The Ultimate and Easy Pastry Cream Filling Recipe Guide: Elevate Your Desserts

Easy Pastry Cream Filling Recipe - Chef Jean-Pierre Pastry cream, or crème pâtissière, is the heart of many classic desserts. Its velvety texture and rich flavor make it a favorite among dessert enthusiasts. Whether you’re a seasoned baker or just starting out, mastering the art of making the perfect pastry cream filling is essential. In this guide, !’ll walk you through a foolproof and easy pastry cream filling recipe, share expert tips, and explore delightful variations to elevate your dessert game.

Easy Pastry Cream Filling Recipe Pastry cream is a timeless classic that deserves a spot in every baker’s repertoire. With my detailed guide, expert tips, and delightful variations, you’re well-equipped to create the most luscious desserts. Whether you’re piping it into éclairs, layering it in tarts, or enjoying it on its own, this pastry cream is sure to impress.

Pastry Cream Filling Recipe Video

How to make Pastry Cream

Easy Pastry Cream Filling Recipe

chef jean pierre 200x200 2Chef Jean-Pierre
Pastry Cream, also known as Creme Patissiere, is a versatile and essential component in many French desserts. It's a rich and creamy custard that can be used to fill pastries, donuts, tarts, and more. This recipe will guide you through making a smooth and delicious pastry cream that will elevate your desserts to the next level.
4.54 from 15 votes
Course Dessert
Cuisine French
Servings 2 cups approximately

Recipe Ingredients

  • 2 cups Whole Milk
  • 3 large Eggs Yolks
  • 1/2 cup Granulated Sugar
  • 5 tablespoons Cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons Unsalted Butter
  • 1 teaspoon Tahitian Vanilla Extract
  • A pinch of Salt

Recipe Instructions

Step 1. Prepare the EggMixture:

  • In a mixing bowl, combine the eggs with a portion of the sugar (about a quarter of the total sugar). This will make it easier to temper the eggs with the hot milk later on.
    Easy Pastry Cream Filling Recipe -combine eggs with portion of the sugar

Step 2. Warm the Milk: 

  • In a saucepan, combine the milk with the remaining sugar. Warm the mixture until it's about to boil.
    Easy Pastry Cream Filling Recipe - combine milk with remaining sugar

Step 3. Mix the Cornstarch and Add Flavorings: 

    (Pro Tip)

    • Before adding the cornstarch, dilute it in a separate bowl In about ¼ cup of milk (no need to measure), and dissolve the cornstarch, stirring it into the milk creating a slurry.  Jean-Pierre did not do this on camera, however, if you do it will make it easier to have a lump-free mixture.

    Step 3. (continued)

    • Add the cornstarch and a pinch of salt to the egg mixture. Mix until smooth.
    •  Add the vanilla extract to the mixture.
      Easy Pastry Cream Filling Recipe - Add the vanilla extract

    Step 4. Temper the Eggs:

    • Slowly pour a small amount of the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. (About 2 ladles worth) This process is called tempering and prevents the eggs from scrambling when introduced to the hot milk
      Easy Pastry Cream Filling Recipe - pour small amount of hot milk into the egg
    • Continue adding the hot milk gradually until the egg mixture is warmed.

    Step 5. Cook the Pastry Cream: 

    • While whisking the milk, pour the tempered egg mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining hot milk.
      Easy Pastry Cream Filling Recipe - pour tempered egg mixture into milk
    • Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens. This will happen quickly, so be attentive.
      Easy Pastry Cream Filling Recipe - Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly

    Step 6. Add the Butter: 

    • The very moment the mixture has thickened and come to a slight boil, whisk in your butter fast so it doesn’t separate, and remove the pot from the heat.
      Easy Pastry Cream Filling Recipe whisk in your butter

    Step 7. Cool the Pastry Cream:

    • Transfer the hot pastry cream to a bowl.
      Easy Pastry Cream Filling Recipe - Transfer the hot pastry cream to a bowl
    • Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming. You can then place another plastic wrap over the top of the bowl if you choose to prevent your pastry cream from absorbing and odor from the refrigerator.
      Easy Pastry Cream Filling Recipe -place plastic wrap directly on the pastry cream
    • Allow the pastry cream to cool at room temperature for about an hour. Then transfer it to the refrigerator to chill for at least 2 hours or, ideally, overnight. This will give you the perfect consistency for piping into pastries or using in desserts.

