DIY Pastry Cream Recipe

If you dream of being a pastry chef, there are plenty of classic recipes you'll want to master. Whether it's being ready to bake a pound cake at any moment, or whipping the perfect meringue every time, it's all about precision. Tasting Table recipe developer and pastry chef Katie Rosenhouse brings us this DIY pastry cream recipe and says, "Pastry cream is a classic, fundamental recipe that can be used in so many ways!" She also notes that "This is a straightforward, no-fuss version that's sure to be a great base for whatever you choose."

If you've never come across it before, our recipe developer explains, "pastry cream is essentially a pudding," further describing it as "very thick and typically used as a filling or topping." However, she notes, "I wouldn't necessarily make it to eat straight!" Whether you want to dig into this with a spoon or use it as the base for treats like donuts, pies, and cakes, the decision is all yours.

Gather the ingredients for this DIY pastry cream recipe

For this recipe, you'll need large egg yolks, granulated sugar, cornstarch, whole milk, vanilla bean paste or extract, unsalted butter (cubed), and kosher salt.

Combine the eggs with the other ingredients

Get a medium-sized bowl and place it on the counter with a kitchen towel beneath to ensure it stays in place. Then, add the egg yolks, ¼ cup of sugar, the cornstarch, and ¼ cup of milk. Whisk the contents until the mixture is smooth then set it aside. For optimal results, Rosenhouse says, "Whisk your sugar and cornstarch together before adding to the egg yolks to eliminate any possible lumps."

Heat the sugar and milk

Set a small saucepan on the burner on low heat and combine ¼ cup of sugar, 2 cups of milk, and the vanilla. Cook the mixture while stirring occasionally until it is lightly simmering. Then, remove the saucepan from the heat.

Combine the mixtures and cook until thickened

Carefully pour a small amount of the hot mixture into the egg yolk mixture while you whisk — this will cook the eggs without scrambling them. Keeping combining the two until you've added about half of the hot liquid. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and set it on low heat. Cook while continuously whisking for 1 to 2 more minutes or until the consistency thickens and appears like pudding. Once it starts bubbling, remove the saucepan from the heat.

Strain the mixture and chill

Strain the mixture into a clean bowl then add the cubed butter and salt, whisking until it is nice and smooth. Rosenhouse offers another pro tip here: "Place [the] bowl of pastry cream over an ice bath after whisking in the butter and salt to help stop the cooking process." Once the mixture is velvety, place a piece of plastic wrap on the surface and refrigerate it for at least 2 hours or until it is chilled.

Serve this DIY homemade pastry cream

Serve this delicious pastry cream by the spoonful if you're in the mood for something pleasantly rich or use it as a component in a recipe. Rosenhouse has plenty of suggestions, such as using it to fill a 9-inch tart, between two layers of a cake, or as a filling for two dozen cupcakes or a dozen cream puffs or donuts. She adds, "It could also be whipped into a German buttercream, baked into a Flan Pâtissier, and so much more."

Don't think you have to stick to plain vanilla either! Rosenhouse comments, "In terms of flavoring pastry cream, this base recipe can be taken in so many directions! You can stir in chocolate at the end of cooking for a delicious chocolate pastry cream, add espresso, zest, spices, hazelnut or pistachio paste, or even flavor with liquor." Pastry cream doesn't freeze well due to the cornstarch, but it will keep in the refrigerator for up to three days.

DIY Pastry Cream Recipe
5 from 31 ratings
Any aspiring baker should have a go-to pastry cream recipe, good for using in pies, tarts, and even donuts.
Prep Time
Cook Time
spoonful of pastry cream
Total time: 2 hours, 16 minutes
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • ½ cup granulated sugar, divided
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 2 ¼ cups whole milk, divided
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste or extract
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  1. Place a kitchen towel under a medium bowl then whisk the egg yolks, ¼ cup of sugar, ¼ cup of cornstarch, and ¼ cup of milk until smooth. Set the bowl aside.
  2. Stir ¼ cup of sugar, 2 cups of milk, and vanilla in a small pot over low heat.
  3. Cook, stirring occasionally until the mixture is lightly simmering, then remove it from the heat.
  4. Slowly pour a bit of hot liquid at a time into the egg yolk mixture, whisking to combine as you pour. Continue until about half of the liquid has been added.
  5. Add this mixture back to the pot and cook over low heat, whisking constantly for 1 to 2 minutes until it thickens to a pudding-like consistency. When the mixture starts to bubble up, remove it from the heat.
  6. Strain it into a clean bowl.
  7. Add the cubed butter and salt and whisk until smooth.
  8. Place plastic wrap on the surface of the pastry cream and refrigerate it for at least 2 hours until cold.
  9. Store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Calories per Serving 124
Total Fat 6.9 g
Saturated Fat 3.8 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 76.0 mg
Total Carbohydrates 13.4 g
Dietary Fiber 0.1 g
Total Sugars 10.7 g
Sodium 137.3 mg
Protein 2.5 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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