If you’re feeling lost with all the different types of pastry creams out there or just need some inspiration, then keep reading! I’ve gathered them in one place so you’ll know exactly what delicious cream to pick next time depending on how firm, airy and rich you’d like it to be. Pair them with choux buns, eclairs, tarts, puff pastry and more!
The three basic creams are whipped cream, crème Anglaise and pastry cream. If you know how to make these, then the sky is the limit!
Whipped cream is simply heavy cream that has been whipped until light and airy. There are a few golden rules to keep in mind when making whipped cream:
- Use heavy cream with a fat content of at least 30%, ideally 35%. It is the fat in the cream that stabilizes the air bubbles incorporated. Low fat products won’t work here!
- Use cold heavy cream. The heavy cream should be very cold. Some bakers will even chill the mixing bowl and beaters beforehand.
- Don’t overwhip the cream. If you take it too far, it will become grainy and you might even end up with butter!
- Don’t let it sit. Whipped cream on its own isn’t stable. It’s best to make it just before you need it.
Chantilly cream is simply sweetened whipped cream. You can add about 15% sugar to the cream to sweeten it. You can put more or less depending on the use and your preference. Most recipes will also call for a flavoring such as vanilla extract. Chantilly is a wonderful filling for choux buns, French meringue and fruit cakes.
Learn how to make Chantilly cream.
Crème Anglaise is a custard made of egg yolks, sugar and milk/cream that is gently heated on the stovetop. The egg yolks are the only thickener in the crème Anglaise. It does not contain any starch (cornstarch or flour) giving it a pourable consistency.
Crème Anglaise is properly cooked when:
- It has slightly thickened and coats the back of a spoon.
- A digital thermometer inserted into the cream (without touching the bottom of the saucepan) registers a temperature of about 82°C (180°F). It should never exceed 85°C (185°F) which would cause the eggs to curdle resulting in a lumpy cream.
Learn how to make crème Anglaise.
Bavarian cream is composed of a crème Anglaise that has been set with gelatin and lightened with whipped cream. This cream has an airy, mousse-like texture and is generally used as a filling in charlottes and Bavarian cakes.
You can flavor Bavarian cream however you’d like. I like to add chocolate for example when making chocolate Bavarian cream. To make a fruity Bavarian cream for a strawberry charlotte cake, you can replace part or all of the liquid (milk/cream) with fruit puree.
Cremeux, which translates from French to “creamy”, is a crème Anglaise that has been thickened with butter, gelatin or chocolate. The cremeux can be poured into molds and used as an insert in cakes or tarts once firm (e.g. in this caramel cremeux tart). It can also be piped on choux pastry or tartlets if firm enough such as this dark chocolate cremeux.
- Bavarian cream = crème Anglaise + whipped cream + gelatin
- Cremeux = crème Anglaise + thickener (butter, gelatin or chocolate)
Pastry cream is an extremely versatile custard composed of eggs (usually yolks), milk (and/or cream, half and half), sugar, a thickener (cornstarch and/or flour), butter and flavorings. It can be used as a filling in numerous pastries such as cream puffs, eclairs, fruit tarts and brioche Suisse. It also serves as the base for many pastry cream variations such as crème légère, diplomat cream, chiboust cream and mousseline cream.
To make pastry cream, milk is brought to a simmer and gradually poured over a mixture of egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch (or flour) to slowly raise the temperature of the eggs. The mixture is then cooked until it thickens and starts to boil. Here are some key points to remember when making pastry cream:
- Boil the pastry cream: Don’t remove the pastry cream from the heat as soon as it thickens. Always let it boil for a minute or two to ensure it is properly cooked. Undercooked pastry cream will taste starchy and won’t have the right consistency.
- Keep whisking: Don’t walk away when making pastry cream or you’ll end up with a lumpy cream.
- Chill it quickly: Pour the cooked pastry cream into a wide container and cool it down quickly.
Learn how to make pastry cream.
If you love pastry cream but would like a lighter version, then crème légère might be what you are looking for. Simply whisk cold pastry cream to loosen it then add some whipped cream to lighten it.
Things to keep in mind:
- Use cold heavy cream with a fat content of at least 30% (ideally 35%) for the whipped cream.
