Black Forest Cream Puffs

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Black Forest cream puffs are the perfect blend of elegance and indulgence, featuring a combination of cherry curd and chocolate pastry cream that’s truly irresistible.

Rich black forest flavored cream puffs

Recipe At a Glance

This recipe offers my twist on Black Forest cream puffs. I add a streusel topping to the cream puffs for that delightful crunch, then stuff them with cherry curd and a chocolate pastry cream that’s lightened with whipped cream. These delightful cream puffs capture the essence of Black Forest flavors—cherries and chocolate.

While the recipe is straightforward and doesn’t involve complex techniques, the preparation time for the puffs is a bit lengthy, clocking in at over two hours due to the multiple components. It’s not something you’d whip up on a busy weeknight, but it is perfect for a weekend treat that requires some forethought.

Making Black Forest cream puffs for the first time? Read the ingredients notes, step-by-step instructions, and tips. If you’re familiar with the recipe, feel free to jump to the recipe card.

Black forest cream puff anatomy
Black forest cream puff anatomy

Ingredients Notes and Substitutes

Choux Pastry

Modern choux pastry ingredients
  • Milk and water. For these puffs, I like the milk and water combo, but you might as skip the milk and go with only water. The puffs will rise higher, but they won’t be as tasty.
  • All-Purpose Flour.
  • Unsalted butter.
  • Eggs.
  • Salt and sugar. These turn regular choux pastry (typically pretty tasteless) into something quite good on its own.

Crumb Topping

Streusel topping ingredients
  • Unsalted butter.
  • All-purpose flour.
  • Brown sugar. You can use white sugar instead.
  • Food dye. Great if you want to impress your eaters, but totally optional.

Cherry Curd

Cherry curd ingredients
  • Cherries. As long as they are pitted, all fresh, frozen, and canned cherries work well in this recipe. I typically use frozen cherries because they’re available all year and relatively cheap.
  • Lemon. Lemon juice helps bring out the flavor of the cherries.
  • Sugar. Regular white sugar works best.
  • Eggs. These are crucial for thickening the curd. We use a combination of whole eggs and additional yolks to ensure a rich, creamy texture.
  • Unsalted butter. Butter adds richness and helps thicken the curd.

Chocolate Diplomat Cream

  • Milk: Whole fat is best.
  • Cornstarch: Ideal for its high thickening temperature. Substitute half the amount of potato starch, but allow the cooked milk mixture to cool slightly before adding to the eggs to prevent premature thickening. For more information, see my article on cornstarch versus potato starch.
  • Sugar: Regular white sugar is fine, but brown sugar might be an interesting pairing with dark chocolate. Sugar substitutes are also okay.
  • Dark Chocolate: Dark chocolate with 60 to 70 percent cocoa solids is what you’re looking for. You could also go with flavored dark chocolate for a slightly different flavor (say, a cherry-flavored one). Combining dark and milk chocolate, or going with milk chocolate only both work, but you should reduce the sugar so it’s not overly sweet.
  • Vanilla Extract: Optional but recommended for enhancing flavor.
  • Heavy Cream: Go with the brand you use for whipping.
  • Powdered Gelatin: Used to stabilize the cream.

How to Make Black Forest Cream Puffs

Given the multiple components in this recipe, having a game plan seems reasonable. Here’s a suggested order of operations, but feel free to adjust it according to your schedule:

  1. Prepare streusel topping. While there’s some downtime during the streusel preparation, use this opportunity to start on the curd.
  2. Make cherry curd so it has ample time to chill before adding to the puffs.
  3. Cook the chocolate pastry cream so it can cool down sufficiently before being mixed with whipped cream for piping.
  4. Prepare and bake the cream puffs topped with the streusel.
  5. Whip heavy cream.
  6. Assemble everything by combining the components and filling the puffs.

Although this might seem like a lot, the process is quite manageable, especially if you prepare the streusel topping and cherry curd beforehand.

Here are the steps:

Step 1: Make Crumb Topping

(For more detailed information and tips on crumb topping, check out my article on streusel topping.)

