Pastry Cream (Crème Pâtissière)

This rich, creamy filling, pastry cream (crème pâtissière), while delicious as is, can also be flavored in an almost infinite number of ways to create the perfect complement to your cake, pie, or pastry. Make sure you have all of your ingredients and equipment on hand before you begin; once the egg yolks begin to cook, they won't wait for you to find your strainer!

20 mins
45 mins
3 cups; 5 cups with the optional whipped cream
Pastry Cream


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  1. For the silkiest pastry cream, set up a medium heat-proof bowl over an ice water bath. (Once the pastry cream comes to a full boil, you'll strain the hot pastry cream into the bowl to stop the cooking immediately and prevent it from curdling and separating.) Set the water bath aside. 

  2. In a medium-sized saucepan, stir together 2 1/2 cups (568g) of the milk, the sugar, salt, and the vanilla bean. (If you're using vanilla extract or Vanilla Bean Crush, add it at the end.) Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

  3. Meanwhile, whisk the cornstarch, flour, and egg yolks with the remaining 1/2 cup (113g) milk.

  4. Whisk some of the hot milk mixture with the egg yolks to temper them. This keeps the yolks from turning to scrambled eggs when you add them to the simmering milk.

  5. Pour the egg/milk mixture back into the remaining simmering milk. Doing this through a strainer will help prevent lumps later. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly with a whisk, until the mixture thickens and boils in the center of the saucepan. The mixture should measure 200°F on a digital thermometer.

  6. Remove from the heat and strain through a fine strainer into a bowl set in an ice bath. Stir in the butter and vanilla extract. If you're going to flavor the pastry cream with chocolate or some other flavor, this is the time to do it (see variations below).

  7. Rub a piece of butter over the surface of the cream, top with a piece of plastic wrap (make sure it touches the top of the pastry cream so it doesn't develop a skin), then refrigerate until cool.

  8. Use the chilled pastry cream as is for a cream pie or filling for éclairs. (Pastry cream that has been chilled may have to be transferred to a bowl and re-whipped to return it to a smooth consistency.) For a softer filling, fold in the whipped cream just before using. For a stabilized, sliceable pastry cream, see "tips" below for details on incorporating gelatin.

  9. Pastry cream will keep, covered in the refrigerator, for up to 5 days. After that it may start to weep.

Tips from our Bakers

  • To make stabilized pastry cream (with a thicker consistency that can hold up between cake layers or serve as a base for a fruit tart): Mix 1 packet (7g) powdered gelatin in 3 tablespoons (43g) water; set aside to let it bloom (hydrate). Prepare the pastry cream according to the instructions. Once the pastry cream comes off the heat (step 6), strain it then whisk in the bloomed gelatin, butter, and vanilla. Cool and store as described in step 7. Once the pastry cream has fully cooled, it will be thick and hold its shape, but it won't break apart or have a Jell-O-like texture. 

  • Bake it better! Watch King Arthur baker/blogger Kye Ameden demonstrate one of the techniques from this recipe: How to Make Pastry Cream

  • Butterscotch Pastry Cream: Add 1/4 teaspoon butter-rum flavor and/or 1 cup (170g) butterscotch chips to the pastry cream after straining, stirring until the chips have melted.

    Caramel Pastry Cream: Add 3/4 cup chopped caramel (213g, or 21 to 23 unwrapped individual caramels) to the hot, strained pastry cream, stirring until melted and the mixture is smooth.

    Chocolate Pastry Cream: Add 1 cup (170g) chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate to the hot, strained pastry cream, stirring until melted and the mixture is smooth.

    Hazelnut Pastry Cream: Omit the butter and increase the sugar to 3/4 cup (149g). Add 3/4 cup (234g) praline paste to the hot, strained pastry cream, stirring until combined.

    Orange Pastry Cream: Increase the sugar to 3/4 cup (149g). Add 1 teaspoon orange extract, 1/4 teaspoon orange oil, or 3 tablespoons grated orange zest to the hot, strained pastry cream.

    Peanut Butter Pastry Cream: Add 3/4 cup (203g) smooth peanut butter to the hot pastry cream, stirring until melted and the mixture is smooth. If you're using natural or freshly-made peanut butter, omit the butter from the recipe to prevent the pastry cream from becoming greasy.

    Pistachio Pastry Cream: Omit the butter and increase the sugar to 3/4 cup (149g). Add 3/4 cup (234g) pistachio paste or blanched puréed pistachio nutmeats.

  • Looking for a gluten-free version of this recipe? Find it here: Gluten-Free Pastry Cream