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Happy Cream Puff Day

In Dale’s family, Valentine’s Day is affectionately called “Cream Puff Day.” I still remember our first Valentine’s Day together, back in 1997. Dale and I used to meet at his house for lunch every day back then and he greeted me at the back door with a plate of cream puffs and the exclamation, “Happy Cream Puff Day, baby.” I asked him why we had cream puffs on Valentine’s Day and he said he didn’t know why but his mother always made them and it was a tradition.


Me being a librarian, I had to know the whole story so I walked next door and asked Dale’s mother, Ruthie, to explain the cream puff tradition. She told me that it dated back to Valentine’s Day, 1948. She and Dale’s father, Jack, who was in the Air Force, were stationed in Roswell, New Mexico (yes, that Roswell – but that’s another story) and she was pregnant with her first baby. They had no money to buy Valentines for anyone and she really wanted to do something special for the guys in Jack’s unit. So she turned to her cookbooks and looked for something she could bake to give as gifts to these men. She found a recipe for cream puffs and realized that she had all the ingredients on hand and they sounded pretty simple to make. And a tradition was born.

By the time I came along, Ruthie was making dozens of cream puffs every Valentine’s Day. She complained about how much work it was and how much time it took to make so many but I’m pretty sure she secretly loved the task. She made them for her and Jack plus their kids and grandkids. I was horrified when I realized that none of Dale’s kids even liked the cream puffs but Dale never told his mother because then she wouldn’t have given him as many. Then I tasted one and realized that sometimes a little deception is a wonderful thing.


During the last few years of Ruthie’s life, she was unable to make the cream puffs anymore. Jack, wanting to carry on the tradition, purchased them from a bakery instead but they just weren’t as good as Ruthie’s. So last year, on the first Valentine’s Day without dear Ruth, I made the cream puffs. I was a little hesitant to do this. After all, I’m not Ruthie’s daughter, I’m just her daughter-in-law and it seemed like I was maybe overstepping my bounds by taking on a family tradition as deep as this one. But Dale encouraged me to go for it and Jack said it would be okay – so I did it. I’ll never forget the look on Jack’s face when he tried one and said they were as good as Ruthie’s. And Dale’s sister Lisa’s eyes filled with tears when she took a bite of hers, so I guess I did okay by Ruthie’s cream puffs.


And now, somehow, this has become my tradition, too.

This Post Has 90 Comments

  1. You are such a temptress! Not one but MANY pictures, when just the first one made me think “I want to be at her house eating one of those!”.

  2. What a great story! That’s such a fun family tradition, and I’m glad you were able to continue it!

    And the cream puffs look amazing. Drool!

  3. Awesome story! Thank you for sharing it. The story and sentiment behind it brought tears to my eyes…what a special daughter-in-law you are!!

  4. I was taken first by the scrumptious photos, and now by your family story. I think DILs are allowed to carry on traditions from all sides of the family. I might carry on your family’s tradition for V-Day…

  5. Now there’s a tradition I could get behind. Yes, you are making me hungry again, but due to holiday hangover I forgive you.

  6. So perfect. Someday your grandkids will tell stories about YOUR cream puffs!
    Yesterday my kids and I made sugar cookies using my great-aunt Susie’s recipe (she owned a restaurant). They are the ones that my wonderful grandmother Mabel(Susie’s sister) always made for me, and every time I eat one I know that Mabel is with me. I hope my kids will carry on the tradition!

  7. that is one of the sweetest stories I have ever heard! It was so great of you to do this for the family–it obviously meant so much to them. Good on you!

  8. Having just recently lost two very dear people who filled our lives with traditions and stories of simpler times, your cream puffs tradition makes me tear up (it’s a good thing I’m at work!). Thank you for sharing, Carole. They look absolutely delicious!

  9. Aw, I love it! And, do you know, the dessert I WAS going to make Mom yesterday for her birthday? Chocolate eclairs–pretty much the same thing, really. Yours look beautiful. What do you fill yours with? I can never find a filling recipe I’m happy with.

  10. *sniff!* Awwwww. I think it will have to become cream puff day for us too. Maybe my kids will hate them so Jeff and I can eat them all. hehehe I believe if you can make a cream puff, dear Carole, then maybe I can too. My mom always said “they’re way too much work for something that’s not very good.” So I never tried it (despite how delicious the pictures always looked in my BHG cookbook). It’s time I stop listening to Mom and go for it. 🙂

  11. oh what a lovely story – traditions are so special – and you have a wonderful heart carrying this one on. lucky all who got to sample those beauties.

  12. Carole that was such a touching story! I wish our family had a neat tradition like that, but since we don’t, you’ve inspired me to start one. I wonder what would be as neat as cream puffs?

  13. oh Carole, that´s the sweetest story i’ve ever read/heard. I’m sure Dale’s mom is smiling at you right now. 🙂

  14. My Great Aunt Rena made cream puffs for us too, it was such a yummy treat. She even made homemade whip cream for them. It’s a great tradition you have – to take what you have on hand to create something delicious and to make your valentine sweetheart plus men (& women) in the military happy – awesome! It brought tears to my eyes too because my Great Aunt passed last November (she was 101 yrs. old) – plus I’ll always remember her because she taught me to knit too! 🙂

  15. What a sweet story – no pun intended. Such a wonderful and touching tradition when you hear of how it started and so great that you’ve carried it on.

  16. What a beautiful story, Carole. I know it must mean a great deal to Dale that his mom’s tradition is still going strong. The cream puffs look beautiful too. My MIL always made Bill an angle food cake for his birthday. I’m not much with the baking and haven’t kept up the tradition. Your story makes me wish I had.

    (I had to move my blog suddenly, the new address is above.)

  17. in my family, march 19th is cream puf day—that’s the feast of st joseph and the day the swallows come back to capistrano, italy. since we have a series of josephs in our male lineage, it is a very much celebrated feast day for us!

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