    Step 8. Final Touches:

    • The next day, remove the plastic wrap from the pastry cream. It should be smooth and creamy.
      Easy Pastry Cream Filling Recipe- remove plastic wrap from pastry cream
    • Give it a quick mix to smooth out any lumps. If desired, transfer the pastry cream to a pastry bag for easy piping into desserts.

    Serving Suggestions:

    • Your pastry cream is now ready to use. You can pipe it into donuts, use it as a tart filling, or enjoy it in a variety of other delightful desserts from éclairs to Napoleons. It's the perfect creamy complement to your sweet creations.  
      This homemade pastry cream is a versatile and delightful addition to your dessert repertoire. Its silky texture and rich flavor will elevate any pastry or sweet treat you make. Enjoy!



        1. Chocolate Pastry Cream: Adjustment:

        • Add 100g (3.5 oz) of finely chopped dark chocolate or chocolate chips.


        • Prepare the basic pastry cream recipe until the milk is heated.
        • Once the milk is hot, remove from heat and stir in the chopped chocolate until fully melted and incorporated.
        •  Continue with the original recipe, tempering the egg mixture and combining everything.

        2. Coffee Pastry Cream: Adjustment:

        • Add 2 tablespoons of instant coffee or espresso powder.


        • Dissolve the coffee or espresso powder in the hot milk after it's been heated.
        • Continue with the original recipe, ensuring the coffee is well incorporated.

        3. Citrus Pastry Cream: Adjustment:

        • Add the zest of 1 lemon, lime, or orange.


        • Infuse the milk with the citrus zest while heating it.
        • Before combining with the egg mixture, strain the milk to remove the zest.
        • Continue with the original recipe.

        4. Almond Pastry Cream: Adjustment:

        • Add 1 teaspoon of almond extract.


        • Along with the vanilla, stir in the almond extract to the finished pastry cream while it's still hot.
        • Mix well to ensure even flavor distribution.

        5. Coconut Pastry Cream: Adjustment:

        • Replace half of the milk with coconut milk and add 50g (1.75 oz) of desiccated coconut.


        • When heating the milk, use a combination of regular milk and coconut milk.
        • Stir in the desiccated coconut after combining the egg mixture and milk.
        • Continue with the original recipe.

        6. Rum or Liqueur-InfusedPastry Cream: Adjustment:

        • Add 2-3 tablespoons of rum, Grand Marnier, or any other liqueur of choice.


        • Once the pastry cream is cooked and removed from heat, stir in the chosen liqueur.
        • Mix well to ensure the flavor is evenly distributed.

        7. Strawberry Pastry Cream: Adjustment:

        • Add 150g (5.3 oz) of strawberry puree (you can also raspberries or blueberries).


        • Prepare your chosen berry puree by blending fresh or frozen berries and straining to remove seeds.
        • Once the pastry cream is cooked and removed from heat, fold in the berry puree until well combined.

        If you like this recipe and the many flavor variations, click here for more Dessert Recipes



        20 Frequently Asked Questions About Pastry Cream Filling


        1. What is the meaning of pastry cream?

        Pastry cream, also known as “crème pâtissière” in French, is a thick custard specifically used to fill pastries, donuts, or other baked goods.


        2. What is pastry cream made of?

        Pastry cream is made from simple ingredients that you might already have in your pantry. The main ingredients include sugar, salt, milk, vanilla, butter, egg yolks, and cornstarch.


        3. How is pastry cream different from custard?

        While the terms “pastry cream” and “custard” are often used interchangeably, especially among home cooks in America, they are distinct. Both use egg yolks to thicken a milk sauce over heat. However, pastry cream includes a starch (like cornstarch) to stabilize the sauce and make it thicker than what eggs alone can achieve. This added stability and thickness make pastry cream the preferred filling for many desserts.


        4. Is Bavarian cream the same as pastry cream?

        No, they are different. While Bavarian cream and pastry cream have similar base ingredients (milk, vanilla, egg yolks, and sugar), Bavarian cream is thickened with gelatin instead of cornstarch. Additionally, Bavarian cream is lightened with whipped cream, giving it a mousse-like consistency, whereas pastry cream is thicker and creamier.


        5. How do you store pastry cream?

        Pastry cream can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5-7 days. It should be placed in an airtight container with plastic wrap pressed directly onto the surface to prevent a film from forming.

