Pastry cream in a bowl.

Italian Lemon Pastry Cream Recipe

A rich and thick lightly scented lemon infused pastry cream recipe made with eggs, milk, sugar, cornstarch and a pinch of salt. This gluten free pastry cream is referred to as crema pasticcera in Italian and is an essential component in many Italian desserts.
Course Dessert
Cuisine Italian
Keyword Italian custard, Italian pastry cream, lemon pastry cream
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 16 servings
Calories 72kcal
Author Maria Vannelli RD


  • 2 cups milk whole or 2%
  • 1 lemon (organic) peel
  • 1 egg room temperature
  • 2 egg yolks room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar, granulated scant
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch sifted
  • pinch salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter


  • In a medium, heavy saucepan, over medium heat, combine the milk and lemon peel.
  • When milk starts to steam, remove from heat (do not allow milk to boil). Let stand for at least 10 minutes allowing the lemon peel to infuse the milk.
  • Meanwhile, whisk eggs with sugar for one minute.
  • Sift cornstarch and salt together.
  • Add dry mixture to egg mixture.
  • Whisk continuously for about 5 minutes or until the mixture becomes light colored.
  • Remove lemon peel from the milk.
  • While whisking continuously, add a ladle of hot milk to the egg mixture.
  • Gradually add all the hot milk while whisking.
  • Transfer mixture to saucepan and over medium heat, whisk continuously for about 5 minutes. Mixture will thicken. Do not allow mixture to come to a boil. 
  • Once the mixture has thickened, remove from heat.
  • Allow the mixture to cool down for a few minutes.
  • Add about two tablespoons of cut up butter and whisk into the mixture until fully incorporated,
  • Transfer mixture to a ceramic or glass dish.
  • Place a piece of plastic wrap in direct contact with the pastry cream.
  • Allow to cool for 15-20 minutes.
  • Refrigerate until ready to use  (should be used within 3 days).



Each serving is equivalent to 2 tablespoons.
The consistency of this pastry cream is perfect for cream puffs and eclairs. 
If making a layered cake (example Boston Cream Pie) the addition of 1 teaspoon of cornstarch will contribute to a thicker pastry cream.
Please keep in mind that the nutritional information provided below is just a rough estimate and variations can occur depending on the specific ingredients used. 


Serving: 1serving | Calories: 72kcal | Carbohydrates: 9g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 3g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 41mg | Sodium: 30mg | Potassium: 46mg | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 140IU | Calcium: 39mg | Iron: 0.1mg