Italian Pastry Cream (Crema Pasticcera)

Jump to Recipe

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy.

Crema pasticcera, Italian pastry cream, is smooth, rich, and irresistible! Only 6 ingredients and easy to make! It is one of the most common ingredients in Italian pastries, donuts, zeppoles, crostata, and cakes. You will love this authentic Italian pastry cream recipe!

Want to save this recipe?
Just enter your email and get it sent to your inbox! Plus you’ll get new recipes from us every week!
Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.

You will also love these cream fillings: Italian Chocolate Pastry Cream (Crema Pasticcera)and Best Italian Pistachio Cream! Leftover egg whites? Make Soft Italian Amaretti Cookies (Sardinian Recipe)!

Simple Ingredients

All it takes for this easy recipe is a few basic ingredients.

  • Egg yolks
  • Granulated sugar
  • Cornstarch
  • Whole milk
  • Vanilla bean (scrape the inside of a vanilla bean pod) you can also use 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract (variation: use almond extract)
  • Lemon zest (variation: use orange zest)

See recipe card for quantities and full recipe.

Italian Pastry cream Ingredients
Italian Pastry Cream Ingredients

What is Italian Pastry Cream (crema pasticcera)?

This cream is the well-known and loved creamy smooth custard cream filling used in bakeries and homes across Italy. Bring a taste of Italy to your kitchen with this authentic Italian cream recipe. You can use this recipe for a variety of delicious dessert recipes!

You will find this Italian pastry cream recipe in morning pastries such as cornetti (Italian-style croissants- my absolute favorite!).

How to make Italian pastry cream (step-by-step instructions)

How to make Italian Pastry Cream (Crema Pasticcera) from scratch in only 10 minutes. This smooth and creamy vanilla pastry cream can be used for so many delicious desserts- you will love it!

  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 to the yolk mixture and mix again for 1-2  minutes until smooth and combined.
  2.  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.
  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.
  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), immediately pour it into a cold glass container. Important to remove the cream immediately from hot saucepan to prevent it from cooking longer.
  6. 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.

Tips to Make 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 (Italian pastry cream) is not difficult to make, though it does require care and attention so that it doesn’t curdle. Follow these tips for the best results and creamy texture.

  • 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 to get the right consistency
  • Cover with plastic to touch the cream so it doesn’t develop a “skin” on top
  • Follow the instruction in the recipe exactly and you will achieve a great cream!

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. 

pastry cream ingredients eggs, lemon, vanilla

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.

How 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.

For a more traditional custard try this recipe: Best Banana Cream Dream Pie (with homemade custard).

pastry cream ingredients eggs, lemon, vanilla

Serving Suggestions

Here is one of my favorite recipes with this delectable cream filling: Italian Cream Cake (this would make a great Mother’s Day, special occasion, or any other day, dessert ).

I also love to use it as a filling for Italian Crostata Recipe (filled Tart)! You can even use it to fill these Authentic Sicilian Cannoli, or Cinnamon Sugar Baked Donuts Cream Filling!

Italian Pastry Cream 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 morning pastries: Italian croissants, doughnuts, puff pastry, torta della nonna, 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 :).

Storage

The crema pasticcera (Italian pastry cream) will keep well in the fridge for up to 4-5 days.

It’s important to keep it covered either in a bowl with plastic wrap or in a sealed container so a skin doesn’t form on top.

If you notice a skin has formed simply scrape it off the top to remove it, if you mix it in you’ll end up with lumps.

Pastry cream can easily split and curdle when frozen so I don’t recommend freezing.

Top Tip

Be patient with the custard mixture it’ll take about 5 minutes before it starts to thicken at all but then it’ll thicken very quickly.

After 10 minutes it should be at the right consistency. It will stick to the back of a spoon.

More Delicious SWEET Recipes for YOU

Creme Caramel Custard Flan Italian Recipe

Italian Olive Oil Cake Orange Honey (easy)

Italian Olive Oil Cake Orange Honey (easy)

Traditional Italian Tiramisù Recipe

Best Brown Butter Apple Pie

Enjoy a taste of Italy in your kitchen with this Italian Pastry Cream (Crema Pasticcera Recipe)

Make sure to leave a ⭐️star rating on the recipe card and comment below if you make the recipe. I love to connect with you through my recipes.

I would love for you to tag me on Instagram @cucinabyelena so I can see your delicious Italian recipes. To get more ideas, follow me on Pinterest.

Print
clockclock iconcutlerycutlery iconflagflag iconfolderfolder iconinstagraminstagram iconpinterestpinterest iconfacebookfacebook iconprintprint iconsquaressquares iconheartheart iconheart solidheart solid icon
pastry cream ingredients eggs, lemon, vanilla

Italian Pastry Cream (Crema Pasticcera) Recipe

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

5 from 2 reviews

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)

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

Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 4 medium egg yolks
  • 80 g (~1/2 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 (optional substitute: almond extract)
  • zest of half lemon

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 cornstarch and mix again for 1-2  minutes until smooth and combined.
  2.  In a saucepan 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 hot 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. The cream must NEVER boil. 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 the cream is thickened. When the cream is well thickened (it will stick to the back of a wooden spoon and not drip off), immediately pour it into a cold glass container. Important to remove the cream immediately from the hot saucepan to prevent it from cooking longer.
  6. While cooling, cover the cream with plastic wrap. Keep it in contact with the cream. This step is to avoid forming skin on the cream surface. Refrigerate at least 3 hours for it to set.

Notes

Italian pastry cream will keep in the fridge for up to one week in an air tight container.

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

You May Also Like

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.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe rating 5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

4 Comments

  1. I just made this cream and it tasted a little corn starchy….I used a scale instead of measuring and added 40g per the recipe. I double checked afterwards and my 1/3 cup was just under 20g. So I believe I used double the amount. The consistency still looks great and I think when I try again it will taste better.