Vanilla Pastry Cream Recipe

Cream puffs
Cream puffs with basic vanilla pastry cream Diana Rattray
Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 15 mins
Total: 25 mins
Servings: 10 servings
Yield: 3 1/2 cups
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
120 Calories
3g Fat
18g Carbs
5g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 10
Amount per serving
Calories 120
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 3g 4%
Saturated Fat 2g 8%
Cholesterol 80mg 27%
Sodium 89mg 4%
Total Carbohydrate 18g 6%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 14g
Protein 5g
Vitamin C 0mg 1%
Calcium 99mg 8%
Iron 0mg 2%
Potassium 126mg 3%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

This pastry cream is flavorful and a very easy recipe to prepare. Just have ice water in the sink ready to cool the custard quickly. 

Use this pastry cream as a filling for layer cakes, cream puffs or eclairs, or use it to fill a sponge cake roll or cream-filled doughnuts.


  • 3 large egg yolks

  • 3 cups milk, or half-and-half

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 1/3 cup cornstarch

  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. In a heat-safe container large enough to hold a medium saucepan, fill with about 1 to 2 inches of ice water.

  3. In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks until smooth. Gradually add milk, whisking constantly, until well blended.

  4. In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Stir with whisk to blend thoroughly. Whisk in about 1/2 cup of the milk mixture and stir until smooth. Gradually whisk in remaining milk mixture until thoroughly blended.

  5. Put pan over medium-low heat and cook, stirring constantly, for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until mixture begins to thicken. Bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute, continuing to stir constantly.

  6. Immediately place pan in container with the ice water. Stir frequently as mixture cools. Stir in vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste.

  7. Press a sheet of plastic wrap onto surface of custard to prevent a skin from forming. Transfer bowl to refrigerator to chill thoroughly. 

Recipe Variations

  • Lemon - Add the juice and zest of 1 small lemon along with the vanilla extract.
  • Vanilla Bean - Reduce the vanilla extract to 1 teaspoon and add 1 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste.
  • Chocolate - Add 1/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder to the sugar and cornstarch mixture OR stir 3 ounces of melted semisweet chocolate into the hot pastry cream just before you take it off the burner.
  • Coffee - To the milk, add 1 tablespoon of espresso powder or instant coffee granules.
  • Strawberry, Blueberry, or Raspberry - Add about 1/3 cup of seedless raspberry jam, blueberry jam, or strawberry jam along with the vanilla. 
  • Other Flavorings - Add along with the vanilla, 1/4 teaspoon of almond, coconut, or mint flavoring.