Pastry Cream 2

This pastry cream is excellent as a filling for éclairs, Paris-Brest or any application where a silky, slightly flowing pastry cream is preferred. It’s most often made from whole milk, so it’s a bit lighter than a standard pastry cream (which is often made with half heavy cream). Even though it has the same amount of sugar it doesn’t taste as sweet. To make it you’ll need:

the seeds of 1 vanilla bean
32 ounces (1 quart) whole milk or half-and-half
8 ounces sugar (1 cup plus one tablespoon)
12 egg yolks
1.25 ounces (generous 1/4 cup) cornstarch

Start by combining the seeds of the vanilla bean with the milk in a medium saucepan and bring it to the boil.

Give it a good whisk every so often.

Meanwhile, combine the yolks and sugar in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the whip.

Whip on high for about three minutes until a thick ribbon drips off the whip.

With the mixer running on medium-low, add the cornstarch in a steady stream. Scrape the bowl to make sure it’s all incorporated.

Now add the hot milk in a steady stream.

When it’s completely incorporated, pour the whole works back into the saucepan…

…and whisking steadily, bring the mixture up to boiling. Let it bubble — not violently — for about 45 seconds to a minute. There’ll be a little foam on the top, gently stir that in.

Pour it into a bowl or onto a sheet pan, and allow it to cool for about ten minutes.

Lay on some plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming. Cool the pastry cream (if you’re using a bowl, placing it in an ice bath works the best) for about fifteen minutes, then put it in the refrigerator. A half recipe will cool down enough in half an hour to be placed in the fridge on its own.

20 thoughts on “Pastry Cream 2”

  1. I am seeing vanilla paste, (not extract) especially the Nielsen-Massey brand, in more and more stores. It’s basically a thick syrupy paste made up of ground up vanilla bean innards, so you end up with not only the vanilla taste, but also the same delicious-looking dark specks as when you use a bean. It’s slighter cheaper, and certainly easier: one tablespoon equals one whole bean. Any personal experience with the stuff, JP?

    1. You’re up early! Yes, fewer and fewer stores are carrying vanilla beans these days. Relative to fresh beans, the paste has a much longer shelf life. I haven’t used it in ages, but I seem to remember it being pretty good stuff. I’d probably still prefer the bean, but the paste would certainly a good thing to have around.

  2. I never understood why we need to whip the yolks and sugar till ribbon stage while we’ll be cooking them in the pot and all the air will be destroyed anyway. I always heat the liquid, hand whisk the yolks and sugar just till mixed. Temper and pou back and cook with wooden spoon till thickened. Or am I the only one who’s doing it wrong?

    1. Hello Harix!

      It is indeed an odd step, now that you mention it. I think the main reason it’s there is for texture and uniformity. Because you’re right: what use is there for foam in pastry cream — especially since it’s going to be collapsed when the hot milk is added? However there is something about the silkiness of this style of pastry cream. I believe it’s the result of a more even distribution of the egg yolks. You get almost no clumping or “curds” when you follow this technique. But maybe that’s just me…thanks for the email!

    1. Hi Deb!

      It will last about week in the refrigerator. Alas, like most custards, it can’t be frozen.

      Best of luck with the project!

      – Joe

  3. Hi Joe,

    Am I going crazy or did you previously have this labelled as Lenôtre Pastry Cream? Or something other than just “Pastry Cream 2”? 🙂



  4. Mine went sooooo stiff. Won’t mix in with whipped cream and tastes a little floury. Used right measurement of cornstarch, not sure what happened! Still gonna use it for my bee sting though. Just won’t be perfect.

    1. I’m so sorry to hear that, Kath! That’s a little perplexing…I make this pastry cream all the time and have never gotten that result. Are you sure you didn’t use the other one, the firmer one? That can have a slightly floury taste if you have a very discerning palate, which it sounds like you do. Give it a good stir to break it up as best you can before folding it into the whipped cream, it should still work for you provided it isn’t like rubber!

      I’ll think about this…though it’s hard to imagine what the issue might be other than more cornstarch. Hm…

      – Joe

  5. Hi Joe!

    I was struggling with my pastry cream recipe so I decided to check out your method. Have you tried or had any luck making a pastry cream with whole eggs instead of egg yolks, or a combination of the two? (reason being I hate leftover egg whites!) So far I’ve only had luck with egg yolk recipes, when there are whites involved they tend to get grainy and get chunks of egg white (I always strain regardless). Any tips?

    1. Hey Cheryl!

      I have not tried pastry cream with egg whites, but I’m certain they’d make the cream too tough to whip or pipe. What about buttercream or meringue? Great uses for whites! 😉


      – Joe

  6. I know this is an old post, but wanted to thank you for the recipe! 🙂 I’ve always had trouble with pastry cream… it always ended up lumpy and weirdly separated. This was the first time I got a silky smooth pastry cream out of it! Will be mixing this with whipped cream and topping it on some chocolate cake tomorrow. 🙂

    1. Hey Jey!

      It may be an old post but I still see the comments! So glad it worked for you.


      – Joe

  7. Dear Joe,
    I need your expert advice… I added 1 Tablespoon of softened gelatin to hot mixture making sure it was well incorporated. When I cooled, the cream had small crystals throughout. Now, I did the same procedure but substituted flour for the cornstarch, added softened gelatin, cooled, but no crystalization formed. Any idea why using flour verses cornstarch caused such a different reaction. Thank you , Cindy

    1. I’m a bit baffled myself, Cynthia. The only big thing flour has that cornstarch doesn’t is protein. I don’t know how plant protein and animal protein would interact with each other. I wouldn’t expect they would. Flour particles are also larger than cornstarch particles. It could simply be that the flour version was slightly coarser in general, so that any errant gelatin clumps were not as obvious on your tongue. That’s my best guess anyway!


      – Joe

  8. Hi Joe,

    Thank you for the recipe! I know this will vary on the size and number of choux puffs made, but do you have an estimate on how many cream puffs could be filled?


    1. Hey Jennifer!

      The answer is a lot. 😉

      As you say, it’s hard to estimate since size varies so much, and some people like more filling than others! But if you’re making 2-inch puffs, I’d say this recipe will fill at least 3 dozen, maybe more.

      Have fun!

      – Joe

  9. Hi Joe,

    I’m planning on making my grandma’s trifle next week for the holidays. Traditionally she always uses Bird’s custard powder, but I’m going to break several decades of tradition this year and make a real custard. If you’re not familiar with Bird’s, it’s a cornstarch based custard substitute that is very thick and pudding like once it sets in the fridge.

    I’ve made your firmer pastry cream before and used it as a duchess cream base for banana pudding (one of the best decisions of my life), but I worry that the very stiff cream would be too thick for the trifle. Does pastry cream 2 hold a slight shape once chilled or does it stay completely runny? I’m trying to determine whether pastry cream 1 or 2 would be the best replacement? Any insight will be much appreciated, but this trifle will be eaten no matter what.

    All the best,

    1. Hello Hayley!

      I would use #1 in that case. It’s the one of the two that will have enough body for a trifle. You can back off the cornstarch a bit if you like, but probably some good whipping will get it to the consistency you want. You can of course go the other way and make #2 with a little extra starch. Either way I think you’ll be pleased with the result.

      So glad to hear the pastry cream worked so well for banana pudding. I’m going to have to try that!


      – Joe

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