  1. Warm up butter. Take the butter out, chop it into cubes, and let it sit at room temperature for about an hour. We want it nice and soft. Skip if you’re in a hurry.
  2. Mix dry ingredients. Grab a medium bowl and mix your sugar and flour.
  3. Add butter: Add that room-temperature butter to the mix and mix the ingredients using a fork until you achieve a homogeneous mass. A mixer will also do the trick.
  1. Add food dye. If using, add the food dye and stir it until well incorporated. Start with a bit and add more if needed. Use gloves if you’re incorporating the dye using your hands (which is probably the best way).
  1. Roll out. Sandwich your dough between two sheets of parchment paper or silicone mats, and roll it out thin – aiming for about 1/10 inch or 2 to 3mm thick. When it starts getting tough to roll, peel off the top layer, place it on your work surface, and then flip the dough over onto it. Finish by peeling off and placing the other layer back. Repeat whenever it gets hard to roll.
  1. Refrigerate. Pop the rolled-out dough, still between the sheets, in the fridge for about 30 minutes. That’s when you can start working on choux pastry. For best results, place the rolled-out dough on something that will retain a low temperature for longer, like a cutting board.
  2. Cut. Once the dough is nice and cold, cut it into disks slightly larger than your puffs. Once all the necessary shapes are cut out, gather the remaining streusel scraps using a pairing knife or an offset spatula, form them into a ball, and roll it out or freeze for next time. Be quick here because the dough softens fast.
Cutting the rolled out dough
Cut the rolled-out dough into your desired shape
  1. Refrigerate. Put the cut streusel into the fridge, where it’ll wait until your choux pastry is ready and piped. You can prepare the streusel the day before you need it and refrigerate it overnight, or freeze the disks a couple of days in advance.

Step 2: Make Cherry Curd

(Read my article on cherry curd for more tips!)

  1. Puree cherries. Place the pitted cherries in a pot (strain if using canned), add 2 to 3 tablespoons of water to cover the bottom (so they don’t burn), and start cooking them on low heat. Once the cherries begin to release juice, increase the heat to medium and bring them to a boil. That helps soften the cherries. Next, grab a hand blender and process all the cherries to a mash. Finally, strain the cherry mash through a strainer to remove leftover skins, pressing and scraping to extract as much puree as possible. You should end up with about three-fourths of the original weight in puree.
  1. Squeeze lemon. Extract the juice from the lemon half.
Extracting lemon juice
Squeeze out the juice and set aside
  1. Prep eggs. Crack the eggs into a heatproof bowl, add the yolks, whisk, and stir in the sugar. Set aside.
  1. Cook puree mixture. Add the cherry puree and lemon juice to a pot, stir everything, and cook on medium heat until it bubbles. Take off the heat.
Cooking the cherry mixture
Combine the remaining ingredients and cook over medium heat until it bubbles
  1. Temper eggs. Gradually incorporate the hot puree into the egg mixture by adding a few tablespoons at a time while constantly stirring. Continue until you combine at least half of the mixture with the eggs. Continue stirring at all times so the eggs don’t curdle. Pour the tempered egg mixture into the pot and set it on low heat.
  1. Cook. Cook the egg mixture while stirring continously until it noticeably thickens. As it cooks, it typically foams, and that foam tends to disappear soon after the curd thickens. Don’t stop whisking, or the eggs will curdle.
Cooking until cherry mixture thickens
Cook the cherry mixture until it thickens
  1. Add butter. Once thickened, remove from heat, add the chopped butter, and stir until it melts and blends in.
  1. Taste test. Check the flavor (be careful; it’s hot), and add more lemon juice or sugar if needed.
  2. Strain (optional). For a smoother texture, strain the curd to remove any curdled bits of egg. This step is optional, and I often omit it.
  3. Cover. Place plastic wrap directly on the curd’s surface to prevent skin formation.
Cover with plastic wrap
Cover the curd with plastic wrap to prevent skin formation
  1. Cool. Let the curd cool at room temperature (covered) until needed. If making it a day or two in advance, refrigerate once it cools to about room temperature.

