Homemade Cream Puffs

These easy-to-make cream puffs have light as air choux pastry filled with a rich and creamy vanilla pastry cream. Dusted with powdered sugar or dipped in chocolate, you will learn how to make these better than the bakery cream puffs from the comfort of your home.

A white speckled plate piled high with cream puffs with one on the top with a bite out.

Why We Love These Cream Puffs

Cream puffs, or chou à la crème, these delicious pastries are made from a baked choux pastry shell filled with a rich and creamy pastry cream.

This classic French dessert can be served plain, dusted with powdered sugar, or dipped in a delicious chocolate glaze.

Bonus points:

  • They are great to make and freeze in advance.
  • You can prep the different parts in stages.
  • They are easily adaptable. You can fill them with vanilla, chocolate, or other flavored pastry creams.

Cream puffs are made in three steps:

  1. Making the pastry cream.
  2. Baking the pate a choux puffs.
  3. Assembling the final cream puffs.

Let’s walk through it!

A white plate of chocolate topped cream puffs with powdered sugar cream puffs in a pile with a milk jug in the back.

Step-by-Step Directions

Step #1: Make the Pastry Cream

Since the pastry cream needs a nice long chill in the refrigerator to set up properly, it makes sense to do this step first. You can even do it a day or two in advance if you’d like!

Top down photo of a black bowl with pastry cream and a silver spoon scooping pastry cream in the bowl.

We use a simple egg yolk and cornstarch pastry cream filling that comes together fairly quickly.

🌟 If you are new to pastry cream and would like to see a step-by-step tutorial as well as troubleshooting tips, head on over to this post >> How to Make Pastry Cream

Step #2: Make the Pâte à Choux

The choux pastry is made in traditional fashion, mixing the water, butter, sugar, salt, and flour in a saucepan, letting it cool slightly, and then beating in the eggs.

This dough can be made completely by hand with a wooden spoon or stiff spatula, or can also be done with a stand or hand mixer.

Stirring together choux pastry dough in a saucepan.
Mixing eggs into pate a choux dough.

🌟 Not sure if your choux pastry is quite right? You can check out my Basic Pate A Choux Recipe for additional tips and troubleshooting.

Once you have made the dough, you can use it immediately or keep it at room temperature for up to 2 hours in a piping bag or with a piece of plastic wrap pressed against the surface.

When you are ready to bake the cream puffs, follow the steps below…

Pastry bag fitted with a round pastry tip and filled with choux pastry dough.
  • Transfer the dough: Transfer the pastry dough to a piping bag fitted with a 1/4-inch round piping tip (I recommend the Ateco #802).
  • Pipe into puffs: Hold the pastry bag at a 90-degree angle and apply downward pressure to pipe 2-inch wide puffs onto the parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Space out the puffs 3 inches apart as they will spread during baking.
  • Pat down the bumps: Dip a finger in cold water and gently pat down any bumps or swirls sticking up on top.
Side by side photos of the steps to pipe and pat down the cream puff dough.
  • Bake until the puffs are golden brown and feel light and hollow, about 22 to 27 minutes.
  • Turn off the oven.
  • Vent the puffs: Remove the baking sheets from the oven and while the puffs are still hot (you may need to use a paper towel to handle them), insert the tip of a paring knife into the bottom of each pull, turning gently to create a ¼-inch hole in the bottom.
  • Dry out the shell: Return the puffs to the baking sheet and place them in the turned-off oven. Prop the door open with a wooden spoon and allow the puffs to set in there for 30 minutes.
  • Cool: Remove from oven and cool completely before filling.

Step #3: Fill the Puffs

Piping into the cream puff is when you insert the pastry cream into the center of the choux pastry shell without cutting the puff open.

  • Place the chilled pastry cream in a pastry bag fitted with a ¼-inch round piping tip (again, Ateco #802 is perfect for this).
  • Insert the tip of the bag into the hole you made at the bottom of the puff and gently squeeze until filled (the puff will feel heavy and the cream will start to come back out from the hole on the bottom).
  • Wipe off excess cream from the bottom and continue until all puffs are filled.

Another way of filling the cream puff is to cut and fill the choux pastry shell. This is a pretty presentation but a bit messier to eat.

