Vanilla Pastry Cream (Episode 2)


On this episode of the Sustainable Baker podcast, we learned from sustainable vanilla expert Don Seville that one of the best ways home bakers can safeguard vanilla’s future is to buy vanilla brands that support fair prices for farmers and climate-smart growing practices – like ones that are Organic, Fair Trade, or Rainforest Alliance certified.


Now, there’s no denying vanilla is expensive to begin with. But springing for it even occasionally makes a difference, and supports markets that treat everyone (and every environment) involved better. Once you have said vanilla in-hand, make the most of it by making a recipe where its flavor is on full display. 


Baker Said M’Dahoma (who you can find on Instagram and YouTube) was kind enough to share his recipe for vanilla pastry cream, reprinted below with permission. 

This was my first time using a vanilla bean. Now I get the hype!
My friend Sam ate the leftover pastry cream straight out of the piping bag. Amen, Sam. Amen.
Cream puffs, or choux puffs, are the perfect vehicle for pastry cream enjoyment.

Said M'Dahoma's Vanilla Pastry Cream

Pastry cream is for me the best cream for vanilla to shine. The secret is in infusing the pod and beans in milk. The longer you infuse, the better.” – Said M’Dahoma 


  •  500g whole milk
  • ½ vanilla pod (you can substitute 1 tsp vanilla extract, but the taste will be very different)
  • 80g sugar
  • 45g cornstarch
  • 5 egg yolks (90g)
  • 80g butter

Preparation method

  • Open up the vanilla pod to extract its beans: flatten the pod with the back of a small knife, cut in the middle, open up the pod and scrape out the beans. 
  • Put the vanilla beans, the empty vanilla pod (it still has a lot of flavor even if it is empty) and milk in a saucepan and heat up to a boil. Remove from heat, and cover. Let the vanilla infuse the milk for 10 minutes.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks with sugar then cornstarch.
  • Pour about a third of the infused milk into the egg mixture. Whisk the egg mixture and milk well, then add the egg/milk mixture back into the saucepan with the rest of the milk.
  • Heat the cream mixture over medium heat while continuously stirring to thicken the cream. Once the mixture reaches a boil, keep stirring over medium heat for 2 more minutes, to make sure the eggs and the cornstarch are cooked. Remove from the stove, add the butter, and whisk well until the butter is fully melted and combined.
  • Allow to cool slightly, then transfer cream 
  • Transfer to a bowl or container and cover with saran wrap pressed directly onto the cream (to keep a skin from forming). Allow to cool in the fridge for at least two hours before using.

More Resources

Episode Summary

Whether vanilla ice cream makes you swoon or makes you yawn, there’s no denying that without vanilla, many of our favorite desserts would fall flat. But are vanilla and other spices in danger from climate change? We get the inside scoop from spice researcher and professor A B Sharangi and Executive Director of the Sustainable Food Lab Don Seville, along with some pro tips for how home bakers can help chart a climate-smart future for this delicious baking spice. Listen below. 

Art by Megan Woodruff