
Once you are happy with the consistency of the pastry cream (it has thickened and you cooked for min 1 minute), remove it from the stove. It is not a must, but feel free to strain your Crème Pâtissière over a sieve in the case of doubt regarding lumps.
Wait for a few minutes, let it cool slightly, then mix in soft room temp butter in 3 steps mixing throughout after each step. Soft butter is key here. Cold butter won´t incorporate properly into the pastry cream and you might end up with butter chunks. In the meantime, avoid last-minute butter microwaving as melted butter is also difficult to incorporate into the pastry cream. Also, you have to incorporate the butter chunks in steps, do not place all the butter in at once, or butter might separate from the cream and stay too liquid.
Tip: It's worth keeping a good quality small/medium-sized saucepan for making pastry cream, so that the milk won't burn in it.
4. How to store pastry cream
Place the Crème Pâtissière into a large and shallow container and cover the entire surface with plastic wrap to avoid skin forming on top. You can use it according to the recipe, or store it in the fridge for a few days. Do not freezer pastry cream, it would ruin its consistency.
Please note that pastry cream tends to firm up in the fridge and you might even experience some lumps in it the next day. Don't panic, just give it a few whisks to achieve a smooth, silky, pipeable consistency. Make sure it is only a few whisks, do not overbeat it in a stand mixer as pastry cream can become runny if over-beaten.
Pastry cream Troubleshooting
Pastry cream is too runny
There is nothing more disappointing than ending up with a pastry cream that is super delicious but its consistency is too runny to fill your desserts. You can save runny pastry cream by either incorporating quite a lot of creamed butter into it or leaving it as it is and using it for desserts that can be spooned like a dessert in a glass.
Mistakes & Solutions for runny pastry cream:
- Ingredients measured inappropriate eg. not enough flour or starch in the recipe. Make sure you measure all your ingredients with a Digital scale
- The mixture is cooked only briefly. Make sure you cook the Crème Pâtissière for at least a minute after the first boil
- Starch and/flour are not incorporated properly with egg yolk. While making the paste with the egg yolk make sure you mix it until you achieve a smooth, thick paste
- Butter mixed in either too firm or too liquid (melted). Make sure butter is at room temp when mixing in, that ensures proper emulsification
- Maybe the consistency is thick but not thick enough. Please note that the consistency of this pastry cream is thick enough to pipe, fille tartlets but not super thick for example to make a custard slice cake
Pastry cream is too firm
Mistakes & Solutions for too firm pastry cream:
- This is not a common mistake but can happen when ingredients measured inappropriate eg. too much flour or starch in the recipe. Make sure you measure all your ingredients with a Digital scale. You can loosen up your thick pastry cream by gently folding in some lightly whipped cream
Pastry cream has flour / starch bits
Mistakes & Solutions for pastry cream that has flour/starch bits:
- Probably the starch and/flour are not incorporated properly with egg yolk. While making the paste with the egg yolk, make sure you mix it until you achieve a smooth, thick paste. Also sifting these ingredients really helps to incorporate them with the egg yolk. If your pastry cream is not silky enough and has flour/starch bits after cooking, there is not much you can do apart from hand blending it for a few seconds
Pastry cream has lumps
Mistakes & Solutions for pastry cream that has lumps:
- This happens when you don´t whisk the cream enough while cooking. It can be fixed by whisking the mixture after it is cooked or run it through a sieve
Pastry cream has unpleasant flour / starch taste
Mistakes & Solutions for pastry cream that has unpleasant starch taste:
- If you pastry cream has an unpleasant starch taste, the cream was cooked only briefly. Make sure that you cook the Crème Pâtissière for at least a minute after the first boil. Next time cook it for longer time
Pastry cream burnt
Mistakes & Solutions for burnt pastry cream:
- I actually had this issue all the time until I purchased a high quality "milk pan" that I only use to cook pastry cream and other creams for baking
How to make pastry cream gluten-free
Making gluten-free Crème Pâtissière is super simple! Leave out the flour and replace it 1:1 with corn starch. Easy peasy!
How to flavour Crème Pâtissière
Pastry cream is super versatile and can be made in many different flavors by using chocolate, coffee, nut paste eg. hazelnut paste, or even milk infusions eg. lavender or cinnamon stick.
Chocolate pastry cream
It is super easy to turn this vanilla bean pastry cream into a chocolate version. Cook pastry cream as explained above, in the meantime, melt 100g chocolate. Pour warm pastry cream over the melted chocolate and fold together. Since chocolate is solid at room temp, I suggest reducing the amount of thickening ingredients to half (so use only half of the corn starch+flour). You might also want to consider adjusting the quantity of the sugar slightly. Whether you are using dark chocolate or milk chocolate, you might want to add more or less sugar into the initial pastry cream recipe.
Coffee pastry cream
Coffee pastry cream is another popular version, actually my favorite! I like to flavor the classic pastry cream with 50g freshly brewed coffee. This quantity of coffee gives a super delicious coffee character to the cream. Since coffee will be an extra wet ingredient to the recipe, I recommend reducing the milk by the same quantity.
Recipes to use pastry cream
🍰 More Cream recipes
Professional Crème Pâtissière (Pastry cream filling)
US customary cup measurement is an indicative figure only. Measure the ingredients with a digital scale by weight (gram). Baking is art but also science which requires precision and accuracy.
- In a large enough bowl, with the help of a Hand whisk, whick together sugar and egg yolk until slightly fluffy for about 1-2 minutes
- Whisk in corn starch, flour, and vanilla with until thoroughly incorporated and have a smooth paste
- Bring milk to boil in a saucepan on medium heat then remove it as soon as it starts simmering. Make sure it is simmering but not crazy boiling
- Pour the warm milk over the egg yolk mixture slowly while whisking vigorously with a Hand whisk. This stage is effectively tempering the egg yolks and the mixture should already start to slightly thicken
- Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook on medium heat for a few minutes until it thickens. Concretely it is approximately 1 min after the first boil. It might get lumpy first, don't worry just keep whisking and the cream will get smooth and glossy. It's worth to keep a good quality (so that the milk won't burn in it) small/medium sized saucepan for making pastry cream only
- If in doubt, strain the pastry cream for a lump free, creamy end result
- Add in room temperature soft butter and mix with a Rubber spatula until completely incorporated. It is worth to add the butter in 3 stages and mix well after each addition.
- Pastry cream needs to completely cool before using it for desserts. Place the cream into a shallow bowl and cover the entire surface with plastic wrap to avoid skin forming on top. Store in fridge for 2-3 days
- Once cooled, you may need to whisk the pastry cream again to get a smooth texture. Make sure you do not over mix it as it can get runny. Give it a few whisk only until smooth. Use it to fill tarts, eclairs, cakes etc
- Measure your ingredients with a Digital scale for accuracy
- Good quality butter and pure vanilla are the heart of making pastry cream. Use high-quality 82% fat content European butter and the best quality vanilla you can access
- Fresh, farm eggs will provide bright yellow color cream, while cheaper supermarket eggs will result in a pale cream
- Make sure you read my Expert tips section above to maximize your success. A short recipe alone is not able to cover all the necessary details, and science behind baking.
- Let the cream set in the fridge before using. It will further set as it cools into a silky, pipeable consistency