These cream cheese Danish pastries are SO quick and easy to make, yet taste like they came from a fancy bakery! The filling options are limitless: try apple jam, raspberry preserves, chocolate, nutella, fresh fruit or lemon curd to name a few! But, fair warning – between the layers of flaky, buttery puff pastry, rich cream cheese filling, glossy jam, crumbly streusel and sweet vanilla glaze – this danish braid is dangerously addictive and absolutely impossible to resist!
These jam-filled pastries are perfect for easy weekend baking, yet beautiful enough for a special holiday breakfast spread! Enjoy this bakery-style danish for breakfast, brunch, at snack time or even as a dessert! Continue to read on for helpful tips and detailed step by step photos!
Update: This post was originally published in November 2014. I took new photos and made updates to include more information about cheese pastries. Plus, I added step by step photos to show you how easy this puff pastry danish braid is to prepare!
Hi, friends! Today I’m sharing an addictively delicious way to start or end your day!!
This recipe is my version of something I (and possibly a lot of you) grew up eating. Do you remember those iconic blue and white boxes of glazed pastries? Whenever I see a stack of those infamous raspberry danish twists in the grocery store I swear I hear angels sing.
But, you know what’s so much better than those pastries in a box? The taste and smell of freshly baked homemade pastries! Homemade Danishes may seem intimidating at first glance, but trust me, this recipe is so simple even a beginner baker can master it in a flash!
Cream Cheese Danish Recipe
Decadent, rich cream cheese and silky, fruity jam encased in buttery, flaky, pillowy-soft puff pastry. Braided and generously topped with soft crumbles of sweet pecan streusel and lovingly drizzled with a vanilla-kissed glaze. Honestly, this danish is so addictive I’m fairly certain it should be labeled a controlled substance… but, where would the fun in that be?!
But wait, there’s an added bonus, because this recipe is incredibly easy to make!! There’s no laminating dough; endlessly folding, rolling in butter or chilling of dough. No messing with finicky active yeast! Nada! You have absolutely none of the intimidating, time-consuming hard work of making a pastry from scratch and ALL of the reward!!
Literally, the hardest part of this recipe is twiddling your fingers while mentally willing the Danish to cool down faster after baking. Seriously, ogling the oozy cream cheese filling, then gazing up at the crumbly streusel topping and watching as the glaze slowly drips down the sides – that’s the hard work, friends.
What is a cheese danish?
A cheese Danish pastry, also simply referred to as a Danish, is a soft, golden, multilayered, sweetened baker’s confectionery (pastry). Danishes are typically filled with a smooth cream cheese filling; however, they can also incorporate a variety of ingredients, such as jams or preserves, custards, fresh fruit and chocolate.
Danishes can also include various toppings, such as vanilla icing, chocolate glaze, slivered nuts, confectioners’ sugar and/or streusel. Cheese danishes come in numerous shapes, including circles, cylinders, parcels and beautiful braids.
What does a cheese pastry taste like?
Danish is layered in texture and it tastes like a fluffy croissant stuffed with a luscious, dense custard resembling that of cheesecake. It’s flaky, buttery and pillowy-soft on the outside with a rich and sweet, but cheesy and slightly tangy interior.
What’s in a cheese danish?
A cheese danish consists of two main components – the pastry dough and the filling. This easy version of the traditional danish pairs store-bought puff pastry with a rich cream cheese filling, fruity jam, crumbly streusel topping and sweet glaze!
What are the ingredients in Danish pastry?
- Puff Pastry: Danish dough is typically made from a combination of flour, yeast, milk, eggs and a liberal amount of butter. Instead, this recipe uses one box (2 sheets) of store-bought puff pastry for ease and convenience! Make sure you thaw the puff pastry according to the package instructions.
- Cream Cheese: 10 ounces of cream cheese provides the base for the danish filling. Make sure you use block cream cheese, which makes the filling luxuriously creamy and dense. Tub or whipped cream cheese will result in a grainy, wet filling.
- Eggs: One large egg yolk gives the cheese filling an extra smooth texture and rich taste.
- Sugar: 1/2 Cup of granulated sugar adds the perfect amount of sweetness to the cheese filling.
- Vanilla: Pure vanilla extract provides a subtle vanilla flavor while enhancing all the other flavors in the cheese filling.
- Egg Wash: One large egg whisked with 2 teaspoons of cream (or water) creates an egg wash which will ensure the outside of your danish turns a lovely golden brown color.
