Easy Strawberry Pastry Cream

Love fresh and fruity flavors? You’re going to adore this easy strawberry pastry cream. The recipe is simple, and works with fresh, frozen, and even canned strawberries.

Strawberry pastry cream in a jar

Recipe At a Glance

This strawberry pastry cream is a fantastic addition to your dessert repertoire.

The recipe itself is straightforward. If you’re already familiar with making any pastry cream, you’ll find this version refreshingly simple. The main tweak is swapping out some of the milk for strawberry puree and using less vanilla extract than you would in a traditional vanilla pastry cream.

You can use fresh, frozen, or even canned strawberries, making this a versatile recipe you can enjoy throughout the year. However, it truly shines when you accompany it with fresh strawberries, making it a great choice during the summer when they’re at their peak.

If this is your first time trying out strawberry pastry cream, take a moment to review the ingredient notes, detailed instructions, and helpful tips below. If you’re a seasoned pro, go ahead and skip right to the recipe card.

Ingredients Notes and Substitutes

Strawberry pastry cream ingredients
  • Milk: Whole fat works best as the fat adds that extra bit of richness.
  • Strawberries: Fresh, frozen, or canned are all fine. You’ll blend and strain them anyway, so no one will know the difference.
  • Lemon juice. Optional, but helps enhance the flavor.
  • Cornstarch: Cornstarch is best but you can also use potato starch, just halve the amount. Check out my article on cornstarch versus potato starch for more details.
  • Sugar: Regular white sugar works well, but feel free to use any sweetener you like. Remember to adjust the amount when using alternatives like xylitol or stevia.
  • Egg Yolks.
  • Vanilla Extract: Vanilla extract adds an extra bit of flavor to the cream, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world if you skipped it. If you want to use vanilla beans instead, check out my article on creme patissiere where I cover infusing the milk with beans.
  • Butter: Use unsalted full-fat butter for best results.

How to Make Strawberry Pastry Cream

  1. Prep Strawberries: Thaw frozen strawberries beforehand or gently cook them in a saucepan with a splash of water until they soften. If using canned strawberries, make sure to drain them well. For fresh strawberries, wash them and remove the stems.
  1. Make Strawberry Puree: Pop the strawberries into a blender and blitz them into a puree. Strain this through a fine mesh sieve to eliminate seeds, aiming for a smooth texture.
  1. Prep Pot: Set side 1/4 cup of milk, then pour the rest into a saucepan along with the strawberry puree, egg yolks, vanilla extract, and sugar. Whisk these together until they’re nicely blended.
Adding the ingredients
Pour the remaining ingredients into the saucepan
  1. Cook: Place the saucepan over medium heat and warm the mixture until it’s just about to boil, stirring regularly to avoid cooking the egg. Frequent whisking is crucial here—every 30 seconds, increasing to more frequent stirring as it heats up.
  2. Prep Starch Slurry: While the mixture heats, mix the reserved milk with cornstarch in a small bowl until the cornstarch is evenly dispersed.
Mixing the starch slurry
Make the starch slurry
  1. Add Starch Slurry: As soon as you see bubbles forming in the saucepan, remove it from the heat and swiftly stir in the starch slurry. If the slurry has settled, give it a quick stir to redistribute the starch before adding.
  2. Cook Until Thick and Bubbly: Return the pot to low or medium heat and keep stirring until the mixture thickens significantly and begins to bubble. This should take between 2 to 4 minutes, depending on your stove and pot. Don’t rush this step to prevent the yolks from curdling.
  1. Take Off the Heat and Whisk: Once thickened, pull the pot off the heat and whisk vigorously for another minute to ensure it’s smoothly thickened.
  2. Stir in Butter: Drop in the butter and mix until it’s fully melted and incorporated into the cream.
  1. Taste Test: Carefully taste the cream—it’ll be hot! Adjust with more sugar or vanilla if needed. If you’re adding lemon juice, now is the time.
  2. (Optional) Strain: If you notice any lumps or cooked egg bits in your pastry cream, pour it through a strainer into a bowl to achieve a uniform texture.
  3. Cover and Chill: Lay plastic wrap directly on the surface to avoid a skin forming. Let it cool at room temperature for about 30 minutes, then refrigerate until chilled.
Cover and chill
Cover with plastic wrap to prevent skin forming then chill
  1. Whisk and Use: Once chilled, the cream will thicken like pudding. Break it up with a fork, then whisk it until it’s smooth enough to pipe. Now, it’s ready to use.

