Pastry Cream

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Recipe photo
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Yield: 5 cups

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Pastry cream is one of the building blocks of a great dessert. Delicious as is, it can also be flavored in an almost infinite number of ways to create the perfect touch for 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! This base recipe calls for 1/2 cup of sugar, which makes a pastry cream that's just barely sweet. If you're planning to use the pastry cream for a pie filling and you want it to be sweeter, increase the sugar to 3/4 cup.

Pastry Cream

star rating (25) rate this recipe »
Hands-on time:
Total time:
Yield: 5 cups
Published: 02/16/2010


  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract or Vanilla Crush; or 1/2 vanilla bean, slit lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
  • 1 cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks

Tips from our bakers

  • Pastry cream will keep, covered in the refrigerator, for up to 5 days. After that it may start to weep.
  • If you want the pastry cream to be sliceable, as for a cream pie, don't fold in the whipped cream. The recipe will yield 3 cups of pastry cream in that case.


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

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

3) 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.

4) 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.

5) Remove from the heat and strain through a fine sieve. Stir in the butter and vanilla extract (if you're using it). 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).

6) 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.

7) To complete, fold the whipped cream into the cooled pastry cream.


Butterscotch Pastry Cream: Add 1/4 teaspoon butter-rum flavor and/or 1 cup (6 ounces) butterscotch chips to the pastry cream after straining, stirring until the chips have melted.

Caramel Pastry Cream: Add 3/4 cup chopped caramel (7 1/2 ounces, 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 (6 ounces) chopped 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 (5 1/4 ounces). Add 3/4 cup (8 1/4 ounces) praline paste to the hot, strained pastry cream, stirring until combined.

Orange Pastry Cream: Increase the sugar to 3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces). Add 1 teaspoon orange extract; 1/4 teaspoon orange oil; or 3 tablespoons orange zest to the hot, strained pastry cream.

Peanut Butter Pastry Cream: Add 3/4 cup (7 1/4 ounces) smooth peanut butter to the hot pastry cream, stirring until melted and the mixture is smooth. If you're using a natural or freshly-made peanut butter, omit the butter from the recipe, or the pastry cream will be greasy.

Pistachio Pastry Cream: Omit the butter and increase the sugar to 3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces). Add 3/4 cup (8 1/4 ounces) pistachio paste, or blanched pureed pistachio meats.

Nutrition information

Serving Size: 1/2 cup, 125 g Servings Per Batch: 10 Amount Per Serving: Calories: 245 Calories from Fat: 159 Total Fat: 18g Saturated Fat: 11g Trans Fat: 0g Cholesterol: 139mg Sodium: 109mg Total Carbohydrate: 18g Dietary Fiber: 0g Sugars: 14g Protein: 4g

* The nutrition information provided for this recipe is determined by the ESHA Genesis R&D software program. Substituting any ingredients may change the posted nutrition information.


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  • star rating 05/02/2015
  • from
  • Easy and delicious! I love this recipe!
  • star rating 04/24/2015
  • Kate from Austin, Tx
  • I made this today and had followed the recipe exactly. It turned out delicious! I cannot wait to finish the banana cream pie. Next time I'm going to add the whipping cream for cream puffs.
  • 03/07/2015
  • tquez46 from KAF Community
  • I haven't mad this recipe yet. We re dairy free, soy free and nut free. I wanted to know, can we could make this with rice or coconut milk?

    Rice milk will be a bit thin, but coconut milk will work beautifully. Happy baking! Laurie@KAF

  • star rating 02/18/2015
  • Maria at BearMountainBooks from texas
  • Probably even a little sweet for my preferences, but tastes great as eclair filling (Because the shells aren't sweet). Will be using this recipe again. Maria
  • star rating 01/10/2015
  • Kaulana from Hilo, HI
  • This pastry cream is absolutely perfect! I'm eager to try other flavors. To make a smooth coconut flavored version, would I just add cream of coconut to the strained pastry cream?
  • star rating 11/26/2014
  • Donna from Dracut,Ma
  • Easy and absolutely yummy! Will be my go to recipe for pastry cream from now on...thank you KAF!
  • star rating 10/26/2014
  • Kay J from austin
  • This is hands down the easiest pastry cream recipe I have seen! Straining the milk mixture and then running the final product through a sieve is very important. Delish. I made a different recipe 2 weeks ago and it was much more complicated. This is my new go-to recipe. In fact KAF is now my go-to recipe site.
  • 09/28/2014
  • Sharon Anne from Layton, Utah
  • In place of the flour, what do you recommend to make this Gluten Free?

    Hi Sharon, Unfortunately, there isn't any good way to make this recipe gluten-free as the chemistry of the stabilization of the cream would be very different. As such we would encourage you to look for a recipe for pastry cream that is written originally to be gluten-free. If you have any further questions, please feel free to call our Baker's Hotline at 855-371-2253 and we'd be happy to answer any further questions at that time. Happy baking! Jocelyn@KAF

  • 06/22/2014
  • ShirlJ from KAF Community
  • Haven't tried the recipe yet but plan to. How about coconut, lemon or banana variations (for pie fillings)? Wondering what to add and how much.
    For a banana pie, I would suggest slicing ripe bananas and adding a layer to the pie. For a coconut pie, you might try folding toasted coconut into the pastry cream - though that would certainly change the texture. For a lemon pie, you might make lemon curd instead.~Jaydl@KAF
  • star rating 04/30/2014
  • Marie Ann from Lake in the Hills, ill
  • This is a great recipe! This is the first time I fill my cake and the custard is firm and not oozing out at all. This is a keeper!
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