Pastry Cream Secret Recipe

This isn’t just any pastry cream recipe, it’s a guide to achieving that silky smooth texture and rich flavor that makes professional pastries sing. Follow these steps and impress everyone with your “secret recipe”!


  • 2 cups whole milk (or 1 cup milk and 1 cup heavy cream)
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or other flavorings – see tips!)


  1. Prep is Key: Separate your eggs, letting the yolks come to room temperature for a smoother custard. Whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium bowl until light and lemon-colored.
  2. Warm Up the Milk: In a saucepan, heat the milk over medium heat until just simmering. Don’t let it boil!
  3. Temper the Eggs: Slowly whisk the hot milk into the egg yolk mixture in a steady stream, whisking constantly. This is tempering – it prevents the eggs from scrambling.
  4. Thicken Up: Pour the tempered egg mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly. The mixture will thicken quickly as it reaches a boil. Keep whisking for another minute or two to ensure it’s cooked through.
  5. Flavor Boost: Remove the pan from heat and whisk in the softened butter and vanilla extract. For a richer pastry cream, you can even add a tablespoon of your favorite liqueur here!
  6. Strain and Cool: Strain the pastry cream through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean bowl. This removes any cooked egg pieces and ensures a smooth texture. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming as it cools. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before using.


  • Flavor Variations: Once you’ve mastered this vanilla bean pastry cream, get adventurous! Try substituting the vanilla extract with a teaspoon of almond extract, orange zest, or even a tablespoon of cocoa powder for a chocolate twist.
  • Thicker Pastry Cream: For a pastry cream that can hold its shape for tart fillings or piping decorations, whisk 1 tablespoon of softened butter with 1 tablespoon of cornstarch to make a slurry. Once your pastry cream has thickened, whisk in this slurry and cook for an additional minute until even thicker.
  • Storage: Pastry cream can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

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