Notes on Technique

Many recipes suggest adding strawberry puree to pastry cream once it’s already thickened, mainly to avoid the milk curdling from the strawberries’ acidity.

This method is perfectly fine if you’re not using a ton of strawberries—something like a 2-to-1 ratio of milk to strawberries by volume.

But if you’re aiming for a stronger strawberry flavor and want to use more puree, you might end up with not enough milk to cook the yolks without turning it into an egg scramble.

Strawberry pastry cream ready for piping

A good workaround is to reduce the strawberry puree to intensify its flavor while keeping the amount of liquid small. If you have an extra 10 to 20 minutes, it’s definitely worth reducing the puree on the stove and adding this concentrated flavor at the end.

When I’m pressed for time, I mix the strawberry puree with the milk from the get-go and use it as my liquid base. This lets me tweak the strawberry-to-milk ratio more freely.

This approach does raise the risk of some curdling, but in my experience, it’s usually not a big issue with strawberry puree, unless you’re also adding a lot of lemon juice. That’s why I suggest stirring in lemon juice only after the pastry cream is cooked.

To sum it up: if you want to keep the milk from curdling, stir in the strawberry puree after your pastry cream has thickened.

Ready-to-use strawberry pastry cream in a jar

Adjusting Strawberry Flavor

The recipe as it stands gives you a pastry cream with a nice, balanced strawberry taste. Once you puree and strain the strawberries, you’ll end up with about 1 to 1 strawberry puree to milk ratio by volume.

If you prefer it a bit milder, simply cut the strawberry amount in half and up the milk by half. If you’re in the mood for something more intensely strawberry, do the opposite: boost the strawberries by half and reduce the milk accordingly. If you go this route, a little extra butter might be needed to balance out the lower milk volume.

A bowl of smooth strawberry pastry cream
A bowl of smooth strawberry pastry cream for filling

Like I mentioned before, another way to amp up the flavor without messing with the milk quantity is to make a strawberry reduction. Double your strawberries, puree them, and simmer the mix with a little lemon juice and sugar until it’s halved in volume.

This second method makes an even better pastry cream because it keeps the flavor strong without reducing the milk. It does take more time, though, so it’s all about what fits into your schedule.

Strawberry pastry cream piped perfectly into a jar
Strawberry pastry cream piped perfectly into a jar

Recipes That Use Strawberry Pastry Cream

Here are our recipes that use this pastry cream:

Storage

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

Strawberry pastry cream in a jar

Strawberry Pastry Cream

Love fresh and fruity flavors? You’re going to adore this easy strawberry pastry cream. The recipe is simple, and works with fresh, frozen, and even canned strawberries.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: French
Keyword: Creme Patisserie, Pastry Cream, strawberries, Strawberry Pastry Cream
Servings: 2.25 cups

Equipment

  • 1 whisk

Ingredients

  • 1 cup milk ~240g
  • 12 oz strawberries ~340 g, or 1 cup strawberry puree
  • 4 egg yolks medium or large (about 60-70 g)
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch ~40 g
  • 7 tablespoons sugar ~87 g
  • 4 teaspoons lemon juice (~20 ml, optional)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter ~28 g

Instructions

  • Strawberry Prep: Thaw or gently cook frozen strawberries; drain canned ones well; wash and de-stem fresh strawberries.
  • Puree: Blend strawberries into a puree and strain for smoothness.
  • Mix Ingredients: In a saucepan, combine all but 1/4 cup of milk with the strawberry puree, egg yolks, vanilla extract, and sugar. Whisk well.
  • Heat Mixture: Cook over medium heat until nearly boiling, stirring frequently to prevent the yolks from curdling.
  • Cornstarch Slurry: Mix the reserved milk with cornstarch until smooth.
  • Combine Slurry: Add the slurry to the heated mixture as soon as bubbles appear, stirring quickly.
  • Thicken Cream: Return to heat and stir continuously until the mixture thickens and bubbles, about 2-4 minutes.
  • Finish Cooking: Remove from heat, whisk vigorously for a minute to smooth out the texture.
  • Add Butter: Incorporate butter into the cream until melted and smooth.
  • Season to Taste: Adjust sweetness and flavor with additional sugar or vanilla; add lemon juice if using.
  • Strain (Optional): Strain to remove any lumps or cooked egg bits.
  • Cool and Chill: Cover with plastic wrap, let cool at room temperature, then chill in the refrigerator.
  • Whisk Before Using: Whisk until smooth and ready for use.
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