        It is not recommended you freeze pastry cream as it can alter its texture, making it runny and watery.


        6. Can I use brown sugar in my pastry cream?

        Yes, brown sugar can be used in pastry cream to give it a caramel-like, deep flavor. However, it’s an untraditional choice, and you can substitute it with white sugar if you prefer.


        7. Why is my pastry cream lumpy?

        Lumps can form in pastry cream if it’s not stirred constantly during the cooking process. Using a flat whisk can help avoid lumps as it reaches the corners of the pot effectively. If lumps do form, straining the custard through a fine sieve can help achieve a smooth texture.


        8. How do I achieve the perfect consistency for pastry cream?

        Cooking the pastry cream mixture over medium heat and stirring constantly until it thickens is crucial. The mixture is ready when a whisk leaves clear marks on the top as you drag it across. Using a thermometer can also help; the mixture should reach 200 degrees Fahrenheit for the ideal consistency.


        9. What can I do with leftover pastry cream?

        Leftover pastry cream can be used in various ways. You can serve it in a bowl topped with whipped cream, add cut-up fruits, layer it between graham crackers, add it to a pie, or even mix it with crushed cookies or candy bits.


        10. How is pastry cream used in desserts?

        Pastry cream is a versatile filling used in many desserts. It can be used in Bavarian Cream Donuts, cream puffs, eclairs, layered in puff pastry, piped into cupcakes, used as a filling for fruit tarts, blended with whipped cream to create Crème Légère, and even added to buttercream frosting for a rich taste.


        11. Why is my pastry cream filling not thickening?

        The thickness of pastry cream filling is achieved by the combination of egg yolks and cornstarch. If it’s not thickening, it might not have been cooked long enough or at the right temperature. Ensure you cook it over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it reaches the desired consistency.


        12. Can I make pastry cream without cornstarch?

        Cornstarch is essential for stabilizing and thickening pastry cream. If you don’t have cornstarch, you can try using other starches like arrowroot or potato starch, but the results might vary.


        13. Is pastry cream filling gluten-free?

        Yes, traditional pastry cream made with cornstarch is gluten-free. However, always check the labels of all ingredients to ensure they don’t contain any gluten or were processed in a facility with gluten-containing products.


        14. Can I make dairy-free pastry cream filling?

        Traditional pastry cream recipes use whole milk. If you’re looking for a dairy-free version, you can try substituting the milk with almond milk, coconut milk, or other dairy-free alternatives. However, the texture and taste might vary.


        15. Why did my pastry cream curdle?

        Pastry cream can curdle if the eggs are cooked too quickly or at a high temperature. To prevent this, it’s essential to temper the eggs by gradually adding the hot milk to the egg mixture while constantly whisking. This ensures the eggs don’t get cooked instantly and curdle.


        16. Can I flavor my pastry cream filling?

        Yes, while vanilla is the traditional flavor for pastry cream, you can experiment with other flavors like chocolate, coffee, citrus zest, or even spices like cinnamon or nutmeg.

        Refer to my recipe above for 7 popular pastry cream filling flavor variations.


        17. How do I make my pastry cream lighter?

        If you want a lighter version of pastry cream, you can fold in whipped cream to the chilled pastry cream. This mixture, known as Crème Légère, has a lighter and creamier consistency, perfect for certain desserts.


        18. Can I use pastry cream as a base for other desserts?

        Absolutely! Pastry cream can be used as a base for various desserts. You can flavor it, mix it with other ingredients, or use it as a filling or topping for cakes, pies, tarts, and more.


        19. Is there a vegan version of pastry cream filling?

        Traditional pastry cream uses egg yolks and dairy milk. For a vegan version, you can use dairy-free milk alternatives and replace the egg yolks with silken tofu or other vegan thickeners. However, the texture and taste might be different from the traditional version.


        20. Can I use alternative sweeteners in pastry cream filling instead of granulated sugar?

        Yes, you can use alternative sweeteners in pastry cream. Depending on your dietary needs or preferences, you can substitute granulated sugar with honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, or even sugar substitutes like stevia or erythritol.

        However, it’s essential to note that each sweetener may impart a different flavor and sweetness level to the pastry cream. When substituting, start with a smaller amount and adjust to taste.

        Additionally, liquid sweeteners like honey or maple syrup may slightly alter the consistency, so you might need to adjust the amount of cornstarch to achieve the desired thickness.

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