Thick, creamy, sweet vanilla custard is the perfect creamy treat. This English-style custard is extra thick but you can adjust it to be more of a pourable custard if you want. Step-by-step photos teach you how to cook this delicious custard recipe!
In America you have ice cream on top of the dessert, in England, you have custard on top. We grew up with Bird's Custard Powder, it is iconic, classic, and downright scrumptious. But since I write a food blog it was only a matter of time until I made my own vanilla custard recipe.
One weekend I made 6 different versions of this to find what my family felt was the perfect custard. A vanilla flavor but not overpowering, sweet but not too sweet, and creamy-smooth custard perfect hot or cold.
I was going after a Creme Anglaise rather than a pastry cream. But I wanted a thicker- English-style custard good for a trifle. I wanted it almost to be sliceable in a trifle. Not be so runny. So I added cornstarch to a more traditional Creme Anglaise that is more of a pourable custard for on top of desserts. You can most certainly make this recipe without the cornstarch but it will not be as thick. You should also be very careful as you cook the custard you must cook it on low heat to prevent the eggs from scrambling. The cornstarch stabilizes the eggs and helps prevent them from scrambling.
I started the recipe testing based on my pastry cream recipe, we love that for fruit tarts!
The ingredients you'll need are:
- Whole Milk. You'll want to use full-fat milk so that you get the rich, creamy, custard!
- Heavy Whipping Cream. Adding a bit of heavy cream just adds a nice richness to the custard.
- Vanilla Bean. I cut my vanilla bean in half and use the back of my knife to scrape the seeds out then add the whole bean to the milk as well. Then after steeping discard the vanilla bean pod. You can also use vanilla bean paste if you want. If you don't have either you can use vanilla extract but you won't get those gorgeous vanilla bean flecks.
- Large Egg Yolks. I find the easiest way to separate egg yolks from egg whites is in my hands. Start with clean hands and crack the egg into your hand and let the white part drop through to a bowl. Make sure you remove the white chalza- the stringy white part attached to the yolk. Use your fingers to do this gently. Save your egg whites for amaretti cookies!
- Granulated Sugar. You just need good old white sugar or caster sugar. Not a ton is needed since I use this custard for trifles or on top of desserts.
- Cornstarch. Also known as corn flour this thickening agent helps the custard thicken nicely. I tried numerous recipes with just egg yolks as the thickener but found the corn starch helped stabilize the eggs in the custard which resulted in a silky smooth custard.
Because this is a thicker style custard would be great in a cake layer too.
Baking is a science and to really achieve the best results I highly recommend investing in a kitchen scale. This OXO Kitchen Scale is the one I use and is also the number one recommended kitchen scale by Cook's Illustrated. Think about it -what one person scoops into a "cup" is completely different from what someone else scoops!
In a medium saucepan over low-medium heat add the whole milk, cream, and vanilla bean pods, and vanilla bean. Let simmer for a couple of minutes to warm it up - do not boil the milk. Take off the heat and add the lid to let steep for a few minutes.
In a medium bowl whisk together the egg yolks and sugar for 2-3 minutes, the mixture should lighten in color a lot. Make sure to scrape the sides of the bowl.
Stir in the cornstarch and mix for another minute to combine.
Once the milk mixture is warmed slowly add a little bit of the hot milk to the egg mixture and whisk to combine. This is tempering the eggs to prevent them from scrambling right away. Then add all of the milk slowly and whisk to combine.
Add mixture back to the pan and cook over medium-low heat for another couple of minutes, whisking constantly. The mixture will thicken up.
You want it quite thick, you should be able to draw a line in the middle of the pot and the opening not cover up immediately.
Take off the heat and if you want pour through a fine metal sieve to take any small lumps out.
Then pour into an air-tight container, place plastic wrap on top, and push directly on top this helps prevent a thick skin from forming. Let chill in the fridge for at least two hours or up to three days.
After the custard has set it will be thick in one big blob so you'll want to whisk it to cream it up again. You'll have to give it a good whisk.
If you prefer a looser custard you can always add a little more milk to loosen it. But we like it thick for our English Trifle Recipe.
More British Recipes
This Scottish Shortbread has been a staple in my house long before I was born! It's buttery delicious!
For a super hands-off delicious dessert try my baked rice pudding, the skin on top is my favorite!
For breakfast try these Homemade Crumpets, so delicious toasted with butter!
Homemade Custard FAQ
Creme Patisserie also known as pastry cream is most often used to fill desserts, fruit tarts, choux pastry, and others. Creme Anglaise is more of a pourable style custard used to pour on top of desserts.
I do not suggest freezing custard as it can separate as it thaws.
The custard will last 4-5 days in the fridge in an air-tight container so you can definitely make it ahead of time.
I use this custard when I make an English Sherry Trifle. I also use it to pour on top of my Bread and Butter Pudding. Or I enjoy it on its own warm with sliced bananas.
Add custard to a heat-proof bowl and warm in the microwave in 30-second increments whisking in between to ensure even heating. You can also warm the custard on the stove on low-medium heat, stirring frequently.
To make this more of a pourable-style custard reduce the cornstarch in the recipe to 1 tablespoon.
★★★★★ Please let me know if you make this recipe by leaving a star rating and comment below!Print
- 1 ½ cups Whole Milk
- ¼ cup Heavy Whipping Cream
- 2 Teaspoons Vanilla Bean Paste or Pure Vanilla Extract
- 6 Large Egg Yolks
- 75 grams Granulated Sugar/ Caster Sugar
- 3 Tablespoon + 2 Teaspoons Cornstarch/ Cornflour
- In a medium saucepan over low-medium heat add the whole milk, cream, and vanilla bean pods, and vanilla bean. Let cook for a couple of minutes to warm it up - do not boil the milk. Take off of the heat and add the lid to let steep for a few minutes.
- In a medium bowl whisk together the egg yolks and sugar for 2-3 minutes, the mixture should lighten in color a lot. Make sure to scrape the sides of the bowl. Add the corn starch and mix for another minute to combine.
- Once the milk mixture is warmed slowly add a little bit to the egg mixture and whisk to combine. Then add all of the milk slowly and whisk to combine.
- Add mixture back to the pot and cook over low-medium heat for another couple of minutes, whisking constantly. The mixture will thicken up. You want it quite thick, you should be able to draw a line in the middle of the pot and the opening not cover up immediately.
- Take off the heat and if you want pour through a fine metal sieve to take any small umps out. Then pour into an air-tight container, place plastic wrap on top, and push directly on top this helps prevent a thick skin from forming. Let chill in the fridge for at least two hours or up to three days. Whisk the custard before serving.
- Prep Time: 5
- Chill Time: 2 Hours
- Cook Time: 10
- Category: Dessert
- Method: Cook
- Cuisine: English
Keywords: how to make english, homemade custard recipe, easy custard recipe