Pastry cream is a delicious staple when it comes to all sorts of baked goods. It can be used as a frosting or a filling for cakes, tarts and all sorts of pastries…hence the name “pastry cream”…
This rich dessert cream is, by no means, light. If you plan using it as a cake or cupcake filling, it’s best to choose a cake that is fluffy and light. As pastry cream has a mild-vanilla flavor but is not overly sweet, so it pairs nicely with lots of different frostings or ganaches.
This is my favorite recipe for pastry cream. Reading though the directions, it may seem a little complicated, but after making it once or twice, you’ll see that it’s relatively straight forward and not too difficult at all. The most difficult part for me is reminding myself that the mixture is pretty much straight up egg yolks, and there’s no reason for me to treat it like pudding and eat it with a spoon.
Adapted from Chef M. Ramsdell’s “Pastry Cream”
2 cups whole milk
4 large egg yolks
4 ounces granulated sugar (about ½ cup)
5 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
(or pure vanilla extract)
–recipe yield: about 2 cups of pastry cream
Heat milk in a saucepan on the stove until scalding, but not boiling. In a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks and some of the sugar. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the remaining sugar and the cornstarch to combine and remove any lumps, and then whisk the combined mixture into the egg yolk mixture. While continuing to whisk, drizzle in the hot milk gradually. After all the milk has been added, continue to whisk mixture until you can hear that it is no longer grainy and the sugar has dissolved. Transfer mixture back into saucepan and place over heat. Whisking vigorously, allow mixture to heat slowly by taking it on and off the heat every so often. Bring mixture to boil and allow it to thicken. Continue to cook thick mixture until it goes from dull to shiny and is fragrant and sweet. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla paste. Stir until cooled to room temperature.
If not using immediately, cover the bowl of pastry cream with plastic wrap. Allow the plastic wrap to drape into the bowl and completely across the surface of the cream. This will keep the cream from developing a film, which will be nearly impossible to get rid of later. Store the covered cream in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.