This Cream Puff recipe is famous in my family and with everyone I’ve ever served them too. Easy to make pate’ choux cups with a Bavarian-style cream and fresh whipped cream nestled inside. The method for making the cream puffs will give you pretty, powdered sugar covered cups with beautiful “crowns” concealing the cream filling. Step-by-step instructions will ensure your success every time.
The goal of my blog is to offer healthy recipes and options most of the time. But this jewel of a recipe just has to be shared and I’ve been waiting months to present my Aunt Pat’s famous cream puff recipe to you. You’ll swear they are the best cream puffs you’ve ever seen, because they are gorgeous. And when you taste them? Real sweetened whipped cream and delicious creamy custard in a perfect golden crust. They’ll also be the best cream puffs you’ve ever tasted.
These little beauties have been the star of our family’s Easter dinners since I can remember. When they come through the front door I am sure they’re backlit with heavenly light. My husband worries I’m giving away some family secret by sharing it. But, I’m generous. And I would love if these became a family tradition for you too.
This began as a cute little recipe clipping titled ‘Ingrid’s Austrian Cream Puffs’ which ran in our local newspaper. So long ago that Ingrid is also listed in parenthesis as Mrs. James L. So-and-so. I did a little research and found out Ingrid was once a member of the Austrian Olympic Diving team. She gave up her Olympic dream and nursing career all for love and followed James to Utah after nursing his war wounds in Austria. I’m so glad she submitted the recipe and even more grateful that my cute and hip Auntie cut it out, improved it and has been making them for our family ever since.
In the printed article, Ingrid temps us by saying “This recipe has a double treat. The cream puffs are filled with homemade custard cream filling and topped with real whipped cream, to make them a melt-in-your-mouth pastry.” And they do melt in your mouth. Seriously. Look.At.This!
Enough introduction. Let’s “dive in” and let Ingrid present you with this deceptively easy, amazing treat.
Cook’s note: Don’t be intimated by the lengthy instructions. I try to be as detailed as possible here to make the cream puffs assured perfection for you.
Aunt Pat's Famous Cream Puffs
Custard Cream Filling:
For the sweetened whip cream:
- 1 pint heavy cream
- Granulated sugar to taste about ⅔ cup
- Vanilla to taste about 1 teaspoon
Additional ingredients to finish the cream puffs:
- Confectioners' sugar for dipping shells about 1 ½ cups
- For the cream puff shells:
- Place oven rack one place below middle. Preheat oven to 400F degrees. Set aside a regular muffin pan (12 or more), lightly buttered (Cooking spray or neutral oil brushed with a pastry brush also works).
- If using a dark non-stick pan, preheat oven to 375F degrees (see notes for more information).
- In a medium sauce pan, bring 1 cup water, ½ cup butter to a low boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and add 1 cup flour, stirring well until mixture forms a ball. Remove from heat. Stir in 4 eggs-one at a time, beating with wooden spoon or large fork until dough is smooth. Beat additional 10 to 15 seconds as this will increase the volume of the dough.
- Using a Tablespoon, drop dough into deep muffin tins. This doesn't have to be an exact measurement, but depending on how big you want your pastry to be. Divide all the batter between 12 muffins.
- Bake pastries for 25 to 35 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. (Might take longer in the non-stick pan at the lower temperature). Important that the puffs are golden/crisp or they may collapse. Even when they look done, I leave them in a full minute or so longer. Turn oven off and open the oven door. Pull oven rack out about half way and let shells sit for approximately 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely in the muffin tin before removing to wire racks. If your shells stick a bit to the tins, gently use a fork or butter knife to pull them away from the sides of the pan.
- (The pastry shells can be prepared the day before. Just lightly cover with foil when completely cooled and let sit at room temperature.)
- Ingrid baked the pastries on a baking sheet about three inches apart, but my smart aunt decided the muffin tins make a nice shape to hold the cream. Either method works, but Ingrid's way will produce a little flatter shaped shell. If you prefer to make them on the baking sheet, be sure to line it with parchment paper before spooning or piping the choux pastry dough from a pastry bag.
- For the custard cream filling:
- Place 4 egg yolks in a medium bowl. Whisk them together and set aside.
- Mix ¾ cup sugar, ⅓ cup flour and ½ teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan. Stir in 2 cups warm milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently. Mixture will thicken and bubble. Once it starts to bubble, cook one minute more while still stirring.
- Remove from heat. Quickly whisk about half of the mixture into beaten egg yolks.
- Blend this back into remaining hot mixture in the saucepan. Whisk constantly until mixture starts to bubble again. Cook for another 30 seconds or so but do not stop whisking.
- Remove from heat and add 2 teaspoons vanilla- Don't forget the vanilla and use good quality vanilla since this flavor is the base of the entire filling.) Set aside, cover with plastic wrap and let cool completely. You can set the custard in the refrigerator to cool quickly. The custard will continue to thicken as it cools.
- For the sweetened whipped cream:
- Whip your 1 pint cream using electric beaters or stand mixer and add sugar and vanilla to your liking.
- Assembling the cream puffs:
- Cut off pastry shell tops and scoop out the insides of top and bottom to make room for the custard and whipped cream. The insides might be moist. Just pull that all out being careful not to make a hole go through the bottom.
- Pour about 1 ½ cups powdered sugar into a bowl to dip the cream puffs in.
- Dip the bottom of the puff into powdered sugar, then repeat with top of puff. This will coat the puffs and gives a "French pastry" decadent look to the finished cream puff.
- Fill bottom of puff with Custard Cream Filling. Top generously with sweetened whipped cream.
- Replace top of puff. The top won't cover entirely but sits like a decorative hat. Place puffs in refrigerator, uncovered, chilling for 4 hours. Do not cover the puffs in fridge or you run the risk of the powdered sugar evaporating. Puffs can remain in the refrigerator overnight this way.
- More notes for preparing ahead of time:
- You may completely assemble cream puffs the night before serving, they actually get better over time. Cover loosely with foil.
- For transporting, place completed cream puffs back into muffin tins, cover lightly with foil and they're ready to go!
- Makes 12 cream puffs if made in muffin tin.
- If using a dark non-stick muffin tin for baking the cream puffs, heat the oven to 375F and plan to bake them a few minutes more than indicated in the recipe.
- Some people seem to get confused here, but you need a total of 8 eggs for this recipe. Four whole eggs for the pastry portion and then four egg yolks for the custard.
- The cream puffs taste even better on the second and third days. But at least refrigerate a minimum of four hours to chill and let ingredients meld.
- I caution making the shells in the stand mixer or hand mixer. I tried it once and won't again. It's easy to over mix the dough, creating a smooth, cake mix type texture and if this happens, the pate a choux dough will not rise well and there may be too many air holes in the finished shells. Just do it by hand!
- The cream puff shells are also delicious filled with ice cream and drizzled with chocolate. Our favorite though, is the custard filling which is so unique and similar to a delicious homemade vanilla pudding.
These have wholly become Pat’s Famous Cream Puffs and are aptly named. Recipe can easily be increased by one and a half or doubled, which I highly recommend for a large crowd. They’re still perfectly delicious the next day.
Adapted by Pat Rock from Ingrid’s Austrian Cream Puffs newspaper recipe featured in The Salt Lake Tribune, circa 1970.