Italian Chocolate Pastry Cream (Crema Pasticcera)

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Italian Chocolate Pastry Cream (Crema Pasticcera)- Chocolaty, creamy, smooth, and rich this Chocolate Italian Pastry Cream is the best filling for crostata, pastries, cakes, and more! Easy 15 minute recipe and 100% delicious.

Crema pasticcera al ciocolato (aka chocolate creme patissiere) or chocolate Italian pastry cream, is one of the standard and most common ingredients used in Italian pastries, zeppoles, and cakes.

Italian chocolate pastry cream in a bowl with ingredients displayed
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Italian Chocolate Pastry Cream (Crema Pasticcera)

It’s the creamy, custardy filling in common Italian tarts, layer cakes, and pastries. Once you make this you will be hooked! You can even use it to fill these BEST Authentic Sicilian Cannoli Recipe!

You can make this chocolate version or the original vanilla recipe with a hint of lemon- Italian Pastry Cream. Also, this variation is- Best Italian Pistachio Cream!

Simple Ingredients

All you need are 6 ingredients and a relatively simple process to perfect chocolate creme patisserie every single time!

  • Egg yolks
  • Granulated sugar
  • Cornstarch
  • Dark chocolate, broken into chunks or small pieces 
  • Milk
  • Vanilla bean (scrape the inside of a vanilla bean pod). You can also use 1 tsp of good quality pure vanilla extract
  • (optional) 1 tablespoon cocoa powder for added chocolate richness

See recipe card for quantities and full recipe.

Leftover egg whites? Make Soft Italian Amaretti Cookies (Sardinian Recipe)!

What is Italian Pastry Cream (crema pasticcera)

Crema pasticcera, pastry cream, is one of the basic ingredients used in many Italian pastries and cakes. 

It’s the creamy, custardy filling in tarts, layer cakes, or pastries such as millefoglie; it’s also the cream filling you find in morning pastries such as cornetti (Italian-style croissants).

Crema pasticcera is not difficult to make, though it does require care and attention so that it doesn’t curdle. 

Best chocolate for pastry cream

Since there are only a few ingredients in this recipe it is important to use good quality chocolate. You can use a chocolate bar and chop the chocolate or use chocolate morsels.

For this chocolate cream, I recommend semisweet or dark chocolate with a cocoa content between 50%-75% for a deep chocolate flavor.

A higher level of intensity is my favorite; in that way there is a nice balance between milk and dark, so I use these 70% dark chocolate morsels, which makes for a perfectly sweet cream without it being too sweet.

If you prefer a sweeter-tasting chocolate, then go with lower cocoa content, something around 50%-60%.

Here is a test for you to decide which chocolate is best for your taste:

  • If you generally like milk chocolate, go with a 50-60% cocoa
  • If you generally prefer dark chocolate, go with 65% and above, even up to 80% if you are a really intense dark chocolate lover!

It is your preference!

Chocolate brands I recommend:

  • Gygi’s melting chocolate
  • Ghirardelli chocolate bar or chips
  • Guittard
  • Godiva

Once you start making homemade chocolate pastry cream like this you will be hooked! It is an indulgent chocolatey drink every household needs. Try my vanilla pastry cream recipe and pistachio pastry cream for different variations!

How to make Italian pastry cream (step by step)

This chocolate pastry cream (crema pasticcera) or, the creme patisserie is perfect served with profiteroles, and napoleons, inside a pie crust, as a cake filling. The options are endless!

  1. In a medium mixing bowl, whip the egg yolks and sugar with an electric mixer until light and foamy, about 5 minutes. Add the cornstarch and mix again for 1-2  minutes until smooth and combined.
  2.  In a saucepan heat the milk on low heat. Add vanilla bean (or extract). Stir to combine. Now, turn the heat to medium and heat milk until a soft boil (little bubbles on the sides and steam start to form). When the milk is hot, remove it from heat. Using a whisk- start adding the beaten egg, sugar, and cornstarch mixture, a little bit at a time into the milk. It’s very important to stir constantly until you achieve a unified mixture.
  3. Put the saucepan back on low heat and continue whisking. Simmer for about 3-4 minutes until the cream begins to thicken. It’s very important that the cream NEVER BOILS. In this way you have a smooth cream without lumps and without chunks of cooked egg.
  4. If you have a cooking thermometer you can check that the temperature never exceeds 85°C (185 F). Otherwise, as soon as you see that bubbles begin to form in the cream, lower the heat. You can even remove it from the heat for a few seconds and put it back. This step is the only difficult step in the Pastry Cream recipe.
  5. Keep cooking on very low heat until cream is thickened. When the cream is well thickened (it will stick to the back of a spoon and not drip off), remove from heat and add the chocolate. Stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth with the cream.
  6. Immediately pour it into a cold glass container. Important to remove the cream immediately from hot saucepan to prevent it from cooking longer.
  7. While cooling, cover the cream with plastic wrap. Keep it in contact with the cream. This step is to avoid forming a skin on the cream surface. Refrigerate at least 3 hours for it to set.

Top Tips to create the perfect Italian Pastry Cream

All it takes is a few ingredients and the right method to make this delicious crema pasticcera (crème pâtissière).

Crema pasticcera is not difficult to make, though it does require care and attention so that it doesn’t curdle. 

