Coffee Pastry Cream

Need a dessert topping with a caffeine kick? Check out our easy-to-follow coffee pastry cream recipe – a perfect fusion of flavor and simplicity!

Creamy coffee pastry in a glass

Recipe At a Glance

This coffee pastry cream is a variation of the most popular option: vanilla pastry cream. All you need to do is add some instant coffee or freshly brewed coffee to the milk, and voilà, you have a coffee-flavored option.

The process of making this pastry cream is pretty simple, and it takes about 25 minutes. Here’s a quick overview:

  • Boil milk with instant coffee and vanilla extract (optional).
  • Mix egg yolks with sugar and cornstarch.
  • Temper the egg mixture with the hot milk.
  • Cook until the cornstarch thickens.
  • Refrigerate until ready to use.

Simple, right?

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

Ingredients Notes and Substitutes

Coffee pastry cream ingredients
  • Milk: Whole fat is best, but skim is also okay. Milk alternatives work well, though they may slightly alter the final flavor. If using one with added sugar, reduce the sugar amount in the recipe by half. You can use a coffee-flavored milk alternative, omitting the instant coffee unless you want a supercharged high-octane coffee cream.
  • Cornstarch: Cornstarch is ideal due to its relatively high thickening temperature. You can substitute it with half the amount of potato starch, but allow the cooked milk mixture to cool slightly before adding it to the eggs to prevent premature thickening. For more information, check out my article on cornstarch versus potato starch.
  • Egg Yolks: Our second thickening agent.
  • Sugar: Regular white sugar is fine, but brown sugar is a great alternative if you prefer its taste with coffee. Sugar substitutes are also okay.
  • Instant Coffee: This is our primary flavoring. It’s convenient and doesn’t require brewing. Substitute with half the amount of espresso powder if needed. If you’re out of instant coffee and espresso powder, I cover how to use regular coffee in the tips section.
  • Vanilla Extract: Optional but recommended for enhancing flavor. Use half the amount typically used in vanilla pastry cream.
  • Unsalted Butter: Plain unsalted butter is all you need.

How to Make Coffee Pastry Cream

  1. Boil Coffee and Milk: Measure the milk into a pot, stir in the vanilla extract, instant coffee, and half the sugar, and bring the mixture almost to a boil.
Mixing the ingredients
Mix the ingredients and heat until nearly boiling
  1. Prep Yolks: While the milk is heating, whisk the yolks in a large bowl. Then, stir in the cornstarch and the remaining sugar. Set aside.
Mix the egg yolks, cornstarch, and sugar
Mix the egg yolks, cornstarch, and sugar
  1. Temper Eggs: As the milk approaches boiling, remove it from the heat. Gradually pour a few tablespoons of the coffee and milk mixture into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly to prevent the yolks from curdling. Repeat this process 3 to 4 times until all the milk is incorporated. Keep stirring throughout.
Pouring warm milk into the mixture
Gradually pour the warm mixture into the egg
  1. Cook Until Thick and Bubbly: Return the combined mixture to the pot used for the milk. Cook over low or medium heat, stirring constantly, until it noticeably thickens and begins to bubble. This usually takes 2 to 4 minutes, depending on the pot and heat intensity. Avoid rushing to prevent curdling of the yolks.
  1. Take Off the Heat and Whisk: Once thick, remove the pot from the heat and continue whisking for about a minute to bring the mixture past the point of maximum thickness.
  2. Stir in Butter: Add the butter to the pot and stir until it melts and is fully integrated into the cream.
  1. Taste Test: Taste the cream (carefully, as it’s hot) and add more sugar or instant coffee if needed. The heat should melt both sugar and instant coffee granules easily.
  2. Cover and Chill: Place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a crust from forming. Let it cool at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Then refrigerate (still covered) until ready to use.
Cover the coffee pastry cream
Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill
  1. Whisk and Use: The pastry cream will look like stiff pudding after you remove it from the fridge. This is expected. Start by “chopping” it with a fork, then switch to a whisk and stir until it becomes somewhat smooth. After this, it’s ready for piping.

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.

Piped coffee pastry cream in a spoon

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.
Decoratively piped coffee pastry cream
Coffee-flavored 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.
  • Use Regular Coffee. If using regular coffee beans, brew a 1/4 cup of strong espresso and reduce the milk by 1/4 cup. Combine the coffee with the milk in the initial step and proceed as per the recipe.
Coffee pastry cream with coffee beans

Usage

You can use this pastry cream in layered desserts (like parfaits or trifles), stuffed pastries (croissants, eclairs, or cream puffs), as a cake filling or frosting, or as a tart filling.

Creamy coffee pastry cream for filling
Creamy coffee pastry cream for filling

Note that regular pastry cream, including this recipe, isn’t very firm 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.

Recipes that use this pastry cream:

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.

Creamy coffee pastry in a glass

Coffee Pastry Cream

Need a dessert topping with a caffeine kick? Check out our easy-to-follow coffee pastry cream recipe – a perfect fusion of flavor and simplicity!
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Course: Dessert, Filling
Cuisine: French
Keyword: Coffee, Cream Patisserie, Custard, Filling, Pastry Cream
Servings: 2.25 cups

Equipment

  • whisk

Ingredients

  • 2 cups milk ~480g
  • 4 egg yolks medium or large (about 60-70g)
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch ~40g
  • 7 tablespoons sugar ~87g
  • 2 teaspoons instant coffee ~4g
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter ~28g

Instructions

  • Boil Milk: In a pot, mix milk with instant coffee, vanilla extract and half the sugar, and heat until almost boiling.
  • Prep Yolks: Whisk yolks in a bowl, then mix in cornstarch and the remaining sugar.
  • Temper Eggs: Gradually add a few tablespoons of hot milk to the yolk mixture, whisking constantly to avoid curdling. Repeat until all milk is incorporated.
  • Thicken Cream: Return mixture to the pot and cook on low/medium heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens and bubbles (2-4 minutes).
  • Off Heat Whisking: Once thick, remove from heat and whisk for another minute.
  • Add Butter: Stir butter into the mixture until melted and integrated.
  • Taste and Adjust: Taste the cream and add more sugar or vanilla if needed.
  • Chill: Cover with plastic wrap touching the cream's surface to avoid crust formation. Cool at room temperature for 30 minutes, then refrigerate.
  • Final Whisk: Before use, "chop" the chilled cream with a fork, then whisk until smooth. It's now ready for 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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