Perfect Cream Puff Recipe: These bake up light as air every time! Filled with sweet whipped cream & dusted with powdered sugar. The ultimate!

Classic cream puff on a wire rack with strawberries.

Hey happy Friday!

Just in time for the weekend, I’m bringing you a classic dessert recipe that just can’t go wrong, no matter the occasion or the time of year: cream puffs!

Like so many other French pastries such as Madeleine cookies, brioche bread, and macarons, cream puffs have a specific set of ingredients and a specific technique. But unlike those others, this recipe is very easy to make.

If you’re aware of the major pitfalls (more on that below), you’ll be able to make this cream puff recipe like a pro! It’s pretty much foolproof!

Cream puff recipe, prepared and presented on an antique French wire rack, with a text overlay that reads "Cream Puffs."

WHAT ARE CREAM PUFFS?

Cream puffs are a classic French pastry that everybody just loves.

Similar to eclairs, gougeres, and churros, cream puffs start with choux pastry. You can find lots more info about choux here: Simply Perfect Pate a Choux.

While eclairs and churros are piped into a long cylinder shape, these are more of a round ball.

Sometimes they’re filled with a custard filling (recipe for that here: Pastry Cream), but for what you see here I chose to use whipped cream.

I just love how fluffy and light these come out, and when you take a bite you get that contrast of eggy, almost savory pastry against airy, sweet cream. It’s like an explosion in your mouth!

HOW TO MAKE CREAM PUFFS

There are 2 main components to this cream puff recipe:

  1. The choux pastry puffs, and
  2. the cream puff filling.

Let’s start with the puffs!

PATE A CHOUX

This recipe is really kinda weird, not gonna lie. There’s nothing else quite like it in the pastry world. You will undoubtedly think you’ve done something wrong at some point, but just trust the process. It will come together, and it does work!

Start with water, butter, sugar, and salt, in a small pot over medium-high heat.

Water, butter, sugar, and salt in a small pot.

It doesn’t matter what temperature these ingredients are because you’re just going to bring it all up to a simmer anyway.

Simmering liquid for choux.

Once the liquid is simmering, dump in the flour all at once. I know, it seems wrong but I promise it’s not.

Immediately whisk it all together until a smooth paste forms.

Whisking choux until smooth.

Continue to whisk while cooking. After a few minutes, you’ll notice the mixture forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the pot, leaving a slight film on the bottom.

Pate a choux dough gathering itself into a ball.

At this point, dump it into a large mixing bowl and start beating it on medium speed.

The mixture will be hot, but go ahead and start dropping in the eggs. The heat will cook the eggs slightly. This is totally fine!

Be sure to allow each egg to fully incorporate before adding the next one in.

Curdled-ooking cream puff dough.

At first, the dough will look like it’s curdled. But keep beating! It will smooth out and start to look sticky & stretchy.

Smooth-looking cream puff dough.

Once all the eggs have gone in, you can shape your puffs. I like to use a piping bag for this step (here is a link to the kind I like: 16-inch featherweight piping bag), but you can totally use a spoon or even a small scoop.

For these bake times and yield, you’ll want to shape your puffs at about 1 1/2-inches round.

Piping pate a choux with a pastry bag.

While they’re baking, get going on the filling!

CREAM PUFF FILLING

If you want, you can just use regular whipped cream, which is made by whipping heavy cream to soft peaks with powdered sugar. Use any ratio of cream to sugar. Whatever tastes best to you!

But for this recipe, I’ve stepped things up a little with a filling that tastes amazing, has a little extra oomph, and is more stable- so it lasts longer without weeping or collapsing. There’s lots more detail about it on this post: Whipped Cream Frosting. I really love this as a filling!

Start by whipping cream cheese and powdered sugar together until smooth.

Cream cheese & powdered sugar, whipped until smooth.

The final result does not taste overly cream cheese-y, because there’s so much more cream than cheese. It really just tastes like an extra-rich, extra-thick whipped cream.

Adding cream slowly to cream puff filling.

Scrape down the bottom and sides of the mixing bowl with a silicone spatula to avoid lumps, then start drizzling in the cream in a slow, thin stream while continuing to whip on low speed.

Once all the cream has gone in, turn the mixer up to medium-high and whip until the filling holds stiff peaks.

Stiffly whipped cream puff filling in a stand mixer.

I also dropped in about a teaspoon of vanilla bean paste, for extra flavor and those pretty black specks!

Once your pastry puffs are fully cooled, this filling can be piped or spooned in.

TROUBLESHOOTING: WHY DID MINE COLLAPSE?

There are 3 main reasons why cream puffs collapse or deflate:

  1. The oven isn’t hot enough,
  2. they weren’t baked long enough, or
  3. they were covered before completely cool and steam got trapped.

PREHEAT THE OVEN- ALL THE WAY!

If your oven isn’t hot enough, it won’t create the steam that’s necessary to puff up the pastries. So, if they never rise, it’s probably due to a too-cool oven.

