Coffee Cream Puffs

Whether you’re a seasoned baker or just starting out, this step-by-step guide to making coffee cream puffs will help you create a dessert that’s as delicious as it is beautiful.

Cream puff with coffee pastry cream

Recipe At a Glance

There are endless ways to make coffee cream puffs. Here’s my take: choux pastry topped with crumb topping and filled with coffee pastry cream. It’s my Choux au Craquelin, but with coffee pastry cream instead of whipped cream.

The pastry is elegant, fairly easy to make, and tastes great. The only part that’s a bit finicky and may feel frustrating at times is the crumb topping, at least for the first few times you make it. But the good news is you can skip it, and you’ll still end up with a flavorful dessert.

(I cover ways to simplify and elevate the dessert later in the article.)

That’s all you need to know for now. Let’s dive right in.

If you’re making these coffee cream puffs for the first time, please read the ingredients notes, step-by-step instructions, and tips. If you have any experience with pastry creams, feel free to jump to the recipe card.

Coffee cream puff anatomy
Coffee cream puff anatomy

Ingredients Notes and Substitutes

Choux Pastry

Modern choux pastry ingredients
  • Water and milk. Full-fat milk works best, but skim should work in a pinch. I wouldn’t experiment with vegan milk, as they might alter the flavor of the choux. It’s better to use just water instead.
  • All-purpose flour.
  • Unsalted butter.
  • Eggs.
  • Salt and sugar. Sugar alternatives are perfectly fine.

Crumb Topping

Streusel topping ingredients
  • Unsalted butter.
  • All-purpose flour.
  • Brown sugar. You can use white sugar instead of brown sugar.

Coffee Pastry Cream

Coffee pastry cream ingredients
  • Milk: Whole fat is best, but skim is also okay. Milk alternatives work well, though they may slightly alter the final flavor. If using one with added sugar, reduce the sugar amount in the recipe by half. You can use a coffee-flavored milk alternative, omitting the instant coffee unless you want a supercharged high-octane coffee cream.
  • Cornstarch: Cornstarch is ideal due to its relatively high thickening temperature. You can substitute it with half the amount of potato starch, but allow the cooked milk mixture to cool slightly before adding it to the eggs to prevent premature thickening. For more information, check out my article on cornstarch versus potato starch.
  • Sugar: Regular white sugar is fine, but brown sugar is a great alternative if you prefer its taste with coffee. Sugar substitutes are also okay.
  • Instant Coffee: This is our primary flavoring. It’s convenient and doesn’t require brewing. Substitute with half the amount of espresso powder if needed. If you’re out of instant coffee and espresso powder, read the coffee pastry cream article where I cover how to use regular coffee.
  • Vanilla Extract: Optional but recommended for enhancing flavor. A little goes a long way.
  • Unsalted Butter.

How to Make Coffee Cream Puffs

Here’s a brief overview:

  1. We make the pastry cream so it has some time to chill before we pipe it inside our puffs.
  2. We prep the streusel and the choux pastry, combine them, and bake the puffs.
  3. Finally, once the puffs cool a bit and the pastry cream is nice and cold, we pipe the puffs and serve them.

Let’s get into the details.

Step 1: Make Coffee Pastry Cream

(Check out my coffee pastry cream piece for tips and info on using ground coffee or coffee beans instead of instant coffee.)

  1. Boil Milk and Coffee: Measure the milk into a pot and stir in the vanilla extract, instant coffee, and half the sugar. Bring the mixture almost to a boil.
Mixing the ingredients
Mix the ingredients and heat until nearly boiling
  1. Prep Yolks: While the milk is heating, whisk the yolks in a large bowl. Then, stir in the cornstarch and the remaining sugar. Set aside.
Whisk the eggs
Whisk the egg yolks
  1. Temper Eggs: As the milk approaches boiling, remove it from the heat. Gradually pour a few tablespoons of the hot coffee and milk mixture into the yolks, whisking constantly to prevent the yolks from curdling. Repeat this process 3 to 4 times until all the milk is incorporated. Keep stirring throughout.
Pouring warm milk into the mixture
Gradually pour the warm mixture into the egg
  1. Cook Until Thick and Bubbly: Return the combined mixture to the pot used for the milk. Cook over low or medium heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens and bubbles. Depending on the pot and heat intensity, this usually takes 2 to 4 minutes. Avoid rushing to prevent the yolks from curdling.
  1. Take Off the Heat and Whisk: Once thick, remove the pot from the heat and continue whisking for about a minute to bring the mixture past the point of maximum thickness.
  2. Stir in Butter: Add the butter to the pot and stir until it melts and is fully integrated into the cream.
  1. Taste Test: Taste the cream (carefully, as it’s hot) and add more sugar or instant coffee if needed. The heat should melt both sugar and instant coffee granules quickly.
  2. Cover and Chill: Place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a crust from forming. Let it cool at room temperature for at least 30 minutes, then refrigerate (still covered) for at least an hour so that it thickens at least a bit before piping. You can also prep the pastry cream a day earlier, which is what I usually do.
Cover the coffee pastry cream
Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill

Step 2: Make Crumb Topping

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

  1. Warm up the 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 in there.
  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. 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.
  1. Back to the cold (optional). If time allows, refrigerate the cut streusel for 10 to 15 minutes so it doesn’t break when you’re transferring the shapes onto the puffs. You can prepare the streusel the day before you need it and leave it overnight in the fridge.

