What could be more representative of the Dairy State than the iconic cream puffs at the Wisconsin State Fair?
The Fair, which runs this year from July 31st through August 10th, is celebrating its 163rd year (it was founded in 1851, and its permanent site in West Allis was purchased 40 years later). But those cream puffs have only been around since 1924. Still, they have come to symbolize the Fair to such an extent that for many people, they are the highlight of the Fair. And if you want them as a treat for your office or any other gathering during the days the Fair is open, it is now possible to purchase cream puffs (in boxes of three or six) without even attending the Fair.
Over a third of a million State Fair cream puffs are consumed every year (last year the total was 387,000). As part of a joint venture of the State of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Bakers Association, cream puffs have been sold at the Fair ever since (except for 1944-1946, when rationing was in effect due to World War II). They were originally created as a way to promote the Wisconsin dairy industry, but have become so popular that they are, for some, the main reason to come to the Fair.
From a small area of only 400 square feet, cream puff production has taken over what is now known as the Cream Puff Pavilion, and now occupies an area of 18,000 square feet. There is an additional vending area outside the building and two other special purchase venues on the Fairgrounds.
In the Cream Puff Pavilion, you can watch cream puffs being made in the glassed in work area, and you can buy them there, singly ($4), in boxes of three ($10.00) and in boxes of six ($18.00) from nine in the morning until 10:00 p.m. daily. The walk-up window outside the building is open from 8:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m. daily and until midnight on Friday and Saturday nights.) There are also two Cream Puff Express stations– one at North Grandstand Avenue at 5th Street and the other near Gate 4 (near the Transit Center) in the Big Back Yard. These centers do not sell individual cream puffs, only the three-packs and six-packs. They are open from 9:00 a.m. until the State Fair Park closes, except for the last day (Sunday, August 10th), when all cream puff venues will close at 9:00 p.m.
During the 11 days of the Fair, you can also pick up three-packs and six-packs between six and eight in the morning at the drive-through area, if you pre-order the day before (the website says 24 hours in advance, but you can usually order them before mid-afternoon the day before you want to pick them up). You must phone the cream puff hot line at 414-266-7111 to place your order, and there are no individual cream puffs sold at the drive through window.
The drive-through can be accessed via right-hand turns into Gate 6 (near the Petit National Ice Center) and via Gate 8 on South 76th Street.
This year, you can buy a six-pack certificate for just $15 before the Fair’s Opening Day. You can use this certificate to pay for a six-pack of cream puffs at any cream puff sales venue, inside the park or at the drive-through. Purchase these certificates– before the Fair starts– at the State Fair Ticket Office, 7722 W. Greenfield Avenue. (You can also purchase Fair tickets and entertainment tickets at the ticket office).
The official recipe for cream puffs consists primarily of eggs, butter, flour, cream and sugar. On the plus side, a cream puff contains 5 grams of protein; on the negative side, it contains 29 grams of fat (17 of which are saturated). A cream puff contains 340 calories (modest by State Fair food standards!), but when you’ve got something that delicious, who’s counting?