Basic Vanilla Pastry Cream

Makes about 1 ½ cups


  • 1 cup 2% milk
  • ½ vanilla bean or 1 ½ tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces.


  1. Heat the milk with the scraped seeds of the vanilla bean or the vanilla bean paste until just below a simmer.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch. Ready a bowl with the butter, placing a strainer on top of it.
  3. Gradually whisk the hot milk into egg mixture and then return it all to the pot. Whisk this constantly (switching to a spatula now and again, to get into the corners) over medium heat until thickened and glossy, about 2 minutes. Pour this immediately through the strainer, whisking it through if needed, and stir in the butter.
  4. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly over the surface of the custard, cool to room temperature and then chill completely until ready to use.

    The pastry cream will keep up to 4 days refrigerated.