How to make a crème pâtissière

How to make a crème pâtissière

Crème pâtissière, also known as pastry cream or ‘crème pât’, is a rich, creamy custard thickened with flour. It is a key ingredient of many French desserts such as soufflés, fruit tarts and mille-feuille. It is traditionally flavoured with vanilla, but it is a versatile base for almost any flavour; chocolate, coffee, fruit zest, or even a splash of brandy.


  • 250ml of whole milk
  • 1 vanilla pod, or 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 50g of caster sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 10g of plain flour
  • 10g of cornflour
Bring the milk and vanilla to the boil in a saucepan then remove from the heat as soon as it comes to the boil. Keep an eye on the pan as the milk can boil over very quickly!
Mix the sugar, egg yolks and flours together until thoroughly incorporated.
Pour a third of the warmed milk over the egg mixture and whisk vigorously until smooth and thoroughly combined
Pour the egg mixture into the saucepan with the milk and continue to whisk over a medium heat
Cook until the mixture thickens, being careful not to let it burn on the bottom of the pan. The mixture will go very lumpy – don't worry, this is supposed to happen! Just keep whisking and the mixture will go smooth, thickened and glossy. Cook out for another two minutes, then remove from the heat
Empty your crème pâtissière into a bowl and close cover with cling film to prevent a skin forming. Allow to cool, then place in the fridge until needed


For a silky smooth finish, whisk the crème patissière before using. You can also fold whipped cream/crème Chantilly through your crème pâtissière to make a crème Diplomat – perfect if you want a lighter pastry cream for fillings and cakes.


Crème pâtissière is the vital component of a host of desserts and sweet snacks. To make a sweet soufflé, for example, you will first have to master the art of the pastry cream, then whisk the leftover egg whites until fluffy for a light, airy finish. Similarly, no trifle is complete without a thick, rich pastry cream applied liberally in layers with booze-drenched cake, jelly and fruit. It also makes a sublime doughnut filling.

Naturally, crème pâtissière is a must-have item when trying your hand at French pâtisserie. Try Pascal Aussignac’s classic strawberry tart recipe to start, which sees a pastry case filled with a loving layer of pastry cream and topped with fresh strawberries for a family-sized spin on tarte aux fraises. A classic clafoutis would also be incomplete without this decadent cream holding everything together.

Often when crème pâtissière is used as a filling for choux pastry items like profiteroles or eclairs, it is lightened with crème chantilly first – a combination that is known as crème diplomat, or crème légère. Pierre Koffmann has an excellent recipe for creme diplomat in his caramelised apple with arlettes dish, and Nancy Ann-Harbord’s host of éclair recipes demonstrate the level of flavour fun that you can achieve, once you have the knack. Raspberry and rose, gin and tonic and salted caramel-flavoured pastry creams are used to fill her choux creations for a lavish, creative take on a classic.