Step 3: Make Choux Pastry

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

  1. Preheat the oven. Start by preheating your oven to 390°F (200°C).
  2. Melt the 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 the 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 the eggs. Crack the eggs into a separate bowl and whisk them.
Whisk the eggs
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.

Step 4: Pipe and Bake Cream Puffs

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

  1. Prepare the 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.
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.

Pipe and Serve

  1. Whisk Pastry Cream: Remove the pastry cream from the fridge. If it’s been there for at least 5+ hours, the pastry cream will look like stiff pudding. This is normal. Start by “chopping” it with a fork, then switch to a whisk and stir until it becomes somewhat smooth.
  1. Pipe. Transfer the pastry cream into a piping bag equipped with a bismark piping tip, and fill the puffs. Alternatively, cut the puffs in half and pipe the cream onto the bottom half before replacing the top. If going with the second option, make sure you refrigerate the cream for at least 2 hours before using so that it’s fairly stiff and doesn’t spill when piped. With the second option, you can be quite generous with the cream, but you’ll probably need make more of the pastry cream recipe to have enough.
  1. Serve.
Cream puff with piped coffee pastry filling
Coffee cream puffs served

Variations

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

Simplify

  • Skip Crumb Topping: Crumb topping adds a delightful crunch to the puffs, but making it takes a while and is a bit of a pain. You can skip that and dust the puffs with powdered sugar or make a simple chocolate ganache (that takes 10 minutes to make and some waiting until it cools down) like I did in my vanilla cream puffs recipe. If you skip the crumb topping, you’ll need less pastry cream because puffs with streusel topping grow wider, making more room for filling. If that’s the case, cut some of the puffs in half and add more filling than an uncut puff would allow.
  • Replace Pastry Cream with Coffee Whipped Cream: Warm some heavy cream (don’t bring it to a boil), dissolve the instant coffee in it and cool it down in the fridge. Combine the coffee-flavored heavy cream with regular heavy cream, whip until stiff peaks, and pipe your puffs.
Cream puff with coffee pastry and crumb topping

Elevate

  • Turn into Tiramisu Cream Puffs: If you love tiramisu, you’ll love these tiramisu cream puffs. This recipe reduces the amount of coffee pastry cream by half and adds mascarpone cream as the main filling for the puffs. Highly recommended.
  • Transform into Diplomat Cream: For a lighter filling, mix the coffee pastry cream with whipped cream. After cooking the cream (half the recipe), mix in melted gelatin (about 2 tsp). Once it cools to room temperature, whip some heavy cream with powdered sugar and vanilla extract until stiff peaks form, then gently fold it into the pastry cream. This creates a lighter and fluffier filling that’s perfect for summer.
  • Use Chocolate Choux Pastry: For a classic mocha flavor, bake the chocolate version of the choux pastry instead. That means replacing three teaspoons of flour with three teaspoons of cocoa powder and mixing the two before you add them to the water and butter mixture. I cover this choux pastry in my Choux au Craquelin article.
Coffee cream puff filled with coffee pastry cream
Cream puff filled with coffee pastry cream

Storage

You can store these cream puffs in the fridge for 3 to 4 days. Make sure the container is sealed tightly so they don’t absorb any smells.

Cream puff with coffee pastry cream

Coffee Cream Puffs

Whether you’re a seasoned baker or just starting out, this step-by-step guide to making coffee cream puffs will help you create a dessert that’s as delicious as it is beautiful.
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 1 hour
Assembly: 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: French
Keyword: Coffee, Coffee Cream Puffs, Cream Patisserie, Cream Puffs, Custard, Filling, Pastry Cream
Servings: 16 coffee cream puffs

Equipment

  • whisk
  • Stand mixer

Ingredients

Coffee Pastry Cream:

  • 2 cups milk ~480g
  • 4 egg yolks medium or large (about 60-70g)
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch ~40g
  • 7 tablespoons sugar ~87g
  • 2 teaspoons instant coffee ~4g
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter ~28g

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

Instructions

Coffee Pastry Cream

  • Boil Milk: In a pot, mix milk with instant coffee, vanilla extract and half the sugar, and heat until almost boiling.
  • Prep Yolks: Whisk yolks in a bowl, then mix in cornstarch and the remaining sugar.
  • Temper Eggs: Gradually add a few tablespoons of hot milk to the yolk mixture, whisking constantly to avoid curdling. Repeat until all milk is incorporated.
  • Thicken Cream: Return mixture to the pot and cook on low/medium heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens and bubbles (2-4 minutes).
  • Off Heat Whisking: Once thick, remove from heat and whisk for another minute.
  • Add Butter: Stir butter into the mixture until melted and integrated.
  • Taste and Adjust: Taste the cream and add more sugar or vanilla if needed.
  • Chill: Cover with plastic wrap touching the cream's surface to avoid crust formation. Cool at room temperature for 30 minutes, then refrigerate.

Streusel:

  • Soften Butter: Cut the butter into cubes and let it soften at room temperature for about an hour.
  • Mix Dry Ingredients: In a medium bowl, combine sugar and flour.
  • Add Butter: Incorporate the softened butter using a fork or mixer until evenly mixed.
  • 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.

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.
  • Add Flour: Off the heat, add flour and cocoa powder (mixed) all at once 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Assembly:

  • Whisk Pastry Cream: Cut up the stiff cream with a fork, then whisk until it's fairly smooth.
  • Pipe Cream: Pipe the coffee pastry cream right into each puff or cut them in half and pipe the cream onto the bottoms.
  • Serve: Enjoy the cream puffs immediately for best taste.
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