Step 3: Make Chocolate Pastry Cream

(Read my article on chocolate pastry cream for an in-depth take on the topic.)

  1. Bloom gelatin. Whisk gelatin with water in a small bowl and let the mixture sit on the counter.
  2. Boil milk. Measure milk into a pot, add vanilla extract and half the sugar. Heat until nearly boiling.
  3. Prep yolks. Whisk yolks in a bowl. Mix in cornstarch and remaining sugar. Set aside.
Mix the egg yolks, cornstarch, and sugar
Mix the egg yolks, cornstarch, and sugar
  1. Prep chocolate. Finely chop the chocolate and set aside.
Chopping the chocolate
Chop the chocolate into small bits
  1. Temper eggs. Remove milk from heat as it nears boiling. Gradually add hot milk to yolks, whisking constantly to prevent curdling. Repeat 3 to 4 times until all milk is incorporated, stirring continuously.
Pour warm milk into the egg mixture
Gradually pour warm milk into the egg mixture
  1. Cook until thick. Return the mixture to the pot. Cook over low or medium heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens and starts to bubble (2-4 mins).
  1. Add chocolate. Remove from heat, add chopped chocolate, and whisk until melted and incorporated.
  1. Taste test. Carefully taste the cream and add more sugar if needed.
  2. Stir in gelatin. Grab the bowl with the bloomed gelatin and scoop its contents into the pastry cream. Whisk until the gelatin melts and is incorporated.
  1. Strain (optional). Strain if there’s unmelted chocolate or curdled yolks. Skip this step if the cream is smooth.
  1. Cover and chill. Lay plastic wrap directly on the surface to avoid a skin forming. Let it cool at room temperature until it’s at about 100°F (or 40°C) before you add the whipped cream later on.
Cover with plastic wrap
Cover with plastic wrap and chill

Step 4: Make Choux Pastry

(Read my article on choux pastry for a more detailed description and tips on working with choux pastry!)

  1. Preheat oven. Start by preheating your oven to 390°F (200°C).
  2. Melt butter and bring to a boil. In a pot, combine butter, milk, water, salt, and sugar, then bring the mixture to a boil, ensuring the butter is fully melted.
  1. Add flour. Take the pot off the heat, add all the flour to the mixture at once, and stir until it roughly combines. Bring the pot back to the stove and continue stirring with a spoon over low heat. The dough will thicken and clump quickly, but you should continue stirring the mixture for 2-3 minutes, ensuring all the flour is incorporated and no white floury spots are inside. While stirring, scrape the dough from the sides and bottom to prevent sticking. After 2-3 minutes, the dough should be glossy and easy to detach from the pot, and a thin layer, or film, should form on the bottom.
  1. Transfer. Move the dough to a mixing bowl and let it cool for about 10 minutes. Spreading it across the bowl can speed up cooling.
Spread choux pastry in bowl to cool
Spread choux pastry in bowl to cool
  1. Prepare eggs. Crack the eggs into a separate bowl and whisk them.
Whisk the eggs
Crack and whisk the eggs
  1. Make dough. Once the dough has cooled slightly, start mixing it with a hand mixer at medium speed. After 20-30 seconds of mixing, add half the eggs to the dough and mix until incorporated. Repeat by adding half of the leftover egg mixture. Now it’s time to get the dough to the right consistency: you want it thick enough to hold its shape but still pipeable. The V-Shape test is the best way to check for that: Dip your mixer whisks or spatula into the dough and lift it. The dough should slowly fall off, eventually leaving a piece of dough hanging that forms a characteristic ‘V’ shape or a triangle at the end of the whisk or spatula. If the dough is not there yet, continue adding the eggs bit by bit and checking the consistency.
Adding the whisked eggs
Mix the dough at medium speed and add the whisked eggs

Step 5: Pipe and Bake Cream Puffs

(Check out my cream puffs article for more info on making cream puffs.)

