Chocolate Pastry Cream

This chocolate pastry cream transforms basic ingredients into a creamy, chocolatey delight. Use it as a filling for pastries or as an indulgent layer in your favorite desserts.

Chocolate pastry cream

Recipe At a Glance

This chocolate pastry cream is a popular variation of vanilla pastry cream, the quintessential base for all other pastry creams. The main differences are the addition of dark chocolate and the omission of butter in this version.

The process of making chocolate pastry cream is straightforward, taking about 25 minutes. Here’s a quick overview:

  • Boil milk with vanilla extract (optional).
  • Mix egg yolks with sugar and cornstarch.
  • Temper the egg mixture with the hot milk.
  • Cook until the cornstarch thickens.
  • Add chopped chocolate, stirring until melted and well incorporated.
  • Refrigerate until ready to use.

Simple, right?

If you’re making this chocolate pastry cream for the first time, please read the ingredient notes, step-by-step instructions, and tips. If you have experience with pastry creams, feel free to jump to the recipe card.

Ingredients Notes and Substitutes

Chocolate pastry cream ingredients
  • Milk: Whole fat is best, but skim also works. Milk alternatives are fine, though they may slightly alter the final flavor. If using a sweetened variety, reduce the sugar in the recipe by half.
  • Cornstarch: Ideal for its high thickening temperature. Substitute half the amount of potato starch, but allow the cooked milk mixture to cool slightly before adding to the eggs to prevent premature thickening. For more information, see my article on cornstarch versus potato starch.
  • Sugar: Regular white sugar is fine, but brown sugar might be an interesting pairing with dark chocolate. Sugar substitutes are also okay.
  • Chocolate: Dark chocolate with 60 to 70 percent cocoa solids is the default option. You could also go with flavored dark chocolate for a slightly different flavor. Combining dark and milk chocolate, or even going with milk chocolate only both work, but you should reduce the sugar so it’s not overly sweet.
  • Vanilla Extract: Optional but recommended for enhancing flavor. Use half the amount typically used in vanilla pastry cream.

If you know a thing or two about pastry cream, you’ll notice there’s no butter in the list above. We add quite a lot of chocolate to the cream, making it quite rich, so no additional richness is needed.

How to Make Chocolate Pastry Cream

  1. Boil Milk: Measure milk into a pot, add vanilla extract and half the sugar. Heat until nearly boiling.
  2. Prep Yolks: Whisk yolks in a bowl. Mix in cornstarch and remaining sugar. Set aside.
Mix the egg yolks, cornstarch, and sugar
Mix the egg yolks, cornstarch, and sugar
  1. Prep Chocolate: Finely chop the chocolate and set aside.
Chopping the chocolate
Chop the chocolate
  1. Temper Eggs: Remove milk from heat as it nears boiling. Gradually add hot milk to yolks, whisking constantly to prevent curdling. Repeat 3 to 4 times until all milk is incorporated, stirring continuously.
Pour warm milk into the egg mixture
Gradually pour warm milk into the egg mixture
  1. Cook Until Thick: Return the mixture to the pot. Cook over low or medium heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens and starts to bubble (2-4 mins).
  1. Add Chocolate: Remove from heat, add chopped chocolate, and whisk until melted and incorporated.
  1. Taste Test: Carefully taste the cream and add more sugar if needed.
  2. Strain (Optional): Strain if there’s unmelted chocolate or curdled yolks. Skip this step if the cream is smooth. This is your chance to redeem the cream if you messed up earlier (say, weren’t whisking when you should’ve been).
  1. Cover and Chill: Cover with plastic wrap, touching the surface of the cream. Cool at room temperature for 15 mins, then refrigerate.
Cover with plastic wrap
Cover with plastic wrap and chill
  1. Whisk and Use: Whisk before using. Note that it shouldn’t be as stiff as other pastry creams due to the chocolate content.

