Cream & fruit fillings for cakes & cupcakes

For one of my cake decorating classes I needed to make filling for cupcakes. I made the Wilton recipe, but also dug up recipes for vanilla cream filling I found on Better Homes and Gardens, and a third one I found from Martha Stewart. They’re all listed below, along with my winning recipe. Below that are several recipes for fruit filling – lemon, raspberry and strawberry.

Make sure to check out my post on Frostings if that’s what you’re looking for.

My winning recipe

3 T corn starch
1/8 t salt
1/4 c sugar
1 c half and half (can use up to 1/2 c skim milk or almond milk)
2 egg yolks
1 t vanilla
pinch of salt

Use the directions in the Martha recipe to blend. Note that half and half takes a little bit longer than almond milk (and also skim?) to reach the desired consistency. As soon as it starts to thicken, remove from heat: it will continue to thicken.

Wilton pastry cream filling

Makes scant 1.5 cups

NOTES: Right when I finished making it, it seemed gelatinous, and a bit egg-y tasting. But when I tasted it the next day, I wasn’t as unhappy with it. It was thicker than what you expect inside of an eclair, but I wouldn’t call it “gelatinous.” It also didn’t taste as egg-y. However, I did notice a few lumps that hadn’t jumped out at me last night when I made it. The cooking method outlined in the Martha Stewart recipe is definitely superior to this one, for avoiding lumps.

3 T flour
1/8 t salt
6 T sugar
1 c half and half
4 egg yolks
1 t vanilla

Blend everything except vanilla in a saucepan over medium heat. (I put the flour and sugar into the cold pan; then measured out the half and half into a glass measuring cup and broke the egg yolks into that and whisked them; then stirred the liquid quickly into the dry ingredients, after I turned on the heat. I started with a fork, and soon discovered that left a bunch of un-stirred solid glops in the bottom. Switching to a whisk made much better results. But the Martha method is still way better).

Cook, stirring constantly, until it reaches the consistency of medium cream sauce. (The recipe didn’t tell me how long this would take, and it wasn’t long – maybe 7 minutes? But what was tricky is that once it started to thicken, it happened very quickly, so I’m afraid I over-cooked it. I also turned the heat up to medium-high, to speed the process along, which probably didn’t help).

Remove from heat, add vanilla and cool quickly. (It didn’t say how to cool it quickly; so I just filled a second pan with cold water and dunked my saucepan right into that. Seemed to work okay … but by the time I was trying to cool it I realized I had a probably-overcooked pile of goo. LOL)

Brush with melted butter to keep a skin from forming. Stir before using.

Boston Cream Pie Filling (Better Homes & Gardens)

This recipe calls for 1 fewer egg yolk than the Wilton recipe (so I’m thinking it would be less egg-y tasting); and the cooking method looks like it would be gentler on the eggs. Interesting that it gets the fat from butter, rather than cream. Wonder why?

3 egg yolks
1/3 c sugar
3 T cornstarch
1 1/3 c milk
2 T butter
1 t vanilla

Beat egg yolks. In a saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch, then whisk in milk. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Cook for another 2 minutes.

Pour 1 c of the hot mixture into the egg yolks, stirring constantly. Return to the hot mixture in the saucepan and cook for 2 more minutes.

Remove from heat, stir in butter until melted. Stir in vanilla. Chill at least 2 hours.

Boston Cream Pie filling (Martha Stewart)

The ingredients for Martha’s recipe are basically the same as the others, although hers has the least fat content – she simply calls for “milk,” without specifying full-fat, skim, etc, and there’s no additional butter like in the BH&G recipe. Also hers has half the egg yolks, relative to the milk.

More importantly, her method is a bit different than the others – and I’m gonna guess, hers is the superior one. Also, with 2 c of milk, Martha’s recipe is going to make the largest batch of cream filling of them all.

2 c milk
1/2 c sugar
4 egg yoks
2 t vanilla
pinch of salt
6 T cornstarch

Heat milk in a saucepan with half the sugar over medium heat. The idea is to heat it, not boil it. Whisk remaining sugar with egg yolks, then whisk in vanilla, salt and finally the cornstarch 1 T at a time. Pour a cup of the heated milk into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly.

NOTES: Martha’s recipe calls for you to strain the mixture back into the saucepan – but I find that you can see the lumps disappear as you’re whisking, so straining isn’t necessary.

Continue cooking to thicken the mixture to desired consistency. But be careful! As soon as it starts to thicken, you need to take it off the heat. If you overcook it, it turns into a big gelatinous glob. And yes, this requires patience – it will look like it’s doing nothing at all for several minutes, and then wham! It’s done.

When I made a half-batch, and used almond milk, it reached the desired consistency within 30 seconds of putting it back into the pan.

NOTES: I tried almond milk, and it was OK but a little “watery” – not enough fat. To keep it dairy-free, I’m going to try doubling the yolks, to match the Wilton recipe, above. Also, there’s definitely an almond milk flavor to it. Probably won’t be noticeable inside of a cake …

Wilton Lemon Filling

3/4 c sugar
2 T cornstarch
1/8 t salt
3/4 c cold water
2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
1 t grated lemon peel
juice of a medium lemon
1 T butter

Combine sugar, cornstarch and salt in a small saucepan. Whisk in water until well blended. Gradually whisk in egg yolks, then add lemon peel and lemon juice.

Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until thick and bubbly. Boil one minute, then remove from heat and stir in butter.

Cool to room temperature, without stirring.

Raspberry or Strawberry Filling

To make berry filling, cook a 16 oz package of frozen sweetened thawed berries with water (you want 1.25 c liquid – including the juice you get by draining the frozen berries) and sugar (1/3 c, if your berries are sweetened), add cornstarch (3 T) to thicken and a little lemon juice for bite.

Strawberry (or Raspberry) Cream Filling

Cook 1 16-oz package of sweetened berries with 1 c heavy cream and 2 T cornstarch over medium heat for 8 minutes.


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