- Chill the pastry cream before adding whipped cream so you don’t deflate the cream.
- The amount of whipped cream added will depend on your preference and intended use. For a lighter cream, add more whipped cream. For a sturdier cream with a stronger pastry cream flavor add less whipped cream.
- Whip the heavy cream just before folding it into the pastry cream.
Crème légère is a delicate cream and is best served as soon as it’s made. If you’re looking for a more stable cream which is also airy, then diplomat cream will be more suitable.
Learn how to make crème légère.
Diplomat cream is crème légère (pastry cream with whipped cream) that has been stabilized with gelatin. To make diplomat cream, you simply add bloomed gelatin to hot pastry cream. Once the pastry cream has cooled down, you can add the desired amount of whipped cream.
This cream is a great choice for tarts, choux buns, eclairs, millefeuille and St. Honoré cake.
Learn how to make diplomat cream.
Mousseline cream is a rich cream made by whipping pastry cream with softened butter. The addition of butter makes this cream perfect for piping in choux pastry once chilled. It also pairs wonderfully with fruits such as in the Fraisier cake and can be flavored in various ways such as this pistachio mousseline cream.
When making mousseline cream, it’s important to keep an eye on the temperature of the pastry cream and butter. The pastry cream shouldn’t be hot when you add the butter or you’ll end up with a runny cream caused by the melted butter. The pastry cream and softened butter should ideally be at around the same temperature (16°C/60°F) when combining. A large temperature difference can cause the butter to firm up making the cream lumpy.
Learn how to make mousseline cream.
Chiboust cream is an airy cream composed of pastry cream, Italian meringue and gelatin. It is the cream traditionally used in the St. Honoré cake.
Here are the basic steps for making chiboust cream:
- Prepare the pastry cream.
- Add gelatin to the hot pastry cream. Cool down at room temperature.
- Prepare a syrup. When it reaches a temperature of 118°C (245°F), gradually pour it over partially whipped egg whites whilst mixing.
- Keep whipping until the meringue is lukewarm and holds its shape then gently fold it into the pastry cream. Use as desired.
Learn how to make chiboust cream.
Almond cream is traditionally composed of equal amounts of butter, almond flour, sugar and eggs. It can also contain a little bit of flour to bind the ingredients and flavoring such as rum. The almond can be replaced with other nuts such as hazelnuts for a different flavor profile.
This cream has to be baked and is used as a filling in numerous desserts such as the galette des rois (King cake) and the French pear tart.
Learn how to make almond cream.
Frangipane is a more subtle version of almond cream that is made by combining almond cream with pastry cream. The amount of pastry cream added will depend on personal preference. The more pastry cream is added, the milder the almond flavor and the smoother the texture.
Frangipane can be used in the same way as almond cream in tarts, breakfast pastries etc.
- Crème légère = pastry cream + whipped cream
- Diplomat cream = pastry cream + whipped cream + gelatin
- Mousseline cream = pastry cream + softened butter
- Chiboust cream = pastry cream + Italian meringue + gelatin
- Frangipane = pastry cream + almond cream (butter, almond flour, sugar and eggs)
Ganache is a chocolate cream filling that is composed of chocolate and heavy cream in its most basic form. The ratio of chocolate to heavy cream will depend on the intended use and the choice of chocolate. For a thicker ganache, either use more chocolate, less cream or replace the chocolate with one that has a higher cocoa percentage.
Chocolate ganache is extremely versatile. It can used as a glaze for profiteroles, ice cream and cakes when it’s warm. It also works great as a filling when making a chocolate tart or as a frosting for cakes. A thick ganache that holds its shape is perfect for making delicious truffles.
To make ganache, pour warm heavy cream over melted chocolate and stir from the center then outwards in circles until completely smooth. You can even whip the ganache for an airier version. And if you want to take it one step further, add cold heavy cream to the ganache. Chill it for several hours then whip until very light and airy as I do in this delicious chocolate caramel ganache.
If you have an urge to make chocolate ganache but ran out of chocolate, you might like to try this cocoa powder ganache. And if you have chocolate but no heavy cream, then you can give this water ganache a go.
I hope you found this guide helpful and that you discovered some delicious new pastry creams to try out!