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If there's one food item that stands out above the rest at the Wisconsin State Fair, it's the iconic cream puff, a sweet treat which has been sold at the Fair every year since 1924.
This towering dessert is comprised of a light, eggy dough (pâte à choux) that's baked until airy and golden, split in half and filled to the brim with a tower of whipped sweet cream.
It's a creation that dates back to 1500s when a pastry chef working for Catherine de Medici's created the dessert for King Henry II. It would have been the ultimate of luxuries at that time, since fresh milk and cream were incredibly perishable.
And the cream puff is truly the royal dessert of the Wisconsin State Fair where folks purchase 50 to 60 cream puffs per minute, consuming an average of over 400,000 in just 11 days each year. And, just in case you’re wondering, all of those puffs contain over 800 pounds of butter and more than a ton of whipping cream. They also weigh in at a whopping 550 calories, with about 45 grams of fat.
The dessert has become such an indelible part of culture in Milwaukee, it even has its very own Milwaukee emoji.
How to eat a cream puff
Cream puffs are serious business in Wisconsin. And, despite the fact that you can eat a cream puff in any number of ways (including straight-on stuffing them into your face, inevitably resulting in a mess of cream everywhere), here’s the easiest way we’ve found to tackle them.
- First, pick up your cream puff.
- Carefully give the top and bottom halves a bit of a twist, separating each half from the other (the twist not only divides the puff into manageable portions, but also helps to distribute the cream more evenly onto both halves).
- Prepare for your first bite by taking a nice big whiff of the sweet, eggy dessert.
- Now, eat the cream puff, one half at a time.
- Revel in the experience of this once-a-year treat.
Where do you get them?
There are three locations on the Fair grounds at which to grab a cream puff (or six). The biggest (and arguably the best) is the Cream Puff Pavilion where you can see each puff being made. But there are also two Cream Puffs To-Go locations on either end of the grounds on Grandstand Avenue. The cream puffs are $4.50 each, three for $12, or six for $22.
Competitive Cream Puff eating
Want to see a group of folks messily eating more than your average number of cream puffs at lightning speed? Don’t miss the Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Contest (featuring OnMilwaukee’s own Molly Snyder) which will be held on Thursday, Aug. 8 at 11 a.m. at the Associated Bank Amphitheater.
You can also get in on the cream puff eating fun. On Aug. 8 at 1 p.m., there will be several Fairgoer Cream Puff Eating Contests at Central Park. Interested participants are encouraged to sign up on site. Contests are grouped by age: ages 5-9, ages 10-16 and ages 17 and up.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.