  1. Prepare baking tray. Line a baking tray with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Optionally, draw 2-inch circles on the underside of the parchment as guides, spaced about 1 1/5 inches apart, for uniformly sized cream puffs.
Cream puffs graphic
Cream puff pastry size
  1. Set up for piping. Transfer the dough to a piping bag fitted with a round tip or use a plastic food bag with a corner cut off.
  2. Pipe the dough. Start by holding your piping bag with a round tip vertically above the baking sheet. Begin piping by gently squeezing the bag, letting the pastry build into a mound. As you form the mound, lift the bag slowly, still squeezing, to let the pastry stack upon itself. Keep the tip partially in the forming mound, guiding it to expand up and out. Aim for about 3/4 inches in height and 2 inches in diameter. To finish, stop squeezing and smoothly pull the tip up and away, leaving a small peak. You can lightly pat this down with a damp finger.
  1. Add streusel. Once the puffs are piped, take the crumb topping discs from the fridge and place one on top of each piped mound, pressing gently.
Adding the streusel
Add the streusel on top of each piped mound and gently press
  1. Bake. Place the tray in the preheated oven, then immediately reduce the temperature to 356°F (180°C). Bake for 40 minutes. Open the door a tiny bit (and leave them open) for the last 5 minutes for any buildup steam to escape. If the puffs start to brown before the 35-minute mark, lower the temperature to 320°F (or 160°C).
  2. Cool. Remove the puffs from the oven, let them cool for 10 minutes, then carefully detach them from the parchment paper or silicone mat and let them cool on a wire rack for another 10 to 15 minutes.
Puffs on a cooling rack
Bake puffs for 40 minutes and let them cool on a wire rack

Step 6: Finish and Fill

  1. Whip heavy cream. Whip heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Refrigerate until needed.
Whip the heavy cream
Whip heavy cream until stiff peak form
  1. Cut tops. Cut the top off of each puff. Make sure the hole is large so it’s easy to pipe and layer both creams.
  2. Add cherry curd. Transfer the cherry curd to a piping bag or syringe and pipe a bit inside each puff, between one-fourth and one-third of its height. That’s s enough to make the cherry flavor noticeable but not overwhelming.
  1. Prepare pastry cream. Before starting, make sure the chocolate pastry cream is warm to the touch but not hot. As mentioned earlier, 100°F or 40°C is the sweet spot. If it’s still too warm, you can chill it in a cold water bath, stirring every now and then. If it’s much colder and has started gelling, you can warm it up in a double boiler until it’s warm and not as stiff. Whisk the pastry cream well before adding whipped cream.
  2. Make diplomat cream. Add about one-third of the whipped cream to the pastry cream and stir it together. That helps loosen it up before adding the rest. Repeat with the second and third portions of the whipped cream. When folding, be gentle, as you don’t want to deflate the whipped cream or overbeat it.
  1. Pipe. Scoop the cream you just made into a piping bag or syringe and fill the puffs to the brim. Replace the tops.
  1. Refrigerate. Tuck the filled puffs and the remaining cream into the fridge for about an hour. That should be enough time for the cream to firm up. If it’s still a bit wobbly, give it another half hour to an hour in the cold.
  2. Decorate. When the cream is set, give it a quick whisk to make it smooth and workable again, then pop it into a clean piping bag. Add a swirl of cream on top of each puff and crown it with the top you cut off.

  1. Serve or refrigerate.
Delicious black forest cream puffs
Streusel-topped black forest cream puffs

Variations

Here are some ideas for modifying this recipe according to your needs and time constraints.

