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Classic Pastry Cream

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Pastry cream is a rich thick creamy custard made by heating milk, sugar, eggs, cornstarch and some flavouring. 

In only 15 minutes you can have a full bowl of delicious pastry cream you can use for filling cream puffs or eclairs, layer the cakes, fill the fruit tarts or doughnuts or make amazing vanilla slices.

We like to make desserts with pastry cream and have a selection of recipes using it. Why not to check out classic cream puffs.

What we need for making classic pastry cream

Pastry cream is a delicious creamy custard and for making it we need following ingredients: 

  • MILK AND HEAVY CREAM: we used this combo to get richer cream but you can use also only whole milk - the result will be great

  • EGG YOLKS: they gives texture and richness to the cream as well as thickens the whole mixture

  • CASTER OR BROWN SUGAR: for sweetness and texture we used this kind of sugar, but it will work also with some brown sugar

  • CORNSTARCH: it plays role of thickening agent. Some recipes use combination a mix of flour and cornstrach or only flour, but we like to use only cornstarch to avoid floury taste of pastry cream.

  • LEMON ZEST: to add refreshing citrus flavour, we added some lemon peel to the milk when heated. This way the essential oils from the zest flavoured the milk.

  • VANILLA BEAN OR VANILLA BEAN PASTE: use either whole vanilla bean (cut the bean in half lengthways then scrape out the seeds and cook both in the milk) or vanilla bean paste which has warm vanilla flavour and dark vanilla seeds which gives small dark spots in the cream.

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How to make classic pastry cream

Making pastry cream is easy but you must follow some rules to get a perfect result. First it's important to have all the ingredients at room temperature. 

  1. Heating milk/cream: The process start with combining milk and cream is a heavy-based saucepan (add lemon peel and vanilla bean if using) and heating on a medium heat until it just start to simmer

  2. Whisking egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch: Place egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch in a heatproof bowl and whisk until you get a smooth texture.

  3. Tempering the eggs: Remove the lemon peel from the milk then start pouring slowly milk to the egg mixture while whisking all the time the mixture to temper the eggs.

  4. Cooking the pastry cream: Pour back the mixture to the saucepan and cook over a medium heat, whisking vigorously with a hand whisk. The cream should start to thicken in 1-2 minutes. Let the cream start to bubble then whisk again. Remove the cream from the heat. 

    EXTRA TIP! To get smoother pastry cream, we suggest to pass it through the fine sieve as soon as it is cooked. 

Storing pastry cream

The pastry cream needs to be cooled down. The best way to store pastry cream in an airtight container, with cling film or buttered baking paper placed directly on the surface (to prevent forming a skin), and refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Don't leave it at room temperature, as it contains eggs and butter. You can make a pastry cream ahead of time for your desserts.

Classic Pastry Cream

SERVES: 2 servings
COOKS IN: 15 minutes


  • 400ml (1 2/3 cup) whole milk
  • 120ml (1/2 cup) heavy whipping cream
  • lemon peel from 1 lemon
  • 4 large egg yolks, from the fridge
  • 55g (1/4 cup) caster (fine) sugar
  • 30g (1/4 cup) cornstarch
  • 1 whole vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste


  1. If using whole vanilla bean, halve it using a sharp knife and scrape out the seeds.

  2. Place the milk, heavy whipping cream, vanilla bean (if using) and lemon zest in a medium saucepan and bring just to the boil. Remove from the heat, pick up lemon peel and vanilla bean from the milk.

  3. While the milk is heated, whisk together eggs yolks, sugar and cornstarch in a medium heatproof bowl, until you get a smooth texture without any lumps.

  4. Slowly pour about half of the milk mixture in a thin stream into the egg mixture, whisking constantly to temper the eggs. As soon as the milk starts to bubble, remove it from the heat.  

  5. Return the egg mixture back to the pan and cook gently on a low heat, whisking constantly until it start to thickens - about 2 - 3 minutes. Once it thickens, continue to whisk, pausing every few seconds allowing the mixture to bubble for a while, then continue to whisk (1-2 minutes).

  6. Remove from the heat and strain immediately the cream through a fine sieve into a bowl. Add vanilla bean paste at this moment if using. Cover the cream with cling film, pressing directly onto the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming.

  7. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.

  8. Serve in glass bowls or use for preparing desserts.

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