  • Room temperature eggs
  • High-quality eggs and only use the egg yolk
  • Whip egg yolks and sugar until thick and creamy using an electric mixer
  • Whole Milk
  • Corn starch instead of flour (makes it even lighter!)
  • Stir the cream constantly while it is cooking
  • Follow the instruction in the recipe exactly, and you will achieve a great cream!

The result must be a smooth and shiny cream with a balanced firmness. The flavor must not recall the cooked egg. 

Chocolate Italian Pastry Cream is flavored with vanilla and good quality chocolate to give it a rich chocolaty taste.

If you need a new electric mixer BUY THIS ONE

When making custard in a medium or large sauce pan I recommend using a FLAT WHISK. Use a flat whisk for whisking sauces, like roux or gravy.

It’s also good for custards and dishes that require frequent stirring. BUY THIS ONE.

Italian pastry cream in a bowl.

Why Italian Cream is different than Custard…

The two are very similar with only a few differences. Pastry cream is thicker than custard because there’s more starch inside and it is better for tarts and fillings.

This decadent chocolate pastry cream can easily be enjoyed by the spoonful or with a side of biscotti.

Custard cream, which in Italy called “Crema Inglese”, is often served hot and it’s more runny than Italian Pastry Cream.

Ways to Enjoy this Chocolate Italian Pastry Cream:

Italian chocolate pastry cream in a bowl with spoon

Variations

  • You can add extra flavor to this delicious chocolate pastry cream with the likes of cinnamon, alcohol like rum or bourbon, grand marnier, espresso for a mocha twist, and extracts such as mint or orange, etc.
  • For less sugar content, use some of the sugar with a granulated sweetener like erythritol/stevia. I don’t recommend substituting entire amount.
  • Add a little espresso powder to enhance the chocolate flavor without making this pastry cream taste like coffee. If using add it to the milk/cream right from the very beginning when heating it.
  • For a dairy-free version of this recipe, you can use plant-based milk.
  • If the cream is too thick once chilled then whisk the mixture, adding a little extra milk as you go.
  • If the cream is too thin once chilled then you can place it back on the stove, add a little extra cornstarch (around 1/2tbsp at a time), and heat until thickened.

Storage

Allow the pastry cream to chill in the fridge for up to 3 days before using it. Store in an airtight container. Make sure to whisk/beat the mixture so that it’s silky smooth right before using.

This is pastry cream is not freezer friendly.

From my Table to your Cucina. Made with Amore, Elena

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Italian chocolate pastry cream in a bowl with ingredients in the background

You will love this Chocolate Italian pastry cream and want to make it time and time again. It is a true Italian classic!

Don’t forget to come back and leave a star rating and comment. I love to connect with all of you!

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Chocolate Italian Pastry Cream (Crema Pasticcera al ciocolato)

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5 from 2 reviews

Chocolaty, creamy, smooth, and rich this Chocolate Italian Pastry Cream is the best filling for crostata, pastries, cakes, and more! Easy and 100% delicious

  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 46 servings 1x

Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 4 medium egg yolks (yolks ONLY)
  • 80 g (~1/2 cup) of granulated sugar
  • 40 g ( 1/3 cup) of cornstarch
  • 100 g 3.5 oz chocolate, broken into chunks or small pieces
  • 1/2 liter 2 cups of whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla bean (scrape the inside of a vanilla bean pod) you can also use 1 tsp of good quality pure vanilla extract
  • (optional) 1 tablespoon cocoa powder for added chocolate richness

Instructions

  1. In a medium mixing bowl whip the egg yolks and sugar with an electric mixer until light and foamy, about 5 minutes. Add the corn starch (and cocoa powder if using) and mix again for 1-2  minutes until smooth and combined.
  2.  In a sauce pan heat the milk on low heat. Add vanilla bean (or extract). Stir to combine. Now, turn heat to medium and heat milk until a soft boil (little bubbles on the sides and steam starts to form). When the milk is hot, remove from heat. Using a whisk- start adding the beaten egg mixture a little at a time into the milk. It’s very important to stir constantly until you achieve a unified mixture.
  3. Put the saucepan back on low heat and continue whisking. Simmer for about 3-4 minutes until the cream begins to thicken. It’s very important that the cream NEVER BOILS. In this way you have a smooth cream without lumps and without chunks of cooked egg.
  4. If you have a cooking thermometer you can check that the temperature never exceeds 85°C (185 F). Otherwise, as soon as you see that bubbles begin to form in the cream, lower the heat. You can even remove it from the heat for a few seconds and put it back. This step is the only difficult step in the Pastry Cream recipe.
  5. Keep cooking on very low heat until cream is thickened. When the cream is well thickened (it will stick to the back of a wooden spoon or spatula and not drip off), remove from heat and add the chopped chocolate. Stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth with the cream.
  6. Immediately pour the hot pastry cream into a cold glass container. Important to remove the cream immediately from hot saucepan to prevent it from cooking longer.
  7. While cooling, cover the cream with plastic wrap. Keep it in contact with the cream. This step is to avoid forming a skin on the cream surface. Refrigerate at least 3 hours for it to set.

Notes

Storage

Allow the pastry cream to chill in the fridge for up to 3 days before using it. Store in an airtight container. Make sure to whisk/beat the mixture so that it’s silky smooth right before using.

  • Author: Elena Davis
  • Prep Time: 5 min
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Category: Sweet
  • Method: Italian
  • Cuisine: Italian

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About Elena

My dream is to share delicious wholesome recipes that you will share around the table with all your loved ones. The memories surrounded by food are the heart and soul of CucinaByElena.

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