Wonderful crema pasticcera, Italian pastry cream, is a delightful filling that can be used to make so many delicious desserts. The pastry cream has an amazing vanilla custard flavor and creamy consistency, the French version is called creme patissiere.
You will find this Italian pastry cream as the ooey, gooey filling for rich Italian desserts such as tarts filled with pastry cream, like torta della nonna, and topped with fruit or as a cake filling between layer cakes (especially sponge cakes) or trifles like zuppa inglese. Pastry cream is also used to fill breakfast treats such as Italian croissants, and Italian pastries, to fill cream puffs, and as a filling for Italian donuts.
Italian pastry cream can also be eaten alone as its own Italian custard dessert topped with whipped cream, chocolate chips or sprinkles, or fruit like cherries or strawberries.
If you are ready to fill your Italian doughnuts with delicious pastry cream, grab these pieces of kitchen equipment and follow our Italian pastry cream recipe.
small or medium saucepan
fine mesh strainer or flour sifter
wooden spoon or spatula
Super quick and easy, from start to finish this recipe only takes 10 minutes and then all you have to do is wait for it to cool so you can dig in!
Creamy custard desserts start with basic ingredients that are high-quality and fresh. Many of these items are probably already in your pantry, but be sure to check expiration dates and use only the freshest ingredients for the best outcome.
Whole milk 400 grams (1.64 cups) – you can use also use 2%, 1%, or low-fat milk, they will all work in this recipe.
Cream 100 grams (0.42 cups) – the cream should be fresh and light or regular liquid cream, like whipping cream, works the best. Some recipes call for heavy cream, which can also be used but has more fat so check the nutrition calories if you are concerned.
Egg yolks (6 medium) – the eggs should be fresh and of medium size, you can use pasteurized eggs if you want, but they will be cooked so it is not necessary.
White sugar 150 grams (0.75 cups) – also called granulated sugar.
All-purpose flour 30 grams (4 tbsp) – the original Italian recipe calls for “00” flour, the most similar product in the United States is all-purpose flour.
Potato starch 20 grams (1 tbsp) – you can use another type of starch like corn starch or rice starch if desired.
Vanilla extract 1 tablespoon – it is also possible to use vanilla bean (vanilla pods).
How to make Italian pastry cream (step-by-step instructions)
While this pastry cream recipe takes some patience and good timing, it is not difficult and produces the best pastry cream with a vanilla bean flavor you can then use to make other desserts or morning pastries, or Italian-style croissants. The sky is the limit!
In a bowl, beat the egg yolks with sugar and vanilla (photo 1) for about 2 minutes with an electric beater on medium speed, the mixture should come out light and frothy (photo 2).
Sift the flour and starch (photo 3).
Slowly add the sifted flour and starch to the mixture (photo 4). Mix with the electric beater for several minutes, until smooth and uniform.
In a saucepan, pour the fresh cream and milk and bring to a simmer over low heat (photo 5).
Do not boil the liquid, as soon as you see the first bubbles, immediately remove it from the heat and then quickly pour the yolk, sugar, and flour mixture into the milk and place it back on the stove over medium heat.
Wait a few seconds while the egg yolk mixture floats on the surface of the hot milk and cream without dropping to the bottom (it should have enough air in it to float).
After about 1 minute, bubbles of cream will start coming to the surface through the egg yolk mixture until the cream mixture completely breaks through (photo 6).
Now whisk everything together quickly by hand with a whisk, you will feel the cream thicken and you must then remove it immediately from the heat (photo 7).
Pour the pastry cream into a clean glass bowl and cover the crema pasticcera with plastic wrap (photo 8) directly on the surface to prevent a “skin” from forming.
Place the crema pasticcera in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to let the cream cool completely
Your perfect pastry cream custard is ready to be used and enjoyed. The recipe makes about 600 grams of Italian pastry cream.
Here are some pointers for helping you get the perfect creamy texture when you make this custard mixture to ensure your dessert recipe comes out great.
Other types of starch. Instead of potato starch, you can use cornstarch or rice starch. Some people substitute with flour but be aware that if you want shiny cream and not a matte look for your Italian pastry cream, you shouldn’t use flour.
Don’t overcook. Overcooking the cream at any stage will ruin the flavor (you don’t want it to taste like a cooked egg) and texture of your Italian pastry cream. Especially avoid bringing the milk to a hard boil or cooking the custard cream too long or over too high of heat during the last steps. If the pastry cream is too runny, you can leave it on the heat for a little longer, but be sure the heat is very low and you stir continuously.
Sift flour. To ensure the smoothest Italian pastry cream without lumps, be sure to sift your flour and other dry ingredients before using them and add them slowly.
Different flavors and variations of pastry cream
This Italian pastry cream recipe has endless variations, especially in the way it can be used in Italian dessert recipes and even when served by itself.
Add chocolate. You can turn this crema pasticcera recipe into a chocolate lover’s dream by stirring in chocolate chips or chocolate shavings once the cream has cooled. If you are serving it by itself as a spoon dessert, you can dust the top with cocoa powder.
Add lemon zest or orange zest. If you like citrus flavor and prefer it to vanilla bean, you can leave out the vanilla extract and instead add a little lemon zest or orange zest from the washed rind of organic lemon or orange.
Served hot. Pour the still-hot pastry cream into individual small glass bowls and serve while it’s still warm topped with whipped cream pure heaven!
Recipes that use crema pasticcera
What’s the difference between pastry cream and custard cream?
Pastry cream is actually a type of custard cream. Custard means cooking a milk, cream, and egg mixture on the stovetop and that is exactly what we will do in this recipe, so it is a type of custard.
How to store Italian pastry cream to keep it fresh
Pastry cream should be stored in an airtight container or covered with plastic wrap in the fridge for up to 2 days.
Can I freeze pastry cream?
Yes, you can freeze pastry cream in an airtight container for up to three months. When you are ready to use it, put it in the refrigerator to defrost slowly until soft.
Can I make this Italian pastry cream recipe ahead?
Yes, you can definitely make pastry cream the day before you want to serve or use it. Just be sure to cover the cream surface with plastic wrap before putting it in the fridge. Then remove it from the fridge at least 30 minutes before you want to use it for softer cream.
What can I do with leftover egg whites?
The leftover egg whites can be used to make an egg white omelet or stored in the fridge for up to 2 days to be used in another recipe.
Italian Pastry Cream | Crema Pasticcera
Authentic Italian Recipes