Italian Pastry Cream (crema pasticcera) – How To Make It

The Italian Pastry cream (crema pasticcera) is a widely used preparation in Italian baking recipes. A sweet cream with a velvety texture and a delicious flavor and aroma.

Absolutely irresistible, enjoy it as a treat all on its own, top your favorite seasonal fruits with it, or use it to prepare various desserts.

Crema Pasticcera on a bowl with a spoon.

What is crema pasticcera?

Crema Pasticcera is a classic bakery cream prepared with few ingredients and is perfect for filling pies, pastries, cakes, and other desserts; but also to serve it alone as a simple dessert topped with cookies, fruit, or chocolate chips.

The recipe’s origin is disputed between Italy and France, but it really doesn’t matter, because both versions are equally delicious.

In Italy (where I live) is used mainly as a filling for cornetti, bomboloni (doughnuts), and crostate prepared with pasta frolla.

Close up of italian pastry cream.

Variations

Italian Pastry Cream can be made also with other variations, depending on what you’re going to use it, you might like to take a look at these below:

  • CHOCOLATE – Add 2 Tablespoons of cacao powder to make chocolate pastry cream. Delicious!
  • LIQUORED – You can use different types of liqueur, such as Limoncello, Mistrà, Grappa, Cognac, Sambuca, or even Kahlúa to achieve a liquored Italian pastry cream.
  • CITRUS – Add lemon rind for an amazing cream that you can use for filling a lemon ricotta cake, crostata or a ciambellone. But you can also use the rind of oranges, kumquats, clementines, etc.

Ingredients & Substitutes

EGGS: The color of the Italian pastry cream depend on the egg yolks, so try to buy the freshest one you can find.

MILK: I recommend using full-fat milk for a more creamy consistency. But if you want to use low-fat milk is ok too, it will be just less creamy and it will take a little bit longer to thick.

SUGAR: Used white sugar. I don’t like the taste when using other sweeteners such as Stevia or honey, but of course, is up to you.

FLOUR: All-purpose flour is used to thicken the preparation, but cornstarch or rice starch are good options as well.

VANILLA: Use a vanilla bean, which is strong in aroma and flavor. Or you can also use vanilla paste or extract. You’ll need about 2 tsp of vanilla extract or 1/2 of vanilla paste.

Ingredients for Italian Pastry Cream

Step by Step Recipe

Start by gathering all ingredients, weigh them, and gather the utensils you’ll need as well.
Pour the milk into a saucepan. Cut the vanilla pod longwise and then with the tip of the knife scrap out the tiny seeds into the milk. Heat the milk over medium heat, just make sure to not bring it to a boil. Set aside.

Heating the milk and adding vanilla on a small saucepan.

In a large sauce pan place the yolks, sugar, and flour. Whisk until everything is combined and there are no lumps.

Stirring egg yolks with sugar and flour in a medium pot.

Carefully add the warmed milk into the saucepan with the yolk mixture while whisking vigorously.

Pouring heated milk into yolk's mixture.

When everything is well combined, place the saucepan on medium heat and whisking constantly cook for about 5 minutes. Is ok if it simmers a little, don’t be scared of this, as long as you won’t stop whisking it won’t burn or stick on the bottom.

Cooking until the cream is think, showing the cream with a spoon.

Set heat to the lowest and keep cooking while whisking for 4 to 5 more minutes or until you’ll end with a smooth and thick cream, as in the picture above.

NOW YOU CAN DO ANY OF THE FOLLOWING:

  1. If you’re going to use it right away on a recipe, place the Italian pastry cream still on the saucepan inside a large bowl filled with cold water and ice. Stir every half minute until the cream will be at room temperature (from 5 to 7 minutes). Change the water if it gets too hot.
  2. If you need to store it for later, let the pastry cream cool down slightly (about 2 minutes) mixing from time to time, then place it on a container and cover with cling film, making sure it touches the cream. Store in the fridge.

HOW TO STORE

Italian pastry cream can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Just make sure to cover it with cling film touching the cream so it will prevent it from forming a skin on the surface.

TIPS & TRICKS

  • Do not overheat the milk because it can ruin the egg mixture by cooking them so quickly and forming lumps.
  • Heating the milk with vanilla makes the pastry cream more flavored and with a more intense aroma.
  • The key to making Crema Pasticcera smoother and creamy is to never stop whisking. 
  • If you noticed that there are lots of lumps on the cream (despite everything), blend it for a few seconds, then keep cooking for 2 more minutes.
  • If a skin has formed on the surface, do not mix it! Just carefully remove it and discard it. 
  • Don’t be scared if the pastry cream simmers a little bit while you’re cooking it. As long as you keep whisking constantly it won’t burn or stick on the bottom.

Italian Pastry Cream (crema pasticcera)

The Italian Pastry cream (crema pasticcera) is a widely used preparation in the Italian bakery. A sweet cream with a velvety texture and a delicious flavor and aroma.
PREP 10 minutes
COOK 10 minutes
TOTAL 20 minutes
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Servings: 2 cups

Ingredients 

  • 2 cups (480 ml) Whole milk
  • 4 Egg yolks
  • ½ cup (100 gr) White sugar
  • 4 Tbsp ( 30 gr) All purpose flour
  • Seeds from a vanilla pod (or 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract)

Instructions

  • Pour the milk into a saucepan. Cut the vanilla pod longwise and then with the tip of the knife scrap out the tiny seeds into the milk.
  • Heat the milk over medium heat, just make sure to not bring it to a boil. Set aside.
  • In a large saucepan place the egg yolks, sugar, and flour. Whisk until everything is combined and there are no lumps.
  • Carefully add the warmed milk into the saucepan with the yolk mixture while whisking vigorously.
  • When everything is well combined, place the saucepan on medium heat and whisking constantly cook for about 5 minutes.
  • Set heat to low and keep cooking while whisking for 4 to 5 more minutes or until you’ll end with a smooth and thick cream.

NOW YOU CAN DO ANY OF THE FOLLOWING:

  • If you’re going to use it right away on a recipe, place the Italian pastry cream still on the saucepan inside a large bowl filled with cold water and ice. Stir every half minute until the cream will be at room temperature (from 5 to 7 minutes). Change the water if it gets too hot.
  • If you need to store it for later, let the pastry cream cool down slightly (about 2 minutes) mixing from time to time, then place it on a container and cover with cling film, making sure it touches the cream. Store in the fridge.

notes

  • Do not overheat the milk because it can ruin the egg mixture by cooking them and forming lumps.
  • Heating the milk with the vanilla makes the pastry cream more flavored and with a more intense aroma.
  • The key for making Crema Pasticcera smoother and creamy is to never stop whisking.
  • If you noticed that there are lots of lumps on the cream (despite everything), blend it for a few seconds, then keep cooking for 2 more minutes.
  • If a skin has formed on the surface, do not mix it! Just carefully remove it and discard it.
  • Don’t be scared if the pastry cream simmers a little bit while you’re cooking it. As long as you keep whisking constantly it won’t burn or stick on the bottom.
Nutrition
Calories: 506kcal
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