Vanilla diplomat cream (crème diplomate) is a wonderfully airy cream made of pastry cream, whipped cream and gelatin. It can be used in countless desserts including choux buns, eclairs, tarts and so on.
How to Make Diplomat Cream
There are two main components to prepare for this recipe: pastry cream (with gelatin) and whipped cream. Let’s briefly take a look at the steps involved:
- Cook the pastry cream.
- Add the gelatin.
- Chill until cold.
- Whisk the cold pastry cream to loosen it.
- Whip the heavy cream to medium-firm peaks.
- Gently fold the whipped cream into the pastry cream.
- Liquid: I like to use a combination of whole milk and heavy cream for a rich pastry cream. If you replace the heavy cream with milk or use low fat alternatives, the cream will be thinner.
- Sugar: For sweetness and flavor. You can increase or decrease the amount to suit your taste. You can either add more to the pastry cream or make a Chantilly cream by adding powdered sugar to the whipped cream. I would say this diplomat cream is moderately sweetened. It’s flavorful without being overly sweet.
- Cornstarch: To thicken the pastry cream. You can add slightly more or less, depending on how thick you’d like the cream to be. I’m using just enough to get a pipeable diplomat cream that holds its shape.
- Egg yolks: For flavor, richness, color and to thicken the pastry cream. I’m using 5 egg yolks for 500 g/17.6 oz. of liquid in this recipe. In my “deluxe version” of pastry cream, there are about 6 yolks while in my lighter version for cream horns, I use about 4. The more egg yolk you add, the richer and thicker the pastry cream will be.
- Butter: Unsalted butter for even more richness and flavor. We’ll be adding cold, diced butter to the warm pastry cream which will help us cool it down slightly faster.
- Gelatin: To stabilize the diplomat cream. I’m using gelatin sheets for convenience. But if you don’t have any, you can use gelatin powder instead. Pour cold water in a bowl, 5 times the weight of gelatin powder (or as instructed on the packaging). Sprinkle the gelatin powder evenly over it. Mix briefly with a fork then let it sit for 5-10 minutes.
- Vanilla extract: To flavor the diplomat cream.
- Heavy cream: For the whipped cream that will be folded into the pastry cream. The cream should ideally be 35% fat. Don’t use cream with a fat content less than 30% or it won’t whip. The cream should also be very cold during whipping. You could even chill the bowl and beaters to ensure the cream is easy to whip. You can adjust the amount of whipped cream if you’d like. If you add less, the diplomat cream will be firmer and richer. The more whipped cream you add, the lighter the cream will be and the milder the pastry cream flavor will be. Just keep in mind that if you add too much, the diplomat cream might become too fragile. It won’t be able to hold much weight (such as the top of a choux pastry).
Preparing the pastry cream
- Soak the gelatin sheets in a bowl of cold water for about 10 minutes while you prepare the pastry cream. Make sure the sheets are not stuck together so they are fully hydrated. Note: If using gelatin powder, sprinkle it over 25 g/0.9 oz. of cold water (or as instructed on the packaging). Mix briefly with a fork then let it sit for 5-10 minutes.
- Preparing the pastry cream: Pour the milk, heavy cream and about half the sugar in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium-high heat until just simmering. Tip: The sugar will form a layer at the bottom of the saucepan and prevent the milk from sticking to it. Don’t stir the sugar to dissolve it.
- Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks with the remaining sugar in a heatproof bowl until combined. Tip: Whisk as soon as you add the sugar to the egg yolks so the mixture doesn’t get lumpy.
- Add the cornstarch and whisk to combine.
- Tempering the eggs: Gradually pour about half of the hot liquid (milk/heavy cream) into the egg mixture in a thin stream (using a ladle for example), whisking constantly. We want to slowly raise the temperature of the eggs without cooking them.
- Return the mixture to the saucepan.
- Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the pastry cream thickens and starts to boil (about 6 minutes). Lower the heat if needed. Once thickened, stop whisking occasionally to check if bubbles are forming. Let it boil for about 1 minute then remove from the heat. Tip: Don’t remove the cream from the heat as soon as it thickens. Let it boil to get rid of any starchy taste and inactivate an enzyme present in egg yolks that could make your pastry cream runny.
- Whisk in the cold butter.
- Add the vanilla extract.
- Squeeze the gelatin sheets to get rid of excess water and add them one by one to the pastry cream, whisking until fully combined. If using gelatin powder, simply pour the bloomed gelatin into the pastry cream and combine.
- Transfer to a wide container to obtain a thin layer. This will ensure the cream cools down quickly. Optional: If you notice lumps in the pastry cream, strain it through a fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl.
- Place a piece of parchment paper or cling film straight onto the surface of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Let it briefly cool down at room temperature (about 15 minutes) then chill for about 1 hour or until cool. Tip: Don’t skip the chilling step. If whipped cream is added to hot pastry cream, it will deflate and the diplomat cream won’t be firm enough.
Still need more info? You might like to read the pastry cream tutorial where I share lots of troubleshooting tips.
Adding whipped cream
- Transfer the cold pastry cream to a large mixing bowl. Don’t worry if it looks a bit thick and rubbery, it’s normal.
- Mix with a whisk or a hand mixer to loosen it and make it smooth. Return to the fridge while you prepare the whipped cream.
- In a cold bowl, start mixing the cold heavy cream on low speed then gradually increase the speed until medium-stiff peaks form. When you hold the whisk/hand mixer up, the cream should form a peak that holds its shape. Tip: If you don’t whip the cream enough, you might end up with a runny diplomat cream. But if you whip it too much, you might have trouble incorporating it into the pastry cream and it might become grainy.
- Remove the pastry cream from the fridge and whisk in about 1/4 of the whipped cream. You don’t need to be extra gentle at this step. You are just trying to lighten the pastry cream a little more.
- Gently fold the remaining whipped cream into the pastry cream in 2-3 more additions, being careful not to deflate the cream. Stop as soon as you no longer see streaks of cream. Tip: Use a spoon (or a spatula) and gently move it from the middle of the bowl towards the bottom and then up the sides. Rotate the bowl and do the same just until the cream is combined. Note: Use a larger bowl than I did for the pictures! You need to have enough space. You’ll have trouble incorporating the pastry cream at the bottom of the bowl if it’s too small.
- Transfer to a piping bag fitted with desired tip. Use immediately or chill if needed to firm it up.
Hopefully you got the perfect diplomat cream on the first attempt. But just in case, let’s talk about one of the most common issues when making diplomat cream: it’s too runny. If you have any issue with the pastry cream, such as a lumpy texture, you might want to check out all the pastry cream troubleshooting tips.
Why Is My Diplomat Cream Runny?
- Undercooked pastry cream: The pastry cream has to be brought to a boil to inactivate an enzyme (amylase) in egg yolks that breaks down starches.
- Heavy cream not whipped enough: When whipping the cream, make sure the peaks can hold their shape before folding it into the pastry cream. If it’s too soft, the diplomat cream won’t be firm enough to pipe.
- Whipped cream added to warm pastry cream: The pastry cream should be cold before folding in the whipped cream. If it is warm, it will deflate the whipped cream.
- Diplomat cream overmixed: When adding the whipped cream to the pastry cream, you should gently fold it in. Stop as soon as you no longer see streaks of cream. If you keep mixing for longer than that, you risk deflating the cream.
- Ingredients not weighed: It’s best to weigh the ingredients to ensure you add the right amount. If you add too little cornstarch, egg yolks or gelatin, you won’t get the right consistency and the cream might be runny.
- Hot weather: If it is particularly hot where you are, you might have trouble with the whipped cream becoming runny. Try to keep the cream as cold as possible.
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