Classic Zeppole di San Giuseppe

Traditional Italian pastries are typically made during the Feast of St. Joseph.  They are rich, buttery pastries that are filled with vanilla Italian pastry cream and garnished with a syrupy cherry.

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If you have ever had an eclair or a cream puff, then you’ve experienced the decadent French-style pastry called pate choux.  It’s a light, eggy, even slightly salty pastry.

A classic Italian pastry, this wooden board with two zeppole pastries filled with almond scented Italian pastry cream and garnished with a syrupy amarena cherry.

This recipe for zeppole are much like pate choux and filled with a creamy, luscious Italian pastry cream – both inside AND on top!  Talk about ‘gilding the lily’.


  • Carefully measure the ingredients for the dough.  If the dough is too runny or soft, the pastries will flatten.
  • When baking the pastries, DO NOT open the oven until you can clearly see that they are deep, golden brown.  If you open before they are done, they will flatten.
  • When making the pastry cream, don’t stop stirring!  To get the cream as smooth as possible, stirring constantly is key.
  • When incorporating the cream mixture into the egg mixture, be sure to cool the cream just a bit and ‘temper’ the eggs before you whisk them together.  You don’t want to cook or scramble the eggs.
  • If you get a few lumps, no problem.  Simply use the back of a wooden spoon to push the cream through a fine-mesh sieve.  No more lumps!
  • I used almond extract to flavor the cream.  If you aren’t an almond flavor fan, use vanilla, orange, or lemon extract.


Amarena cherries are an Italian delicacy.  They are wild, dark cherries that have a slightly bitter, intense cherry flavor, and preserved in a thick, sweet syrup that counteracts any hint of bitterness.  You can buy them in an Italian grocery or here on Amazon.

Amarena cherries are wonderful atop ice cream, spooned over pound cake, or baked in muffins, scones, tarts, or cookies.  The syrup makes a tasty addition to a cocktail. They aren’t cheap, but I can easily justify the cost when nothing goes to waste. 

A bonus is that they are often sold in beautiful little amphorette bottles that you can save and display.

A classic Italian pastry, this wooden board with two zeppole pastries filled with almond scented Italian pastry cream and garnished with a syrupy amarena cherry.


Love Italian food?  Me too. Here are a few more recipes for you to try.

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A classic Italian pastry, this wooden board with two zeppole pastries filled with almond scented Italian pastry cream and garnished with a syrupy amarena cherry.



Made for the Feast of St. Joseph, these tradtional Italian pastries are the perfect combination of buttery, flaky dough and sweet, almond scented Italian pastry cream.  It’s even topped with a cherry.



For the pastry cream

  • 1 ¼ cups whole milk
  • 1 ¼ cups whipping cream
  • 1 strip of orange zest (scrape off any white pith)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
  • 4 large egg yolks

For the Dough

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup sweet butter (without salt), at room temperature
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature


First, make the pastry cream.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, pour in the milk and cream. Float in the orange zest and bring the mixture to a simmer.  Don’t let the mixture boil.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and the sugar until thick and pale in color.  Take your time, this will take about 4-5 minutes. Whisk the flour and the cornstarch into the egg mixture.

When the milk begins to simmer, remove the orange peel.

While whisking the egg mixture, drizzle in a few spoonfuls on the hot cream mixture.  Whisk quickly so the eggs don’t begin to scramble.

Once the eggs are tempered, slowly stream the cream mixture into the eggs, whisking constantly until smooth.

Pour this mixture back into the saucepan and cook, stirring constantly, over medium-low heat until the mixture thickens.

Remove from heat and stir in the almond extract.

Spoon the cream into a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  When covering, lay the plastic wrap directly on top of the cream.  Refrigerate until completely cold.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat mat.  Set aside.

Use a large saucepan to make the dough.  Add the water, butter, and salt and bring to a boil.

Use a large spoon to stir in the flour and salt.  Add them all at once.

Cook, stirring constantly, for 3 or 4 minutes.
Carefully add the hot dough to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment and mix long enough to cool off the dough.

Add one egg and mix until incorporated.  Complete the process until all the eggs are incorporated.  Continue mixing until the dough is smooth.  

The dough should resemble a very thick whipped cream, rather than a ‘dough’. It should stretch off of the hook when lifted, and look smooth and glossy. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes.

Spoon the dough into a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip.
Pipe out 3-inch circles, leaving about a 1-inch hole in the center.  Allow at least 3-inches between the pastries.

Bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes until they are deep golden brown.  Try not to open the oven door until you see that they are almost deep, golden brown.  If you open too soon, the moisture inside of the dough may not be cooked enough to hold it’s shape and they will flatten.

To fill.  Spoon the cold pastry cream into a pastry bag that is fitted with the large star tip.  Pipe the cream into the center of the pastry so that it is visible on top.

If desired, dust very lightly with powdered sugar.

Garnish with a maraschino cherry or an amarena cherry.

Serve immediately.

  • Prep Time: 1 hour
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Category: Desserts
  • Method: Bake
  • Cuisine: Italian

Keywords: classic Italian pastry, Feast of St. Joseph, desserts, pastries, pastry recipe, filled pastries

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