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Basic Pastry Cream, Food Gyps

Basic Pastry Cream

One of the staples of the sweet side of the kitchen, this Basic Pastry Cream, or Creme Patissiere recipe will serve you well. A smooth, creamy filling for layer cakes, cream puffs, or doughnuts, it’s the bechamel sauce of the pastry kitchen. Easy to make and extraordinarily versatile, this is a recipe you really can’t go wrong with!

Lemon Cake & Lemon Pastry Crea-Food,Gypsy

Basic Pastry Skills

Infinitely simple, Pastry Cream combines just five ingredients: milk, vanilla sugar, egg yokes, and cornstarch to a smooth creamy consistency that sets when cooled. From the basic, or Vanilla Pastry Cream recipe you can create a world of flavour to make your perfect filling, or smooth, creamy dessert.

For spring flavour, I’ve infused the milk with lemon zest for a bright colour and flavour.  As I was working with a dense, but under-sweet lemon cake, I opted for a measure of white cholate, which we melt into our Creme Patissiere once complete, but still hot, then whisked to combine.

Basic Pastry Cream - Food Gypsy

Imagine the Possibilities!

Maybe you’re in a deep, dark chocolate mood! You can add chocolate in the same manner, melting into the basic pastry cream while hot, or you can add cocoa powder, as a dry additive at the same point. Similar result, different ingredients.

Craving a beautiful fruit filling to offset a vanilla cake? Add fresh fruit or fruit preserves once your pastry cream is set, and cold.  Before whisking again to loosen the mixture just add your fruit or jam at the same time.  Voila. Fruity Creme Patissiere.

Keep it simple

I’ve read so many recipes for basic Pastry Cream that calls for tempering your hot and cold. Tempering is when we add a bit of the cold to the hot (or vice versa) so as not to warm gradually.  This is a step you can skip for pastry cream.  It’s not necessary, because you’re mixing your cornstarch with your eggs and sugar. Cornstarch is activated by heat, so it won’t thicken until you return it to the stove. No lumps, no scrambled egg texture.  It’s not a custard.

Likewise for straining the final result before you cool, not needed if you’ve done your whisking! The only exception to that rule is when you infuse with citrus zest.  I like to leave it in for bright citrus texture, but some strain it out.

Simple is best. Less mess. Less stress. More magnificent results!

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Basic Pastry Cream, Food Gyps

Basic Pastry Cream

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  • Author: Cori Horton
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 2 cups 1x


Basic Pastry Cream or Creme Patissiere, a smooth, creamy filling for layer cakes, cream puffs, or doughnuts, it’s easy to make and extraordinarily versatile. This is a recipe you really can’t go wrong with!


Units Scale
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla or one vanilla bean, split
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 egg yokes
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch


  1. Add milk to small, heavy-bottomed pot. Add vanilla and any infusion ingredients (zest, etc, see note). Bring to a medium simmer over medium heat.
  2. While milk is on the stove secure a good-sized bowl with a damp cloth on your counter or cutting board and add your sugar.  Sperate eggs, reserve whites (great for tomorrow’s breakfast) and add yokes to sugar.  Whisk to cream together, until sugar is dissolved and you have a light, smooth, golden blond paste.
  3.  Add cornstarch to egg-sugar mixture and whisk until smooth.
  4. Remove vanilla pod if using.  If infusing with zest you can strain your milk as you add it to the eggs to remove the zest. (Personally, I love the tangy bite of zest in pastry cream, so I leave it in.) Add hot milk, one-third at a time, whisking continually, until incorporated fully into eggs then pour the mixture back into the pot and return to medium heat.
  5. Whisk as the mixture comes to a low boil, thickening as it heats.  Be sure to whisk around the edges, and right down to the bottom to get all the cornstarch incorporated into your pastry cream.
  6. Remove from heat.  Pour off hot pastry cream into medium-sized, clean bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, directly on the pastry cream to prevent ‘skin’ from forming.  Chill in refrigerator, one-hour minimum.
  7. Remove from fridge.  Pastry cream will be ‘set’ in a solid mass.  Whisk to break down to a creamy consistency once again so that it is easily mailable, spreadable or pipeable.


Chocolate Pastry Cream:  Add 3 – 4 tablespoons cocoa powder or finely chopped chocolate to the final pastry cream, while still hot. Whisk to combine.

Lemon White Chocolate Pastry Cream: infuse milk with zest of one lemon.  Add 1/4 cup chopped white chocolate to final pastry cream while still hot. As chocolate melts, whisk in white chocolate to combine.

Citrus Pastry Cream: infuse milk with about 1 tablespoon freshly grated citus zest. Try orange, pink grapefruit, lime, or lemon.

Raspberry, Blueberry, Strawberry, Cherry, Mango, Banana or Peach Pastry Cream: Add up to 1/4 cup of fresh berries or fruit to COLD pastry cream.  Use finely chopped fruit (strawberries or peaches), try lightly crushed fruit (raspberries or blueberries), your favourite jam (any fruit) or fruit puree (mango, banana)

Use your imagination.

  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Category: Desserts
  • Method: Cooking
  • Cuisine: French

Cori Horton

Cooking in her home kitchen just outside Ottawa, Canada; Cori Horton is a food photographer and recipe blogger. A Cordon Bleu-trained Chef, Cori spent five years as the owner of Nova Scotia's Dragonfly Inn and has been sharing all things delicious - right here - since 2010.

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