Zeppole di Giuseppe cream filled doughnut recipe

The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

Prep: 30 mins
Cook: 30 mins
Total: 60 mins
Servings: 8 servings
Yield: 8 doughnuts
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
378 Calories
25g Fat
32g Carbs
6g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8
Amount per serving
Calories 378
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 25g 33%
Saturated Fat 4g 22%
Cholesterol 140mg 47%
Sodium 74mg 3%
Total Carbohydrate 32g 12%
Dietary Fiber 1g 2%
Total Sugars 23g
Protein 6g
Vitamin C 1mg 5%
Calcium 62mg 5%
Iron 1mg 6%
Potassium 122mg 3%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

In Italy, March 19th is the feast day of San Giuseppe (Saint Joseph) and also Father's Day. It's a particularly important celebration in southern Italy and most celebrated in Sicily, where San Giuseppe is the patron saint. As with all Italian celebrations, it involves traditional foods, and the most well-known of these is the zeppola di San Giuseppe, an airy doughnut filled or topped with pastry cream and finished off with an amarena (a dark sour cherry in syrup—you can often find them in Italian food stores, specialty food stores, or online) on top. Although, as with most Italian dishes, the name and ingredients can vary widely by region, pastry shops throughout Italy sell fried pastries on this day. Sometimes they are simply dusted with powdered or granulated sugar, or they can be filled with whipped cream, chocolate cream, custard, or sweetened ricotta studded with chocolate or candied fruit. This recipe is for the most famous and widespread version, which originated in Naples.

Although they're fried, zeppole are light and not overly sweet, as the dough is the same as the light and airy pâte à choux dough used for cream puffs, eclairs, and other classic French treats, and contains no sugar. In fact, for a lighter version, you can easily bake them instead of frying.


For the Dough:

  • 1 cup water

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 1 pinch fine sea salt

  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour

  • 3 medium eggs

For the Pastry-Cream Filling:

For Frying and the Garnish:

  • Neutral oil, for frying

  • 1/8 cup confectioners' sugar, or to taste

  • 8 Amarene cherries in syrup

Steps to Make It

Make the Dough

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  2. Place water, butter, and salt in a small saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.

    Butter in pan
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  3. When the butter has melted, whisk in the flour and continue to stir, with a whisk or wooden spoon, until batter is smooth and does not stick to the sides of the pot.

    Whisk in flour
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  4. Remove from heat and transfer the dough to a bowl to cool to room temperature.

    Remove from heat
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  5. Once it has cooled, add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Refrigerate the dough while you prepare the pastry cream filling (20 to 30 minutes).

    Add dough
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

Make the Filling

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for cream
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  2. In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks with the sugar until combined.

    Stir eggs
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  3. Add the flour to the egg mixture, whisking well until combined.

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  4. Place milk and lemon zest in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. When the milk begins to boil, remove it from the heat and slowly add the egg mixture, constantly whisking, until the mixture is smooth.

    Whisk milk
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  5. Return to medium heat and continue whisking until the cream thickens.

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  6. Transfer the cream to a bowl, cover the surface with a piece of parchment paper, and let cool. Meanwhile, make the zeppole.

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

Make the Zeppole

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Cherry filling
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  2. Prepare 8 (3-inch) squares of parchment paper or aluminum foil. Transfer the dough to a pastry bag with a star-shaped tip. Pipe a ring of dough onto each square of paper or foil, about 2 inches in diameter, to form a doughnut shape.

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  3. Heat several inches of frying oil in a large pot with high sides to 320 F (160 C). Drop the zeppole (still on the paper or foil) in the oil one or two at a time to avoid crowding. The paper or foil will detach itself after a few seconds and you can remove it from the oil with tongs or a slotted spoon.

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  4. When puffy and golden brown, remove each zeppole with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel-lined platter or tray.

    Pastry doughnuts
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  5. When cool enough to handle, fill another pastry bag with pastry cream and attach a star-shaped tip. Slice the zeppole in half and fill with a ring of pastry cream. Place the top half on the cream and then fill the center hole with a little more pastry cream.

    Cream filled doughnuts
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  6. Place an amarena cherry on top of the cream in the center of each doughnut, then dust all of them lightly with powdered sugar. Serve hot.

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

Raw Egg Warning

Consuming raw and lightly-cooked eggs poses a risk of food-borne illness.

Recipe Variations

  • Replace the filling's flour with cornstarch, if you prefer.
  • Add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest to the dough as well the pastry cream.
  • You can bake the zeppole instead of frying them for a lighter treat. Bake the zeppole on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, with plenty of space in between, at 375 F (190 C) for 25 to 30 minutes, or until they are puffy and evenly golden brown.
  • Instead of slicing them in half and filling them, just add a dollop of pastry cream to the center of each zeppola, then top it with an amarena cherry.
  • You can omit the filling and just dust the fried zeppole with powdered sugar.
  • Use your own canned cherries without added sugar for a healthier dessert.