Crema pasticcera, Italian pastry cream, is one of the standard and most common ingredients used in Italian pastries and cakes. It’s the creamy, custardy filling in common Italian tarts, layer cakes, and pastries. It is also the cream filling you find in morning pastries such as cornetti (Italian-style croissants- my absolute favorite!). Here is one of my favorite recipes with this crema: Italian Crumble Cake Pastry Cream Filling (this would make a great Mother’s Day, or any other day, dessert ).

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. 

DSC 3397 819x1024, CucinaByElena

Tips to create the perfect Italian Pastry Cream:

All it takes is a few fresh ingredients and the right method to make this delicious crema pasticcera. 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 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!
pastry cream ingredients eggs, lemon, vanilla

The result must be a smooth, shiny cream, with a balanced firmness and the flavor must not recall the cooked egg. Italian Pastry Cream is flavored with vanilla, often with lemon or orange zest, depending on your taste or the dessert recipe you want to make. 

If you need a new electric mixer BUY THIS ONE

When making custard in a 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.

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. Pastry cream can easily be enjoyed by the spoonful or with a side biscotti. Custard cream, which in Italy called “Crema Inglese”, is often served hot and it’s more runny than Italian Pastry Cream.

pastry cream ingredients eggs, lemon, vanilla

Italian Cream Love Story

I eat this cream by the spoonful. It is light, creamy, and not too sweet. Whenever I taste it I am transported to the Italian bakeries and coffee shops where there is a variety of pastries (doughnuts, puff pastry, and tarts) filled with this delicate creamy filling. It’s a nostalgic taste since I’ve yet to taste a similar custard in an American dessert. Once you try this cream you will find it easy to LOVE and addictive to EAT.

Ways to Enjoy this Italian Pastry Cream:

Or, if you are like me, you will just eat it by the spoonful :).

Mangia! Mangia! (Eat!)

Made with Amore,

Elena

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pastry cream ingredients eggs, lemon, vanilla

Italian Pastry Cream (Crema Pasticcera) Recipe

  • Author: Elena
  • Prep Time: 5 min
  • Cook Time: 10 min
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 46 servings 1x
  • Category: Sweet/ Dessert
  • Method: Italian
  • Cuisine: Italian

Description

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, and pastries; it’s also the cream filling you find in morning pastries such as cornetti (Italian-style croissants- my absolute favorite!). Here is one of my favorite recipes to enjoy this crema:
Italian Crumble Cake Pastry Cream Filling (this would make a great Mother’s Day dessert or Sunday dessert)


Ingredients

Scale
  • 4 medium egg yolks (yolks ONLY)
  • 80 g (2/3 Cup) of granulated sugar
  • 40 g (1/3 Cup) of cornstarch
  • 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
  • zest of half lemon

Instructions

  • 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 mix again for 1-2  minutes until smooth and combined.
  •  In a sauce pan heat the milk on low heat. Add lemon zest and 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, sugar, and cornstarch mixture, a little at a time into the milk. It’s very important to stir constantly until you achieve a unified mixture.
  • 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. 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.
  • 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), immediately pour it into a cold glass container. Important to remove the cream immediately from hot saucepan to prevent it from cooking longer. 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.

Notes

Crema will keep in the fridge for up to one week in an air tight container.

Keywords: pastry cream, Italian dessert, crema pasticcera, Italian custard, custard, cream recipe, dessert recipe, sweet recipe, Italian crema