Vanilla Pastry Cream

Making homemade vanilla pastry cream for your desserts just adds a layer of “love” that you don’t get from pre-made or instant products. Cooked puddings like this are the best.


  • 2 ½ cups whole milk
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise (scrape out the caviar)
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter


In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, add the milk. Split the vanilla bean down the middle, lengthwise, and scrape out the caviar (seeds) with a small paring knife. Add the vanilla bean and it’s caviar to the milk in the saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the mixture just begins to boil, stirring occasionally, then set aside (off the heat) to infuse for about 20 minutes. Be mindful of setting the heat too high because the milk can begin to stick to the pan. Gently stir the mixture from the bottom of the pan during heating, and encourage all the little seeds to come out of the vanilla bean.

While the mixture is cooling, whisk the sugar and egg yolks together very well – for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the cornstarch and whisk to make sure there are no lumps. Begin tempering the mixture with ¼ cup of the warm milk at a time until you have mixed about a cup of the warm milk into the egg/sugar mixture and it is well combined. Then pour the egg/sugar mixture back into the saucepan with the rest of the milk mixture. Put the saucepan back on to a medium heat, and whisk constantly until the mixture thickens and begins to bubble. This will take about 5 to 10 minutes of constant whisking. Be aware that the cornstarch thickening will happen very quickly once the mixture gets up to heat, and you will have to whisk more vigorously as this happens. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter.

Transfer the mixture to a dish if you would like, or just leave it in the saucepan, but cover it with plastic wrap right away, being sure to press the plastic wrap right down onto the surface of the finished pastry cream so that a skin will not form. Refrigerate several hours before serving.

This will produce a thick vanilla pudding mixture which is wonderful when layered with pound cake, berries and whipped cream in a trifle. 

Whipped cream: 2 cups chilled heavy cream + 2 Tbsp brown sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla, whipped to firm peaks.

You can also add Mascarpone Cheese to the finished Vanilla Pastry Cream mixture for a lighter smooth cream.

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