Italian Desserts

Italian Pastry Cream: Crema Pasticcera

May 9, 2020 (Last Updated: May 26, 2020) by Emily

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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 from Italian doughnuts, pastries, cakes or tarts, the list is endless!

A small individual sized pie crust filled with Italian pastry cream and topped with two slices of strawberry.

A small pie crust filled with Italian pastry cream and topped with fresh berries. Try it for a super quick and simple dessert!

Crema Pasticcera is just incredible!

If you’ve ever ordered a pastry or doughnut alla crema at a bar in Italy it comes heavily filled with pastry cream.

Everyone makes theirs slightly different adapting it with different citrus zest usually lemon or orange and sometimes it’s spiked with a little Limoncello or La Strega liqueur, omg it is to die for!

This recipe is for a basic Italian pastry cream with vanilla but you can easily adapt it with lemon or your liqueur of choice.

It only takes 10 minutes to make then it’s left to cool and set so you can use it to fill pastries, bomboloni doughnuts, or anything you like!

Ingredients you need

The ingredients are super simple; eggs, sugar, cornstarch, vanilla, and full-fat milk. I recommend using full-fat milk because it thickens quickly and gives a rich and creamy flavour to the pastry cream (see the photo below that shows all the ingredients you need).

An overview of ingredients to make Italian pastry cream

How to make Italian pastry cream – step by step

Warm the milk in a saucepan then set aside.

In a bowl whisk the egg yolks and sugar just until combined. Add the cornstarch (cornflour UK) and mix it into the eggs until combined (photos 1 -3).

Step by step photos showing how to prepare Italian pastry cream

Slowly pour the warm milk into the bowl with the eggs constantly whisking until everything is mixed together (make sure the milk is just warm and not hot so the eggs don’t scramble) (photos 5 & 6).

Once combined pour the mixture back into the saucepan you warmed the milk in.

Step by step photos showing how to thicken pastry cream in a saucepan

Heat it on a low heat stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for 10 minutes until very thick (photos 7 & 8).

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 (see photos for reference).

Two photos showing the consistency of pastry cream and with plastic wrap over it

Once thickened pour the pastry cream into a clean bowl and place plastic wrap directly on top of the cream so a skin doesn’t form (photo 10).

Once cooled completely place the bowl in the fridge until ready to use.

A close up of Crema pasticcera on a spoon

The consistency of Crema Pasticcera, thick and creamy!

Different flavours and variations

There are so many ways to adapt Italian pastry cream, here are some suggestions you might want to try:

  • Lemon zest (1 whole unwaxed lemon)
  • Orange zest (1 whole orange)
  • Limoncello (around 1-2 tbsp)
  • La Strega liqueur (around 1-2 tbsp)
  • Marsala wine  (around 1 tbsp)
  • Cointreau liqueur (around 1-2 tbsp)

How to store pastry cream

The Crema Pasticcera 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.

Italian pastry cream in a bowl sitting on a wooden surface

Fun ways to use it

I have great memories of eating cornetti (Italian croissants) filled with Crema Pasticcera for breakfast while I was studying Italian in Pisa. Served with a dusting of powdered sugar and a cappuccino it just doesn’t get much better!

Pastries are the ultimate way to use this pastry cream whether it’s croissants, Sfogliatelle or Bomboloni (doughnuts) the list is endless.

You can also use it to fill little pastry tarts or Torta della Nonna (a delicious baked custard tart topped with pine nuts).

I also love to fold the pastry cream with whipped cream and use it as a filling and frosting for cakes, delicious!

