Pastry cream – Crème pâtissière

Vanilla pastry cream Crème pâtissière recipe

Pastry cream is made from milk, egg yolk and sugar as well as a thickening ingredient: such as cornstarch and/or flour. The additional ingredient here: pure vanilla, for an easy, ultra-delicious and flavourful recipe.

I will give you all my best advice on the ingredients and help you through the steps to learn this pastry classic and get a creamy result. Read along to find out how to use your pastry cream.


Sugar and eggs

White sugar is what is generally used for this recipe, but brown sugar works just as well.

Since you will only using the egg yolks to make your pastry cream, here are a few recipe ideas to make with the remaining egg whites:

  • Financiers of course are a great idea, the recipe uses quite a few egg whites, financiers are small almond based sweet treat often made in France an
  • There are many biscuits that need mainly egg whites such as Savoie biscuits, often made in the north of France
  • Making meringues or pavlovas as well as royal icing is another idea as these recipes consist of egg whites and icing sugar, you can use it to decorate your cakes, or add it in a sorbet such as my rosemary sorbet recipe, it will add some creaminess to it…
  • Make your own at home cocktail, some cocktails use egg whites, prepared in a shaker, they are what makes the beautiful fluffy foam on top of your drinks.
  • Add them to a savory dish, using egg whites in a salt crust helps allow the dry ingredients, flour and salt, to stick together better. For example, make a salt-crusted fish.
  • Make an omelet using whole eggs and egg whites, it will give you a lighter and less rich result
  • Lastly you can also keep them in a tightly closed container for a few days either by refrigerating or freezing them, for example in ice cube trays to use them little by little.


If you can, use a vanilla pod that you split in two lengthwise. With the tip of a knife, scrape the inside along the entire length to collect the grains.

You can also use vanilla extract or vanilla powder. I cannot give you the precise quantity of vanilla here because each vanilla extract is more or less fragrant. Just be generous.


Use either whole or semi-skimmed milk. Avoid skimmed milk.

Cornstarch, flour or flan powder

Which one should you use? I recommend using cornstarch as you will to obtain a much lighter cream. Avoid potato starch.

Each type of thickener corresponds to a different source of starch and has a different effect on the more or less light texture of your cream. I have never tested flan powder even during my cooking training, but what is certain is that a pastry cream with wheat flour will be denser than with corn flour. You can also choose to do a half-half mix.


Using butter adds a little more creaminess and stops the cooking. This is optional, there is none in my step-by-step recipe photos.

For the material

All you need is a saucepan and a spatula. Possibly a whip. You will also need cling film.

The steps

We start by whip the egg yolks with the sugar, whisking vigorously. The mixture will gradually increase in volume and lighten. This helps to make a homogenous preparation and limit the risk of lumps. In addition, as the sugar coats the eggs, it will protect the proteins in the egg yolks during the cooking of the pastry cream.

First steps of preparing a pastry cream, eggs being whipped

Meanwhile, heat the milk with the vanilla and pour it hot (not boiling) over the egg-sugar mixture. It is important to pour in the milk little by little, stirring constantly in order not to heat the eggs all at once. Slowly whisk in half of the milk and pour this mixture back into the saucepan.

This is the somewhat delicate step of the recipe, cooking the pastry cream. Allow 3 minutes of cooking time per liter of milk after the first boil. So 1 ½ minutes here. Heat, stirring constantly and making sure to scrape all over the bottom of the pan so that nothing sticks. You will see that slowly the mixture thickens.

The time I just gave you is a first indicator. The second indicator is when the cream becomes very thick. You can check the cooking using the tablecloth technique. Put a wooden spatula in the cream, take it out. Make a line with one finger. If the line does not close and the texture of the custard does not change, it is cooked.

Preparation steps for making a cream pastry with vanilla

Pour the pastry cream immediately into a container.

Adding some butter will stop the cooking and will give the cream a little more creaminess. This step is optional.

Cover with plastic wrap directly onto the cream as shown in photo, then leave to rest for at least 1 hour in the refrigerator. This prevents a slightly thicker crust or texture from forming on the surface which will mix poorly afterwards.

This “skin” which forms naturally on the surface when the pastry cream cools in air (without being filmed on contact therefore) is due to the coagulation of milk proteins and dehydration on the surface.

Return to consistency before use. Using a whisk, spatula or fork,

Final step into making a cream pastry, leaving it to rest before using it

How to use pastry cream

The cream can be used in many pastries such as cream puffs, éclairs, nuns and mille-feuilles. You can also put a layer of pastry cream in a fresh fruit tart, a strawberry tart for example (my raspberry tart with a light lime filling can be replaced by a pastry cream). It can also be used to recreate Chef Christophe Michalak French custard tart with no dough.

With a little adaptation to the ingredients the pastry cream technique can be used in a Parisian flan or Basque cake.
From the pastry cream, there are several derivatives used in pastry: mousseline cream, diplomat cream, frangipane cream (pastry cream and almond cream) which is used in the traditional French epiphany king cakes.

In terms of flavours we generally use vanilla, but pastry cream can be flavoured with other ingredients such as: chocolate, coffee or herbs like verbena, etc.

The pastry cream can be kept in the refrigerator for 3 days.

A bowl of vanilla flavoured cream pastry ready to be used
A creamy vanilla cream pastry to use in your pastry recipes
Vanilla pastry cream Crème pâtissière recipe

Vanilla pastry cream

Pastry cream is a warm cream made from milk, egg yolk and sugar as well as a thickening ingredient: such as cornstarch and/or flour. The additional ingredient here: pure vanilla, for an easy, ultra-delicious and flavourful recipe
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Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Resting time 1 hour
Course Savory cooking basic
Cuisine French


For 800gr of cream

  • ½ L milk
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 120 gr sugar
  • 50 gr cornstarch
  • 50 gr butter optional


Prepare the base for the pastry cream

  • Pour the milk into a saucepan. Add the vanilla, either the pod split in two lengthwise and its seeds scraped out with the blade of a knife, or the vanilla extract.
  • Mix and let it infuse. In a mixing bowl, pour the sugar and egg yolks. Whisk to whiten them.
  • Add the cornstarch, possibly sifted, and mix.

Add the vanilla milk

  • Heat the milk. Stop at the first simmer and remove the vanilla pod. Do NOT throw it away.
  • Slowly pour half of the hot milk into the egg – sugar – cornstarch mixture, stirring constantly. Then pour the mixture obtained back into the saucepan. Mix immediately.


  • Return the pan to the heat. Heat over medium-high heat while stirring constantly and making sure to cover all areas of the bottom of the pan whilst mixing.
  • The mixture will gradually thicken. From the first boil, allow 3 minutes of cooking per liter of milk, so here 1 minute and a half don't stop whisking.
  • Remove from heat and pour into a container. Add the butter (50 gr) and mix it to stop the cooking. Adding butter is optional.

Before using

  • Cover with plastic wrap directly onto the cream. First let cool to room temperature then place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
  • Always re-whip before using cream. The cream can be kept in the refrigerator for 3 days.


See all tips and ingredient information in the article.
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Bon appétit !

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