  • Place the chilled pastry cream in a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip (Ateco #853 is perfect for this).
  • Slice the puffs in half horizontally.
  • Pipe the pastry cream onto the bottom half of the puff then cover with the top half.
Cream puffs with powdered sugar and chocolate glaze on a counter with one in the middle missing a bite.

Step #4: Top the Puffs

You can dust the tops of the cream puffs with powdered sugar or dip them in a chocolate glaze.

Side by side images of a black bowl with unmelted chocolate glaze on the left and melted chocolate glaze with a cream puff dipped in on the right.

To make the glaze:

  • Place the chopped chocolate, butter, corn syrup, and salt in a medium bowl. Microwave in 15-second increments, stirring after each, until completely melted and smooth.
  • Dip the tops: Working one at a time, hold each cream puff upside down and dip the top in the glaze, then return to the tray.
  • Allow to set: Repeat with all of the puffs. Allow the glaze to set at room temperature, about 20 to 30 minutes. Serve immediately.
Chocolate dipped cream puffs on the counter.

Storing, Freezing, and Making Ahead

  • Storing: Filled cream puffs are best eaten the same day they are made, but can be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
  • Freezing: For longer storage, freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Transfer to the refrigerator to thaw before serving.
  • Making Ahead: The pastry cream can be made up to 5 days in advance. Unfilled, baked cream puffs store well in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

FAQs and Success Tips

Why are my cream puffs flat?

The most common reason cream puffs go flat is that they are not vented, causing too much moisture to build up inside and that they are not cooled completely.

To guarantee success, be sure to vent the cream puffs, return to the oven to dry out, and allow the heat to escape from the inside of the puff to prevent it from deflating when it fully cools.

What is the difference between a cream puff and an eclair?

The main difference between these two pastries is their shape. A cream puff is a round puff while an eclair has more of an oblong shape.

A white plate with cream puffs in a pile and a spoon to the left with a jug of milk in the back.

More Delicious Desserts

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Cream Puffs

Servings 18 cream puffs
Prep 1 hour
Cook 25 minutes
Total 1 hour 25 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: French
Author: Michelle

These easy-to-make cream puffs have light as air choux pastry filled with a rich and creamy vanilla pastry cream. Dusted with powdered sugar or dipped in chocolate, you will learn how to make these better than the bakery cream puffs from the comfort of your home.

Ingredients:

For the Pastry Cream

  • ½
    cup
    sugar
  • 3
    tablespoons
    cornstarch
  • ¼
    teaspoon
    kosher salt
  • 4
    egg yolks
  • 2
    cups
    whole milk
  • 2
    tablespoons
    unsalted butter
  • 2
    teaspoons
    vanilla extract

For the Pate a Choux

  • 1
    cup
    water
  • 6
    tablespoons
    unsalted butter
    (cut into ½-inch cubes)
  • 2
    teaspoons
    sugar
  • ½
    teaspoon
    kosher salt
  • 1
    cup
    all-purpose flour
    (sifted)
  • 4
    eggs

For Sprinkling (Optional)

  • Powdered sugar
    (for dusting)

Chocolate Glaze (Optional)

  • 4
    ounces
    dark chocolate
    (finely chopped)
  • 4
    tablespoons
    unsalted butter
    (cut into cubes)
  • 1
    tablespoon
    light corn syrup
  • Pinch
    of salt

Directions:

  1. Make the Pastry Cream: Fill a large bowl with ice water, then set a fine-mesh sieve over a medium bowl. Set both aside.

  2. In a 3 to 4-quart saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch and salt. Whisk in the egg yolks until thoroughly combined and all of the dry ingredients have been incorporated. Then, whisk in the milk to combine.

  3. Place the saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the pastry cream begins to noticeably thicken, about 4 to 8 minutes.

  4. When it reaches this point, look for large bubbles to break on the surface. Once they do, whisk constantly for 1 minute, then remove from the heat.

  5. Whisk in the butter and vanilla until melted and completely smooth.

  6. Strain the pastry cream through the fine-mesh sieve into the medium bowl. Immediately press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming.

  7. Place the bowl of pastry cream into the ice bath to cool for 30 minutes. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill for at least 4 hours or overnight.

