This Turkey Croquembouche with Pumpkin Spice Cream consists of crunchy brown craquelin over choux pastry filled with a pumpkin spice crème légère and fashioned into a whimsical Thanksgiving turkey with caramel. The crème légère filling is a pumpkin pastry cream recipe that is lightened with whipped cream.
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This Thanksgiving showstopper was a challenge from my friend, Allison. She said she was actually joking, but I thought it sounded like a fun project. So I got to work developing a plan. I borrowed the choux recipe from Serious Eats and developed the pumpkin spice cream from my existing pastry cream base recipe.
If you are a lover of choux au craquelin you might be into my Strawberry Choux au Craquelin, where even the craquelin is strawberry-flavored. If you are just here for the pumpkin filling, you might also be into my Pumpkin Spice Crème Brûlée.
Why you’ll love this recipe
- This recipe uses real pumpkin.
- Step-by-step photos and diagrams are provided.
- The sweet crème légère is balanced by the more neutral choux pastry.
- The brown sugar craquelin is crunchy to provide texture contrast to the soft filling.
- I used real pumpkin puree for maximum pumpkin flavor.
- Whole milk and heavy cream add richness to the crème légère.
- Brown sugar sweetens the craquelin and white sugar sweetens the crème légère and caramel.
- Cornstarch and all-purpose flour thicken the crème légère.
- Vanilla bean paste and kosher salt balance the overall flavor profile.
- Unsalted butter provides richness to the choux pastry.
- Eggs provide structure to the choux pastry and the crème légère.
- Not pictured: Optional spices (cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves) provide extra fall flavor. A squeeze of lemon juice prevents the caramel from crystallizing.
See recipe card below for a full list of ingredients and measurements.
Substitutions and variations
Here’s how to customize this fall croquembouche to your liking:
- No craquelin — leave off the craquelin for a monochromatic croquembouche.
- No pumpkin spice — omit the pumpkin and/or the spices for a plain vanilla crème légère.
- No heavy cream — skip the heavy cream portion of the filling recipe and just fill the choux with the pumpkin pastry cream.
- Decoration — use a whisk to make delicate strands of caramel encasing the turkey for that classic croquembouche look, if desired.
This recipe has not been tested with any substitutions or variations. If you try any, please let me know how it turned out by commenting below!
How to prepare the components
Step 1: Pipe dollops of choux batter on the prepared pans.
Step 2: Place a 2-inch circle of frozen craquelin on top of each unbaked dollop. Bake and make a hole in the bottom.
Step 3: Fill with the prepared crème légère.
Step 4: Build the turkey shape with help from the photos and diagrams.
- Wear gloves if using food dye when kneading the craquelin dough.
- Reheat the caramel on very low heat if it starts to harden as you are sculpting.
- I like to fit my piping bag with a large round piping tip when piping dollops of choux pastry, a medium french star tip for the feathers and a small round tip for filling the choux.
- If serving leftovers, keep the choux au craquelin separate from the fillings until ready to serve. Reheat the unfilled choux in a 350ºF oven for 5-7 minutes or until crisped back up. Cool on a wire rack before filling.
Yes, reheat baked unfilled choux au craquelin in a 350ºF oven for 5-7 minutes or until crisped back up. Cool on a wire rack before filling.
Yes, omit the pumpkin and leave the spices for just a spiced crème légère filling.
Yes, freeze unbaked choux au craquelin on the tray until frozen solid. Then remove the dollops to an airtight container to freeze for 1-2 months. Bake from frozen.
Yes, you can use homemade pumpkin puree instead of canned. Just make sure you cook out the majority of the moisture so the flavor is more concentrated.
More recipes you’ll love
Lastly, if you make this Turkey Croquembouche with Pumpkin Spice Cream recipe be sure to leave a comment or give it a rating. I love to see when people make my recipes, so please tag me @youthsweets on Instagram if you post!
Turkey Croquembouche with Pumpkin Spice Cream
Pumpkin crème légère filling
- ⅔ cup pumpkin puree (160g) canned
- 1 ¾ cup whole milk (380g)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or extract
- ½ cup granulated sugar (100g)
- 4 egg yolks (60g)
- 2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoon cornstarch
- ¾ cup heavy cream (175mL)
- Optional: ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ground ginger, ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg, tiny pinch ground cloves
Brown sugar craquelin
- ½ cup light brown sugar (115g)
- ½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick, 4 oz, 115g cut into ½-inch cubes) softened
- 4 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 cup, 115g)
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- Few drops red and brown food coloring optional
- 1 batch choux pastry from Serious Eats instructions
- 3 cups granulated sugar (600g)
- ½ cup water
- ½ teaspoon lemon juice
- This is a labor intensive recipe. It can be all done in one day, but feel free to make the pumpkin crème légère filling and craquelin a day ahead of time. The assembled choux au craquelin needs to be served the same day they are made, so wait to make these until the day of serving.
Make the pumpkin crème légère
- Combine the pumpkin puree, milk and vanilla in a medium saucepan over medium heat until simmering. Remove from heat.
- Combine the granulated sugar, egg yolks and optional spices (if using) in a medium bowl. Whisk by hand or with beaters until light yellow and fluffy.
