This is a rich vanilla custard, used to serve with many desserts. It’s a great favourite with plum pudding and is also good with stewed fruit, light steamed pudding, apple pie and trifle. A variation for pastry cream is included with this recipe. It is a thicker custard used as a filling for fruit tarts, éclairs, profiteroles and pastries such as cream horns, neapolitans or as an alternative to cream in sponge cakes.






Skill level

Average: 3 (182 votes)


  • 500 ml (2 cups) milk (see note)
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp cornflour
  • 55 g (¼ cup) caster sugar (see note)

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Makes 2½ cups

Standing time 15 minutes

Combine the milk, and vanilla bean and seeds in a saucepan over medium heat, until simmering. Remove from the heat, cover and set aside for 15 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean.

Beat the egg yolks and cornflour in a bowl with an electric mixer. Add the sugar and beat until pale and thick.

Reheat the milk back to simmering point. Pour hot milk mixture onto the egg yolks, whisking continuously. Return to a clean saucepan. Cook over low heat for 8 minutes, stirring, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Cool.


Pastry cream variation
Make as for vanilla custard, adding 2 tbsp each plain flour and cornflour to the egg yolks and sugar. Cook over a low heat until thick and beginning to bubble. Use a spatula to scrape the pastry cream into a bowl and cover the surface with a piece of baking paper before cooling and using or storing in the fridge. For a fluffier pastry cream, fold in ½ cup whipped cream.


• If you have a sweet tooth, the custard can easily be made with double the amount of sugar. For a richer vanilla custard, substitute 1 cup of the milk with 1 cup cream.


Recipe from Margaret Fulton Christmas by Margaret Fulton, with photographs by Mark Roper. Published by Hardie Grant Books.


Want more recipes like this? We recommend: 

80+ custard recipes, including crème caramel, cake and doughnut-fille.
• Ice-cream, granita, chocolate mousse and other chilled desserts.
180+ vanilla recipes: from porridge and puddings to apple martini.
• A sweet, spiced alternative: pumpkin and maple custard.