Heat 4 cups of the milk in a large saucepan over medium heat until steaming. Meanwhile, whisk the sugar, cornstarch and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large bowl until combined. Whisk in the egg yolks and remaining 1/2 cup milk until smooth.
Pour about 1 cup of the hot milk into the egg mixture and whisk until smooth, and then gradually whisk the egg-milk mixture back into the saucepan. Continue to cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil and thickens to a pudding-like consistency, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract.
Divide the pudding among 6 to 8 small ramekins or dessert cups. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of each pudding and refrigerate until completely cooled and set, about 4 hours. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream.
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