Mom’s Homemade Pastry Cream …Luscious and Easy

When my mom, Betty, began catering in the early 1980’s, fresh peach and fresh strawberry pies were her first orders from a wine bar cafe near us which did not have a full kitchen.  Patrons loved her pies so much that she expanded into a full catering business for several years – Mrs. T’s Catering.  I was reminded how luscious her pastry cream was the other day when deciding to prepare it.  She would spread a layer of this yummy cream on the bottom of her pies (in her already baked, hand-made crust), then pile high with fresh fruit.  Her pastry cream recipe is in Tea With Betty and below.  

I was a bit rushed and being lazy so didn’t pull out my mixer which is called for to finish the cream.  I hand whisked instead.  It came out beautifully.  Reducing the mixer step made making this pastry cream truly quick and easy to prepare.  So, if you have the book…note that you can whisk in the last bit of butter by hand and it works excellently…no need for the stand mixer (which I have to go drag out of a cupboard in my garage any time I want to use it.)

As I tasted the finished cream, it instantly reminded me of my mom and what a special cook she was.  She sure had a palate for knowing great flavor using simple, quality, and fresh ingredients.

These are the petite vanilla cream tarts I threw together as a friend was coming over for a chat and a cup of tea…I just wanted a few bites of sweet to go with our tea and talk.  Perfect…three bites is all one really needs of sweets to be satisfied some say…we had four bites 🙂

Tart shells...Mom's pastry cream topped with Italian Toschi cherries...deeelicious

Tart shells…Mom’s pastry cream topped with Italian Toschi cherries…deeelicious

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Searching my fridge, I found a small amount left of this Italian dark cherry topping that a chef friend shared with me.  Using one cherry and a little drizzle on each made for a nice combination of flavors.

Toschi cherries are an Italian gourmet product using the highest quality cherries.  They are really wonderful to finish a meal with too on top of a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

 Next time you need a pastry cream or pudding filling, try this one…it is so much tastier than a box pudding and has much less sugar in it.  It also takes about the same amount of time to prepare as a packaged pudding mix.

Recipe: Mom’s Homemade Pastry Cream Filling   Makes about 2 ½ cups.

PREP:  20 minutes  TOTAL TIME: 50 minutes (includes chilling)

2 cups whole milk

½ cup sugar

½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped (or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract)

Pinch of salt

4 large egg yolks

¼ cup cornstarch

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, ¼ cup sugar, vanilla bean and seeds, and salt.  Cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a simmer.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, cornstarch, and remaining ¼ cup sugar.

Whisking constantly, slowly pour about ½ cup of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolk mixture.  Continue adding milk mixture, ½ cup at a time, until it has been incorporated.  Pour mixture back into saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until it thickens and registers 160° F on an instant-read thermometer, about 2 minutes.  Remove and discard vanilla bean.

Transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Add the butter, and beat on medium speed until the butter melts and the mixture cools, about 5 minutes.  (or my new lazy way…move pan off heat and whisk in the butter for one to two minutes, voila, done…proceed to cover with plastic wrap).

Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming.  Refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.

Just before using, beat on low speed until smooth; you can also whisk by hand.



  1. Is this the filling you use for your cream puffs too? I think I’m going to include them in my shower menu. Also, how do you know when the milk mixture has come to a simmer?

    • Yes it is and the good thing is that you can prepare the filling a day or two in advance of your event …so it is done and out of the way until you “fill”.
      As to how you know when the milk mixture is at a simmer, there are small bubbles and some movement and action at the side of the pan…keep stirring so you don’t scorch the milk / egg mixture … stop for a couple seconds and you’ll see the bubbling start.. I also use a candy thermometer often to check the temp of things like this so I don’t over or undercook the mixture. Let me know if you have further questions.

  2. Mmmmm, they look as if they’d melt in the mouth.

    • They did…the rich dark cherry with the creamy vanilla cream just melted in a most delightful way.

      • Oh, I can imagine, I can almost taste them…

  3. Thanks for making the extra two for me. They were great.

    • You are most welcome….Always!

  4. I would kill for two tablespoons of that pastry creme right now!!!!! YUM!

    • Awwww. And me too! 🙂

      Sent from my iPhone

  5. Wow how did I miss the call? Pastry cream and cherries….yum two of my favorite things.

    • and they are AWESOME Italian cherries….I still have some, will save them for you!