St. Joseph’s Day Zeppoles

March 19th is St. Joseph’s day. In the Catholic-Italian community where I grew up, St. Jospeh’s day meant going to your favorite Italian bakery and eating zeppoles (a type of cream puff pastry). Growing up, I was extremely fortunate to have many places to buy a pastries from for St. Joseph’s day. However, here in Virginia, there is no bakery in driving distance to find a zeppole (trust me, I checked). That’s why, last year I finally decided to make them on my own.

Little did I know that there was an extreme difference between a “Rhode Island zeppole” and the type of zeppole most people think of. Most people know zeppoles as being like a fried donut, similar to Giada’s recipe here. A Rhode Island zeppole, on the other hand, is a puff pastry with a cream filling topped with a cherry. Unfortunately, there aren’t too many recipes out there for our specific type of zeppole, but I found one that gets pretty close to the pastries I grew up eating on St. Joseph’s Day.

I’m not going to lie, this recipe takes a little bit of work and can be frustrating if you don’t get the dough completely correct. But the final product is absolutely delicious and well worth it! Although, when all is said and done, I will probably stick to making it once a year on March 19th.


St. Joseph’s Day Zeppoles


Pastry shells:
1 cup water
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 eggs

6 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 ounce cornstarch
2 1/4 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon dark rum
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups whipping cream, whipped
Powdered sugar for garnish
Dark cherries for garnish


  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. In a saucepan, boil the water with the butter, salt and sugar. Add the flour all at once and cook over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon until the mixture pulls away from the sides without sticking. Remove from the fire and beat in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Let cool.
  3. Line a sheet pan with baking paper. With a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip, pipe the dough into puffs on the sheet. Bake for 5 minutes. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees and bake for approximately 15 minutes more or until golden brown. Remove and let cool.
  4. Make the filling: Beat the yolks with the sugar until very light. Add the flour and cornstarch to the yolk mixture. In a large saucepan over medium heat, bring the milk to a boil slowly, and add the yolk mixture while beating until smooth. Over low heat, cook until thickened, stirring all the time. Remove from heat and add the rum, orange zest and vanilla. Let cool completely and fold in the whipped cream.
  5. Fill the pastries: Split the pastries and hollow them out; fill and put the tops back on. Dust with powdered sugar. Top with cherries. 4 servings.

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