Simplify

  • Replace cherry curd with jam. Instead of making the curd from scratch, opt for your favorite store-bought or homemade cherry jam or preserve. If it’s too thick to pipe, gently warm it in a double boiler until it softens enough to be pipeable.
  • Skip whipped cream and gelatin. It’s not necessary to whip and lighten the chocolate pastry cream. You could forego the cream and gelatin and use the pastry cream as is. Without these additions, you should have enough pastry cream to fill the puffs without decorating them. Overfill them slightly and replace the tops immediately; this will help hold them securely.
Black forest cream puffs with streusel

Elevate

  • Decorate with chocolate shavings. For an extra touch of elegance, garnish the puffs with chocolate shavings. White chocolate is a great choice for its striking contrast against the dark chocolate cream.
Streusel topped black forest cream puffs
Black Forest-flavored cream puffs

Storage

These cream puffs can be refrigerated for 3 to 4 days in a tightly sealed container to prevent them from absorbing any odors.

Remember, cream puffs with a streusel topping are crispiest on the first day; they tend to soften after a night in the fridge. Therefore, they are best enjoyed the day they are made.

Rich Black Forest flavored cream puffs

Black Forest Cream Puffs

Black Forest cream puffs are the perfect blend of elegance and indulgence, featuring a combination of cherry curd and chocolate pastry cream that’s truly irresistible.
Prep Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Assembly: 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 45 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: French, German
Keyword: Cherries, Chocolate, Cream Puffs, Pastry Cream
Servings: 16 Black Forest Cream Puffs

Ingredients

Choux Pastry:

  • ¼ cup water ~60 ml
  • ¼ cup milk ~60 ml
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter ~45 g
  • oz all-purpose flour ~70 g
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • tsp sugar
  • 2 large eggs ~95g after cracking

Streusel Topping:

  • 2 oz unsalted butter 4 tbsp or 61g
  • 2 oz all-purpose flour 1/2 cup or 61g
  • 2 oz light brown sugar 1/4 cup or 61g
  • Food dye optional

Cherry Curd:

  • 1/2 pound cherries ~225g, fresh, frozen or canned (after straining)
  • 1/4 lemon medium
  • 1/5 cup white sugar ~40g
  • 1 egg large
  • 2 egg yolks large, about 30-35g
  • 2 oz butter ~66g

Chocolate Diplomat Cream:

  • 2 cups milk ~480g
  • 4 egg yolks medium or large (about 60-70g)
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch ~40g
  • 7 tablespoons sugar ~87g
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 oz dark chocolate ~113g
  • 3 tsp gelatin ~9g
  • 3 tbsp water 45g
  • 1 cup heavy cream ~240 ml

Instructions

Streusel:

  • Soften Butter: Cut the butter into cubes and let it soften at room temperature for about an hour.
    2 oz unsalted butter
  • Mix Dry Ingredients: In a medium bowl, combine sugar and flour.
    2 oz light brown sugar, 2 oz all-purpose flour
  • Add Butter: Incorporate the softened butter using a fork or mixer until evenly mixed.
  • Add Food Dye: If using, add the food dye and stir it until well incorporated.
    Food dye
  • Roll Out Dough: Between parchment papers, roll dough to a thickness of 2-3mm. Peel and replace paper as needed for easier rolling.
  • Refrigerate: Refrigerate the rolled dough (still between sheets) for about 30 minutes, ideally on a cutting board that will retain temperature for longer.
  • Cut Shapes: Cut the dough into 1.5 to 2-inch disks quickly before it softens, remove the excess, and return the disks to the fridge.

Cherry Curd:

  • Puree Cherries: Place pitted cherries in a pot with a few tablespoons of water. Cook on low until juices release, then increase to medium heat and bring to a boil. Puree with a hand blender, then strain to remove skins. You should end up with about three-fourths of the original weight in puree.
    1/2 pound cherries
  • Squeeze Lemon: Juice the lemon quarter.
    1/4 lemon
  • Prep Eggs: Whisk together whole eggs, yolks, and sugar in a heatproof bowl.
    1 egg, 2 egg yolks, 1/5 cup white sugar
  • Cook Puree Mixture: Combine cherry puree and lemon juice in a pot; heat until it starts to bubble then remove from heat.
  • Temper Eggs: Gradually mix the hot puree into the egg mixture, a few tablespoons at a time, stirring constantly to prevent curdling.
  • Cook: Return all contents to the pot and cook on low, stirring continuously until the mixture thickens.
  • Add Butter: Off heat, stir in chopped butter until melted and incorporated.
    2 oz butter
  • Taste Test: Adjust flavor with additional lemon juice or sugar as needed.
  • Strain (Optional): Strain the curd for a smoother texture, if desired.
  • Cover: Place plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent skin formation.
  • Refrigerate: Allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate while still covered until needed.