Preheat it for a good 20 minutes or so, to make sure it’s definitely up to temperature. You might want to also hang an oven thermometer off one of the racks, since it’s pretty common for ovens to wander out of calibration over time. This way you can be sure your oven really is heating at the temperature you’ve set it to.

BAKE THEM FOR LONGER THAN YOU THINK!

If the structure of your shells isn’t completely set, they’ll puff up while baking but then collapse as they cool.

Cream puffs tend to start to get golden pretty early on, but you’ll notice around the cracks they still look a little moist. They are definitely NOT DONE yet!

They should look completely brown, and dry.

If you think they look done, give them another 5 minutes just to be sure 😉

COOL THEM FOR LONGER THAN YOU THINK!

Cool them at room temperature, uncovered. That way, if there’s any steam left inside, it can dissipate.

If you put them in a bag or cover them while there’s still any hint of warmth left in them, they could become too soft and, once again, go flat.

Overhead image of cream puff filling spilling out of pastries with strawberries and powdered sugar.

CAN THESE BE MADE AHEAD?

They definitely can, as long as you follow the cooling directions above!

Once they’re definitely, completely cool, they can be tossed into zip-top freezer bags and kept at room temperature for a day or two, in the fridge for 5 to 7 days, or in the freezer for a couple of months.

If you fill them ahead of time, they run a slight risk of becoming a little soggy over time. But honestly, with this filling recipe that effect is really minimized. I’ve kept leftovers in the fridge (filled) overnight and they’ve still tasted really great the next day.

You might even be able to freeze them! But I honestly haven’t tried that so I can’t say for sure. So freeze at your own risk, and report your results here in the comments section please!

INGREDIENT SUBSTITUTIONS

While I have not tested this recipe with any alternative ingredients, I do think it could work well as an allergen-free recipe.

For a gluten-free version, look for a gluten-free flour blend that subs 1:1 for regular flour.

If you’d like to make this dairy-free, use a dairy-free butter substitute that can sub 1:1 for regular dairy. I’d also leave out the cream cheese in the filling and just make coconut whipped cream.

For an eggless, vegan version, your best bet is probably with a plant-based egg substitute such as Just Egg.

How to make cream puffs close-up image of a generously sized cream puff loaded with sweet whipped cream and topped with powdered sugar.

A FEW MORE OF MY FAVORITE CLASSIC FRENCH RECIPES:

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5 from 2 votes
Classic cream puff on a wire rack with strawberries.
Cream Puff Recipe
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
40 mins
Total Time
1 hr
 

Perfect Cream Puff Recipe: These bake up light as air every time! Filled with sweet whipped cream & dusted with powdered sugar. The ultimate!

Course: Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: French
Keyword: best cream puff recipe, cream puff filling, cream puff recipe, cream puffs, how to make cream puffs
Servings: 12 cream puffs
Calories: 239 kcal
Ingredients
For the Choux Pastry Puffs:
For the Cream Puff Filling:
Instructions
To Make the Choux Pastry Puffs:
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and line baking sheets with parchment paper.

  2. Place the water, butter, sugar, and salt in a small pot and cook over medium-high heat until the butter is completely melted and the mixture is simmering.

  3. Add in the flour all at once, and continue to cook, whisking, for about 5 minutes, or until the dough gathers itself into a ball and a film begins to form on the bottom of the pot.

  4. Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl, and beat on medium speed.

  5. Drop in the eggs, one at a time, while continuing to beat. (Allow each egg to become fully incorporated before adding the next.)

  6. Pipe or spoon the dough in 1 1/2-inch balls onto the prepared baking sheets, allowing about 3 inches in between each puff.

  7. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until puffed, golden brown, hollow, dry, and light.

  8. Allow the pastries to cool completely, then slice open horizontally, sandwich with cream puff filling, and dust with powdered sugar.

To Make the Cream Puff Filling:
  1. Place the cream cheese and powdered sugar in a large bowl and beat on medium speed until smooth.

  2. Turn the mixer down to medium-low speed and pour the heavy cream down the side of the bowl in a very slow and steady stream, stopping every now and then to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl with a silicone spatula.

  3. When all the cream has been added, turn the mixer up to medium-high and whip until the filling holds stiff peaks.

  4. Fold in the vanilla.

Recipe Video

Recipe Notes

*Full-fat cream cheese in brick form works best.

Nutrition Facts
Cream Puff Recipe
Amount Per Serving (1 cream puff)
Calories 239 Calories from Fat 144
% Daily Value*
Fat 16g25%
Saturated Fat 9g56%
Trans Fat 1g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 4g
Cholesterol 97mg32%
Sodium 133mg6%
Potassium 61mg2%
Carbohydrates 20g7%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 12g13%
Protein 4g8%
Vitamin A 587IU12%
Vitamin C 1mg1%
Calcium 32mg3%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.