Top tips for making Italian Pastry Cream

  • Instead of vanilla paste, you can use 1 whole vanilla pod with the inside scraped out and added to the milk (remove the pod when adding the milk to the egg) or 1 tsp of vanilla extract.
  • Make sure the milk is not too hot when you mix it with the eggs it should be just warm to avoid scrambling the eggs.
  • Keep the saucepan on a low heat to thicken the mixture if you turn the heat up the eggs will scramble.
  • If you notice any unwanted lumps in your mixture whisk it using a hand whisk to smoothen it out.
  • Use full-fat milk for best results. If you do use semi-skimmed milk it will still work but will take longer to thicken (around 15 minutes).
  • Make sure to cover the Crema Pasticcera with plastic wrap as it cools to avoid a skin forming.
  • Once cooled completely place it in the fridge until ready to use.
  • The pastry cream will keep well for around 4-5 days in the fridge.
  • I do not recommend freezing as pastry cream can split when frozen.

If you tried this Italian pastry Cream or any other recipes on my blog please be sure to leave me a comment below to let me know how you got on, I love hearing from you. You can also FOLLOW ME on FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM & and PINTEREST to see more delicious food and what I’m getting up to.

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Italian Pastry Cream - Crema Pasticcera

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 from Italian doughnuts, pastries, cakes or tarts, the list is endless!
Course Dessert
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 15 servings (around 700g)
Calories 70kcal
Author Emily Kemp

Ingredients

  • 5 egg yolks (large eggs)
  • cup sugar (70g)
  • ¼ cup cornstarch Cornflour in the UK (30g)
  • 2.5 cups full-fat milk (560ml)
  • ½ tsp vanilla paste * see notes

Instructions

  • Warm the milk and vanilla in a saucepan then set aside (make sure it’s just warm and not hot).
  • Mix the egg yolks and sugar together until combined then add the cornstarch and mix it thoroughly.
  • Slowly pour the warm milk into the egg mixture whilst whisking constantly to avoid any lumps.
  • Once incorporated, pour the egg and milk mixture back into the saucepan and heat it on a low heat.
  • Stir the mixture constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture is very thick in consistency (about 10 minutes).
  • Once thickened, pour the pastry cream into a clean bowl and place plastic wrap directly on top to stop a skin forming.
  • Let the mixture cool then place in the fridge until ready to use.

Notes

  • Instead of vanilla paste, you can use 1 whole vanilla pod with the inside scraped out and added to the milk (remove the pod when adding the milk to the egg) or 1 tsp of vanilla extract.
  • Make sure the milk is not too hot when you mix it with the eggs it should be just warm to avoid scrambling the eggs.
  • Keep the saucepan on a low heat to thicken the mixture if you turn the heat up the eggs will scramble.
  • If you notice any unwanted lumps in your mixture whisk it using a hand whisk to smoothen it out.
  • Use full-fat milk for best results. If you do use semi-skimmed milk it will still work but will take longer to thicken (around 15 minutes).
  • Make sure to cover the Crema Pasticcera with plastic wrap as it cools to avoid a skin forming.
  • Once cooled completely place it in the fridge until ready to use.
  • The pastry cream will keep well for around 4-5 days in the fridge.
  • I do not recommend freezing as pastry cream can split when frozen.

Nutrition

Calories: 70kcal | Carbohydrates: 9g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 3g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 69mg | Sodium: 21mg | Potassium: 60mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 152IU | Calcium: 54mg | Iron: 1mg
Helpful Info for All Recipes
  • I always use extra virgin olive oil in all of my recipes unless stated otherwise
  • When I use canned or jarred tomatoes of any kind I always use this brand for the best results and flavour
  • All vegetables are medium sized unless stated otherwise
  • All recipes are tested and developed using a fan (convection) oven
  • Find out more about how nutrition is calculated here
  • Check out our must have Italian Pantry Staples here
  • You can also find all our Essential Kitchen Tools for Italian Cooking here
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2 Comments

  • Reply
    Angela
    May 17, 2020 at 10:53 pm

    Oh this makes me close my eyes and dream of Italian pastries in the morning! I might not be there right now, but hey! you just made this look like something I can actually do! and I cannot wait to try! Thank you!5 stars

    • Reply
      Inside the rustic kitchen
      May 17, 2020 at 11:05 pm

      Aw it’s such a shame life is on hold right now but hopefully homemade desserts filled with pastry cream will help make it a little easier!

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