This preparation method is the gold standard for pastry creams, but it’s not the only one. You could also go with the alternative approach of cooking everything (except the cornstarch and some milk) together until almost boiling and thickening it with cornstarch. I cover this approach in detail in the vanilla pastry cream article.

Tips

  • Chill on a Plate. To speed up the chilling process, pour it onto a large plate or bowl. Or a couple of them. A larger surface area helps it cool down much faster.
  • Make It in Advance. This pastry cream keeps for 3 to 4 days in the fridge, so you can easily prepare it the day before you need it. I usually make all the pastry creams I need a day earlier, and assemble the dessert the day I’m serving it.
A glass of chocolate pastry cream
  • Keep Whisking. Whisking is crucial in this recipe to avoid curdling the yolks, so don’t skip it. If you do, you’ll end up with curdled yolks that don’t do your pastry creams any favors.
  • Play With Chocolate Flavors. You can alter the flavor of this pastry cream simply by changing the chocolate you’re using. Say you’re making a dessert with cherries or something cherry-flavored. Instead of regular dark chocolate, grab a bar of cherry-flavored one that’ll further enhance the cherry flavor.
Chocolate pastry cream filling
Chocolate pastry cream for filling
  • Melt chocolate in milk and blend it. Fairly cheap chocolate sometimes has a hard time melting. If that’s the case for yours, next time melt the chocolate when boiling the milk and run it through a blender instead of adding it as the last step. The downside is that the cream will take much longer to cool, but the chocolate should melt and incorporate better, avoiding the need to strain it.

Usage

This pastry cream is ideal for layered desserts such as parfaits or trifles, and in stuffed pastries like croissants, eclairs, or cream puffs. It’s also great as a cake filling or frosting and for tart fillings.

Cream puffs filled with chocolate pastry cream
Cream puffs filled with chocolate pastry cream

Note that regular pastry cream, including this recipe, is somewhat soft after piping. It works well as a topping but may not support heavy decorations. For a sturdier option, transform it into creme mousseline by whipping the pastry cream with whipped butter. Or you could skip cornstarch and make chocolate Bavarian cream instead.

Storage

You can store this pastry cream for 3 to 4 days in the fridge. Make sure the container is sealed tightly so that it doesn’t absorb any smells.

Chocolate pastry cream

Chocolate Pastry Cream

This chocolate pastry cream is all about turning basic ingredients into a creamy, chocolatey delight. Use it as a filling for pastries or as an indulgent layer in your favorite desserts.
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Course: Dessert, Filling
Cuisine: French
Keyword: Chocolate, Cream Patisserie, Custard, Filling, Pastry Cream
Servings: 2.5 cups

Equipment

  • whisk

Ingredients

  • 2 cups milk ~480g
  • 4 medium egg yolks or large (about 60-70g)
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch ~40g
  • 7 tablespoons sugar ~87g
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 oz dark chocolate ~113g

Instructions

  • Boil Milk: Combine milk, vanilla extract, and half the sugar in a pot. Heat until almost boiling.
  • Prep Yolks: Whisk egg yolks in a bowl. Mix in cornstarch and remaining sugar.
  • Chop Chocolate: Finely chop chocolate and set aside.
  • Temper Eggs: Gradually add hot milk to yolks, whisking constantly to blend without curdling.
  • Thicken Cream: Return mixture to pot and cook over low/medium heat until thick (2-4 mins), stirring constantly.
  • Add Chocolate: Off the heat, whisk in chopped chocolate until melted and smooth.
  • Taste and Adjust: Taste and add sugar if needed.
  • Strain (Optional): Strain if needed to remove unmelted chocolate or curdled yolks.
  • Chill: Cover with plastic wrap and cool at room temperature for 15 mins, then refrigerate.
  • Whisk Before Using: Whisk before piping.

Notes

This recipe uses less sugar than most other pastry cream recipes out there. Make sure to taste the pastry cream and adjust the sugar if needed. It should be sweet, but not so that the vanilla flavor is barely noticeable.
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