Sunday, December 15, 2013

Chocolate Cream Puff Trifle

Every year I want to make lots of Thanksgiving desserts, but I always want one with wow factor.  It should taste delicious, obviously, but it should also be impressive to look at.  Last year, my wow factor dessert was the croquembouche.  Ironically, this year my wow factor dessert was also made of cream puffs, but instead of filling them with maple cream and stacking them in a tower, I filled them with a chocolate pastry cream and made them into a trifle!

When I saw this in my mom's holiday issue of Martha Stewart Living, I knew I had found my wow factor dessert.  Trifles may not always look like the most impressive thing, but this was absolutely gorgeous: layers of chocolate-filled cream puffs, ricotta cream specked with grated bittersweet chocolate and orange zest, orange marmalade, and dried fruit that had soaked in anisette, all topped with fresh homemade whipped cream... yeah, this was wow factor.

 While there are many components to this dessert, it was quite doable and I was able to make most of the parts the night before Thanksgiving.  I made the cream puffs, the chocolate cream, the ricotta cream (which by the way was the most delicious part of the entire thing... so light and refreshing), and put the cranberries and cherries (along with some golden raisins just because I had them on hand) into the anisette to soak.  The next morning, I filled the puffs and put the whole thing together; at Thanksgiving, I made the whipped cream and put it on top.  It wasn't really that much work considering how impressive the whole thing looked!  I couldn't seem to get any good pictures of it but trust me that it was beautiful, and it managed to sway many of the Thanksgiving dessert-eaters to try it first.  That's always the sign of a wow factor dessert!

And the results?  Everyone loved it.  My mom (and Kenzie) made the comment that she could do without the marmalade, which I would probably leave out next time, but also said that the chocolate pastry cream was probably the most delicious thing she'd ever eaten.  The ricotta cream was good enough to eat by itself, and the cream puffs are delicate and soft.  I definitely recommend the chocolate cream puff trifle for your next wow factor dessert.


chocolate cream puff trifle
from the December 2013 issue of Martha Stewart Living
serves 10

dried fruit:
1/4 cup anisette liqueur
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup dried cherries

pate a choux puffs:
1/2 stick unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 cup water
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs plus 1 large egg white

chocolate pastry cream:
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
4 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon coarse salt

ricotta cream:
16 ounces whole milk ricotta (2 cups)
2/3 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
2 tablespoons anisette liqueur
1/8 teaspoon coarse salt
1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, very finely chopped

1 1/3 cups blood-orange or regular orange marmalade
1 cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks


1) Make the dried fruit: bring anisette just to a simmer in a small pot.  Add dried fruit and simmer 1 minute.  Remove from heat; let sit at least 1 hour and up to 3 days at room temperature.

2) Make pate a choux puffs: preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Bring butter, sugar, salt, and water to a boil in a small saucepan.  Remove from heat.  Quickly stir in flour with a wooden spoon.  Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until mixture pulls away from sides of pan and a film forms on the bottom, about 1 1/2 minutes.  Transfer to a bowl and beat with a mixer on low speed until cool, about 2 minutes.  Beat in eggs and egg white, 1 at a time.  Increase speed to medium and beat until a soft peak forms when you touch dough with your finger, about 2 minutes.  Transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain tip.  Pipe dough into thirty 1-to-1 1/4-inch mounds, 1 1/2 inches apart, on 2 parchment-lined baking sheets.  Smooth tip of each mound with a moistened finger, then bake until puffed and golden, about 30 minutes.  Let cool completely.  Choux puffs can be made 2 days ahead and stored in refrigerator, or frozen up to 1 month.

3) Make chocolate pastry cream: place chocolate in a bowl and set a fine sieve over the bowl.  Bring milk and 1/3 cup sugar almost to a boil in a saucepan; remove from heat.  Whisk together egg yolks and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in another bowl until thick, 2 minutes.  Sprinkle in flour and salt, then whisk to combine.  Whisk in half of hot milk, then pour mixture into remaining milk in pan.  Bring to a boil quickly, whisking very fast to prevent scorching, about 1 minute.  Pour mixture through sieve over chocolate, then whisk to combine.  Press plastic wrap directly onto surface of pastry cream to cover and refrigerate until cold, about 1 hour.  Pastry cream can be made up to 2 days ahead.

4) Make ricotta cream: beat together ricotta, cream, sugar, orange zest, anisette, and salt with a mixer on medium-high speed until very thick and fluffy.  Stir in chocolate and refrigerate until ready to use. Ricotta crew can be made up to 2 days ahead.

5) Assemble: place chocolate pastry cream into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-ich plain tip.  Make a small hole in bottom of each choux puff with a paring knife.  Insert pastry bag tip into hole of each puff and squeeze bag until puffs are completely filled with pastry cream.  Spread half of ricotta cream in a 12-to-16-cup trifle bowl.  Top with half of marmalade, then sprinkle with half of dried fruit and soaking liquid.  Top with 15 cream puffs.  Repeat layering with remaining ricotta cream, marmalade, dried fruit, and cream puffs.  Top with whipped cream.  Refrigerate at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours before serving.


  1. I want to make this for Christmas Eve dinner with friends. There will be some children there, who will want to eat this, but I am thinking I might need to either just leave out the dried fruit/anisette or maybe switching it with real fruit and complementary jam instead of marmalade. Like raspberries with raspberry jam. Do you think that would work? Can you advise? I agree with the Wow factor and have wanted to make this since I saw it last year in MSL. Thanks for any help!

    1. Hi Mary! Good luck with the dessert! I would suggest still using the dried fruit - fresh might get too mushy. You could use a little anise extract instead of the anisette, or even just toss in the dried fruit without soaking it in anything. It will soften up a bit anyway with the ricotta cream. Let me know how it comes out! Merry Christmas!