  8. Make the Pate a Choux (Choux Pastry): Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

  9. Place the water, butter, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan. Place over high heat and bring to a full rolling boil.

  10. Remove from the heat and add the flour all at once. Using a wooden spoon or stiff silicone spatula, stir until the flour is thoroughly mixed in and no lumps remain, pressing and smashing the dough against the sides of the pan.

  11. Return the pot to medium-high heat and cook, stirring frequently, until the dough comes together into one mass and there is a dry film on the bottom and sides of the pan. If you have an instant-read thermometer, it should register 175 degrees F.
  12. Transfer the dough to a mixing bowl and beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes to cool the dough down. It should register 145 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.
  13. Add the eggs one at a time, ensuring each one is fully incorporated before adding the next. Once all of the eggs have been added, scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl and mix again to ensure everything is fully incorporated, an additional 5 to 10 seconds.
  14. Use immediately or keep at room temperature for up to 2 hours in a piping bag or with a piece of plastic wrap pressed against the surface.
  15. Bake the Puffs: Transfer the choux pastry to a piping bag fitted with a ¼-inch round piping tip (I recommend the Ateco #10). Hold the pastry bag at a 90-degree angle and apply downward pressure to pipe 2-inch wide puffs onto the parchment-lined baking sheets, ensuring that the puffs are 3 inches apart. Dip a finger in cold water and gently pat down any bumps or swirls sticking up on top.

  16. Bake, rotating the sheets halfway through, until the puffs are golden brown and feel like and hollow, about 22 to 27 minutes. Turn off the oven.

  17. Remove from the oven and while the puffs are still hot (you may need to use a paper towel to handle them), insert the tip of a paring knife into the bottom of each puff, turning gently to create a ¼-inch hole in the bottom.
  18. Return the puffs to the baking sheets and place in the turned-off oven. Prop the door open with a wooden spoon and allow the puffs to set in there for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely before filling.
  19. Fill the Puffs: Place the chilled pastry cream in a pastry bag fitted with a ¼-inch round piping tip (again, Ateco #10 is perfect for this). Insert the tip of the bag into the hole you created on the bottom of the puff, and gently squeeze until filled (the puff will fill heavy and the cream will start to come back out of the hole on the bottom). Wipe off excess cream from the bottom and continue until all puffs are filled.

  20. Alternative Filling Method: You can also slice the puffs in half horizontally and pipe (I love a large closed star tip for this – Ateco #853) the pastry cream onto the bottom half, and then cover with the top half of the puff. This is a pretty presentation but a bit messier to eat!

  21. Dust the puffs with powdered sugar and serve immediately.
  22. Optional Chocolate Glaze (if using): Place the chopped chocolate, butter, corn syrup, and salt in a medium bowl. Microwave in 15-second increments, stirring after each, until completely melted and smooth. Working one at a time, hold each cream puff upside down and dip the top in the glaze, then return to the tray. Repeat with all of the puffs. Allow the glaze to set at room temperature, about 20 to 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

Recipe Notes:

  • Pate a Choux Dough: Can be made by hand with a wooden spoon or spatula, using a stand mixer, or a hand mixer. More detailed tutorial: Basic Pate a Choux Recipe
  • Vanilla Pastry Cream: See how to make pastry cream for additional flavor options and troubleshooting tips!
  • Pastry Tip Recommendations: Ateco #802 for filling the cream puffs / Ateco #823 for swirling the pastry cream between a split cream puff.
  • Storing: Filled cream puffs are best eaten the same day they are made, but can be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
  • Freezing: For longer storage, freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Transfer to the refrigerator to thaw before serving.
  • Making Ahead: The pastry cream can be made up to 5 days in advance. Unfilled, baked cream puffs store well in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
Nutritional value is for 1 cream puff filled with pastry cream and topped with chocolate glaze.

Nutrition:

Calories: 206kcal
Fat: 13g
Saturated fat: 8g
Trans fat: 1g
Cholesterol: 103mg
Sodium: 128mg
Potassium: 109mg
Carbohydrates: 18g
Fiber: 1g
Sugar: 10g
Protein: 4g
Vitamin A: 390%
Calcium: 50%
Iron: 1%

Did you make this recipe?

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Photography by Dee Frances.