- Add flour and cornstarch and whisk until thoroughly combined and lightened even further.
- Slowly stream in warmed pumpkin milk with a ladle while whisking vigorously to prevent cooking the eggs. Continue slowly adding in the milk mixture until it is all combined.
- Return the entire mixture to the medium saucepan and place over low heat. Whisk constantly until the pastry cream has thickened to a pudding consistency. This can take 5+ minutes. Remove from the heat promptly and transfer to a heatproof bowl.
- Cover with plastic and press down to touch the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming. Chill at least 1 hour or place over a bowl of ice to chill it faster. While waiting on this to chill, feel free to move on to next steps and come back to finish this when you are ready to fill the choux.
- When the pastry cream is completely chilled, whip the ¾ cup heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the remaining whipped cream into the completely chilled pumpkin pastry cream. Transfer to a large piping bag fitted with a small plain round tip and set aside and chill until ready to fill the choux.
Make the brown sugar craquelin
- Prepare a sheet pan and six large rectangles of parchment paper. Combine the brown sugar and softened butter either by hand or with beaters until smooth, about 3 minutes.
- Add the flour and kosher salt. Mix to combine. Divide the mixture in two. Color one half with light brown food coloring either with beaters or by gloved hands. Split the second portion in half again. Color one portion with red food coloring and the other with dark brown food coloring.
- Knead each dough with your hands* a bit and form it into a rectangle. Place it on top of one of the sheets of parchment paper. Cover with the second parchment paper sheet.
- Roll the dough between the parchment with a rolling pin until ⅛-inch thick. Place each dough between the sheets of parchment on the baking sheet and transfer to the freezer to freeze solid, about 5-10 minutes.
- For the light brown craquelin: Working quickly, remove the top piece of parchment and place it back on the sheet pan. Punch out circles of the frozen light brown dough with a 2-inch round cutter. Cut out ¾-inch x 4 inch small rectangles using a ruler as a guide. Transfer these circles and rectangles back to the sheet pan lined with parchment. Freeze until ready to use.
- For the dark brown craquelin: Cut out ¾-inch x 4 inch small rectangles using a ruler as a guide. Transfer these rectangles back to the sheet pan lined with parchment. Freeze until ready to use.
- For the red craquelin: Save in the freezer for later. You will cut the shapes when you have a better idea of the size of the head and body choux pieces.
Make the choux pastry
- Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Make the choux pastry according to Serious Eats’ instructions. Transfer to a piping bag, fitted with a plain round piping tip.
- For the round choux: Prepare a large sheet pan with parchment paper. On the backside of the parchment paper sheets use a 2-inch cutter and pencil to mark 20 circles (in 4 rows of 5). Hold the piping bag straight up and down, apply medium pressure and pipe dollops of choux batter in the middle of the 2-inch circles until just about reaching the border of the circles on one of the prepared pans. If you have two ovens, move ahead with piping the body, head and feathers and bake both sheet pans simultaneously. If not, save the choux pastry in the piping bag until the oven is available to bake again.
Top with craquelin and bake
- Place one circle of frozen light brown craquelin on top of each unbaked choux dollop before baking. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the bottom edges of the choux are golden brown. Turn off the oven.
- Working quickly, remove the tray from the oven briefly to poke holes in the bottom of the still hot choux with a paring knife to allow the steam inside to escape.
- Return the choux to the tray and return the tray to the oven. Use a wooden spoon to crack the door of the oven with the choux inside. Let the choux sit in there for 30 minutes before removing and allowing the choux to cool on a wire rack completely.
- For the choux feathers, head and body: See diagram for help. Prepare a large sheet pan with parchment paper. Pipe the body shape, one big circle and another slightly smaller one attached at the top of the larger one. Pipe a small-medium circle for the head and a longer shaft attached for the neck. Transfer the remaining choux batter to a piping bag fitted with a small-medium french star tip. Pipe the feathers in 3-4 inch lines. For most, flick the piping bag up and away at the ends to create a blunt end. For a few skip this to create a tapered end. You will cut one of these tapered ends to create a beak. Add rectangles of craquelin to the feathers. Cut out the body and head shape in the red craquelin and add to the top of those choux parts before baking.
- Repeat baking instructions.
Fill the choux
- Fill each choux au craquelin piece with crème légère. Some may spill out of the bottom hole, just swipe this away with a clean finger or paring knife.
Make the caramel
- In a heavy-bottomed saucepan or dutch oven combine the sugar, water and lemon juice. Stir to combine, then heat over medium with the lid on, checking occasionally for color and not stirring. Once it reaches a deep amber color, remove from heat. Work quickly on this and the next steps as the caramel will cool quickly**.
- Place the base of the body on the serving tray. Working quickly, dip the bottom of the head’s neck into the hot caramel. Place on the front of the base of the body.
- Working quickly, dip the bottoms of the round choux in the caramel and adhere to the base of the body. Dip the bottoms of the feathers into the caramel and adhere to the back of the base of the body. Add as many or as little of the round choux and feathers.
- With a serrated knife, slice off the tapered end of one of the extra feathers. Adhere this to the front of the head with caramel for a beak. If you want to make eyes, punch out some of the extra dark brown craquelin, or use sprinkles or royal icing.
- Serve immediately.