French Pastry Cream Recipe
This easy to make French Pastry Cream Recipe, also known as ‘crème pâtissière’, is a thick, rich custard packed full of real vanilla beans. It’s silky, not overly sweet and is an iconic custard that can be used to fill French Fruit Tarts, Chocolate Eclairs or just eaten with a spoon!
In this recipe I’ll share my fail-proof way to make Pastry Cream, my top tips for making it smooth, preventing it from splitting and how to make it perfectly pipeable.
I love French Pastry Cream because…
Pastry Cream is so delicious and is one of those recipes that everyone should know how to make. It’s so good that sometimes all you need to enjoy it is a spoon!
What makes this French Pastry Cream Recipe so good?
Pastry cream is rich! But it only requires a few basic ingredients to make. It’s a thick custard which can be adjusted to be used as something that is pipeable or thinned out to be used as a sauce. The custard is made by whisking together milk, egg yolks, sugar, corn starch sugar and the main star of the show, vanilla beans!
Note: the whole recipe, including the ingredient quantities, can be found at the bottom of this page – just scroll down to the bottom, or click the ‘Jump to Recipe’ button at the top of this post.
Let’s talk Vanilla Beans!
If you’ve never used a vanilla bean, you’re in for a treat. Although, I should say, if you don’t have access to vanilla beans, you can use vanilla bean paste, which will still give you that vanilla bean fleck throughout the pastry cream, or good quality, Pure Vanilla Extract.
I have a great Pure Vanilla Extract recipe here if you want to make your own!
What do I do with the leftover egg whites?
What can I use this French Pastry Cream Recipe in?
There are so many wonderful things you can use Pastry Cream for including:
Ingredients to make French Pastry Cream Recipe
Milk – you want to use whole milk in this recipe, not skim milk. You could use skim, but it will look a little translucent and won’t be as rich.
Vanilla – I used Madagascan vanilla beans. You’ll need to split them in half using a knife to get to the pods. That’s where all the flavor is.
Corn starch – this is used to help thicken the pastry cream. It is also gluten free so if you want to make this recipe gluten free add another2 tablespoons of corn starch in place of the flour.
All-purpose flour – this is used to thicken the pastry cream so that it can be spread or piped. Not so that it can hold it’s weight. To make a thicker pastry cream, add another 2 tbsp of all-purpose flour.
Sugar – I used granulated sugar. There’s no need to add more sugar in this recipe because it’s often sued as a creamy element in dessert that are already sweet.
Egg yolks – I used large eggs. Make sure you don’t cook your pastry cream on too high a heat otherwise it will scramble the eggs and result in a grainy pastry cream.
Butter – I used unsalted butter. Make sure your butter is cold and add it slowly to the hot custard to prevent it from splitting.
How to make French Pastry Cream
- Warm up your milk. When bubbles appear around the sides, take off the heat
- Mix the dry ingredients together
- Add the yolks and whisk
- Slowly add the milk while mixing
- Until combined
- Add back into the pot and mix
- Until thickened.
- Add butter
- Mix until completely combined.
- Sieve (optional)
- Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge
Troubleshooting: How to avoid disaster!
Go slow! You’re cooking eggs and they need a slow and low heat.
- Lumpy – ingredients not measured properly or not sieved at the end before chilling.
- Split – butter added too quickly, keep whisking, ti will eventually come together!
- Too runny – ingredients not measured properly, not cooked long enough. If you’re 100% sure you measured properly, put it back on the stove and cook until it thickens. If this doesn’t work, you haven’t measured properly.
- Eggs curdled – there’s no fixing this! This happened because the milk was either too hot or added too quickly to the egg mixture.
Commonly asked questions when making French Pastry Cream
Can I use heavy cream to make milk Pastry Cream?
You could, but it’s not necessary. Whole milk will result in an ultra-rich pastry cream.
How do I fix lumpy Pastry Cream?
If your pastry cream is lumpy (not grainy), it could be because you cooked it on too high a heat or because you didn’t mix the flour well enough. To fix this, run the cooked custard through a sieve before chilling to get rid of lumps.
What to do if your Pastry Cream is too thin?
If your pastry cream was too thin you wither didn’t cook it long enough or you measured wrong. To thicken the pastry cream, add more corn starch next time.
What to do if your Pastry Cream is too thick?
Chances are you measured wrong and added too much corn starch or flour. Add a little bit of milk to thin out the hot custard before letting it chill.
How do I thicken Pastry Cream?
This recipe uses all-purpose flour to make it thick enough to pipe but not to hold it’s shape. You can thicken it by adding another tablespoon of flour the next time you make it.
Why is my pastry cream grainy?
This can happen if you added the hot milk to the eggs too quickly and they curdled, OR it can happen if you cooked your pastry cream on too high a heat which can also cause the eggs to curdle, similar to when you scramble eggs. Even when running the pastry cream through sieve, the eggs will still be in the mixture and you need to re-make it.
Can I make Pastry Cream gluten free?
This recipe isn’t gluten free but it’s easy to do so! Simply leave out the flour and replace with 2 tbsp of extra corn starch.
Why is my Pastry Cream grey?
If you made your pastry cream in an aluminum pot your pastry cream can look grey. Use a stainless steel, copped or non-stick pot. It’s also important to use a rubber silicone lined whisk.
How do I store Pastry Cream?
Store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Never store your pastry cream outside of the fridge as it the eggs and milk will cause spoil and can cause severe food poisoning. Pastry cream can not be frozen, but the good news is, it’s so quick and easy to make you may as well make it fresh anyway!
Can I use skim milk instead of whole milk in Pastry Cream?
It is possible, but it’s best to use whole milk because it helps make the pastry cream rich. Skim milk can often lead to a translucent looking pastry cream.
How do you make Pastry Cream dairy free?
To make Pastry Cream dairy free, simply replace the milk with plant based milk and leave out the butter.
Loved this French Pastry Cream Recipe? Here are some other recipes you might like!
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Pastry Cream Recipe
Serves 2 cups
French Pastry Cream
- 2 cups (500 ml) whole milk not skim
- 1 vanilla bean or 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
- 3 tbsp corn starch
- 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 2 tbsp granulated sugar
- 6 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup (125 g) unsalted butter cubed and cold
Learn How To Make it! [VIDEO]
French Pastry Cream
- Add the milk to a medium sized saucepan and heat on medium heat.
- If using vanilla bean paste add to the milk and stir. If using a vanilla bean, use a sharp knife to carefully split the vanilla bean in half. Scrape the vanilla pods out of the beans and add to the milk. Use a silicone whisk or wooden spoon to stir until small bubbles begin showing around the sides. Take off the heat and set aside.
- Add the corn starch, flour and sugar into a large mixing bowl and use a whisk to combine. Add the egg yolks and whisk until well combined and smooth.
- Place a sieve over the bowl and add a quarter of the hot milk and then whisk immediately. Repeat these another 3 times until all the milk is in there. You want to add the milk slowly or it will scramble the eggs and make your pastry cream grainy.
- Pour the mixture back into the pot and place on medium heat. Mix continuously until it thickens. When bubbles start making their way through the thickened pastry cream turn the heat off and add 1/2 the cold butter. Whisk until well combined. Then add the remaining butter and repeat. You want to do this slowly, so the custard doesn’t split.
- Pour through the sieve into a large bowl to ensure no lumps are in it. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for a couple hours or overnight. Use a whisk to mix until smooth before using.