Chocolate Pastry Cream:

  • Bloom Gelatin: In a small bowl, whisk gelatin with water and let it sit until needed.
    3 tsp gelatin, 3 tbsp water
  • Boil Milk: Combine milk, vanilla extract, and half the sugar in a pot. Heat until almost boiling.
    2 cups milk, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 7 tablespoons sugar
  • Prep Eggs: Whisk egg yolks in a bowl. Mix in cornstarch and remaining sugar.
    4 egg yolks, 4 tablespoons cornstarch
  • Chop Chocolate: Finely chop chocolate and set aside.
    4 oz dark chocolate
  • Temper Eggs: Gradually add hot milk to yolks, whisking constantly to blend without curdling.
  • Thicken Cream: Return mixture to pot and cook over low/medium heat until thick (2-4 mins), stirring constantly.
  • Add Chocolate: Off the heat, whisk in chopped chocolate until melted and smooth.
  • Taste and Adjust: Taste and add sugar if needed.
  • Add Gelatin: Add bloomed gelatin and whisk until dissolved.
  • Strain (Optional): Strain if needed to remove unmelted chocolate or any other lumps.
  • Cover: Cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature until it cools to about 100°F (or 40°C).

Choux Pastry:

  • Preheat Oven: Heat oven to 390°F (200°C).
  • Boil Butter Mixture: In a pot, mix butter, milk, water, salt, and sugar. Bring to a boil, ensuring the butter melts completely.
    ¼ cup water, ¼ cup milk, 3 tbsp unsalted butter, ¼ tsp salt, 1¼ tsp sugar
  • Add Flour: Off the heat, add the flour and stir. Return to low heat, stirring continuously for 2-3 minutes until the dough is thick, glossy, and leaves a thin film on the pot bottom.
    2½ oz all-purpose flour
  • Cool Dough: Transfer dough to a bowl and let it cool for 10 minutes, spreading it out to cool faster.
  • Whisk Eggs: Beat eggs in a separate bowl.
    2 large eggs
  • Mix Dough: With the dough slightly cooled, mix with a hand mixer. Gradually add half the eggs, mix, then add the remaining eggs bit by bit until the dough forms a 'V' shape when lifted with a whisk or spatula.

Bake:

  • Prepare Tray: Line a baking tray with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
  • Pipe Dough: Fill a piping bag and pipe dough onto the tray in 2-inch mounds, leaving 1¼ inches space between each.
  • Add Streusel: Place refrigerated streusel discs on each dough mound.
  • Bake: Place the baking tray in the oven, immediately reduce temperature to 356°F (180°C), and bake for 40 minutes until slightly browned. Open the oven door slightly for the last 5 minutes of baking.

Finish:

  • Whip Cream: Whip heavy cream to stiff peaks and refrigerate.
    1 cup heavy cream
  • Prepare Puffs: Cut the tops off each puff, ensuring a large enough opening for piping.
  • Add Curd: Pipe cherry curd inside each puff to about one-fourth to one-third of its height.
  • Prep Pastry Cream: Ensure chocolate pastry cream is warm (100°F or 40°C) but not hot. Cool in cold water or warm up in a double boiler if necessary.
  • Make Diplomat Cream: Gently fold whipped cream into the pastry cream in three stages.
  • Fill Puffs: Pipe the diplomat cream into the puffs until full and replace the tops.
  • Chill: Refrigerate the filled puffs for about an hour or until the leftover cream sets.
  • Decorate: Remove the tops once again. Once set, whisk the cream briefly, transfer to a piping bag and pipe a swirl on each puff. Replace the tops.
  • Serve: Enjoy immediately or refrigerate.
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