- Filling (optional): You can top the cheese filling with any number of fillings – from apple jam or lemon curd to chocolate and fresh fruit! (Scroll down to read about filling options!)
- Streusel (optional): A combination of flour, oats, pecans, sugar, cinnamon and cold butter form a buttery, crunchy, slightly nutty streusel topping.
- Glaze (optional): A sticky, sweet mixture of confectioners’ sugar, heavy cream, vanilla and a pinch of salt make up a delicious vanilla glaze perfect for drizzling over cheese danishes!
Danish filling ideas
Aside from the light-as-air puff pastry, the best part of a Danish is the filling! Lightly sweetened, creamy cheese is one of my favorite fillings for homemade pastries. However, I encourage you to make these danishes your own! You can swap out the cream cheese for chocolate and exchange the jam for seasonal fruit! Get creative and add your family’s favorite ingredients! Below are a few ideas to get you started!
Danish pastry fillings:
- Cream Cheese: Cheese filling tastes similar to cheesecake! (Recipe included below.)
- Ricotta: The classic filling for a Danish is cream cheese. However, if you want a more European-style Danish, you can substitute half of the cream cheese for ricotta!
- Fruit Jam or Preserves: Apple cider jam (pictured), raspberry, strawberry, blueberry, grape, orange or cranberry.
- Fresh Fruit: Sliced apples, raspberries, sliced strawberries, blackberries or blueberries.
- Curds: Lemon, mango, passionfruit or pineapple curd.
- Fruit Butters: Pumpkin, apple or blueberry butter.
- Spreads: Nutella, peanut butter or chocolate.
How to make a cheese danish?
This homemade danish recipe is so simple to prepare and made with a box of frozen puff pastry along with simple, easy to find ingredients!
(Don’t forget to scroll down for the detailed instructions in the complete printable recipe at the bottom of the page.)
- Prepare the Cheese Filling: Beat cream cheese and an egg yolk together in a mixing bowl. Add the sugar and vanilla. Beat until creamy. Cover and set aside in the refrigerator.
- Prepare the Streusel: In a medium bowl, combine the flour, oats, pecans, both sugars and cinnamon. Mix well. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside.
- Roll out the Puff Pastry: Place the puff pastry on a clean work surface. Roll the puff pastry out to be 9×11-inches.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Whisk together the large egg with the milk to make an egg wash. Set aside.
Cut pastry: Transfer the puff pastry dough to a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cut or shape dough as desired. (See below for shaping danishes.)
- Add fillings: Carefully add the cheese filling and top with jam.
- Brush with egg wash: Use a pastry brush to gently brush any exposed dough with egg wash.
- Bake: Bake the danishes until golden brown in color.
While the danish is baking, prepare the glaze: Whisk together the powdered sugar, cream, vanilla and salt. Set aside.
Cool: Remove the danish from the oven and allow it to cool completely.
- Glaze & Serve: Drizzle the glaze all over the danish. Serve and enjoy!
How to make homemade pastries step by step photos:
How to shape danishes?
Are you feeling fancy? You can easily transform a box of ready-made puff pastry into seven different fun shaped danishes! Follow the simple instructions below for each danish shape. To make more than one shape, simply divide the filling among the smaller shapes.
- Braid: Danish braids are so much easier than they look; however, they’re a little bit more detail oriented. (I’ve included in-depth instructions and step-by-step photos below!)
- Rounds: Use a 4-inch round cookie cutter and cut circles out of puff pastry. Using a sharp knife, score a small circle about 1/2-inch from the edge of the rounds. Use the tines of a fork to prick all over the inside of the smaller circle. Add the filling to the smaller circle of each round. Brush the edges with egg wash and bake for 15-18 minutes.
For the remaining shapes, you will need to roll out the pastry dough and cut it into 4-inch squares.
- Square: Dollop a couple tablespoons of filling into the center of each square. Fold the corners toward the center, over the filling, but don’t allow the corners to actually touch – they should rest with a bit of space between all the edges and corners. brush the pastry with egg wash. Bake 15-18 minutes
- Edged Square: Use a sharp knife to score a small square about 1/4-inch border around the edges of the squares. Use the tines of a fork to prick all over the inside of the smaller square. Add the filling to the smaller square. Brush the edges with egg wash and bake for 15-18 minutes.
- Octagon: Fold the corners of each square over by 1-inch to form an octagon shape. Spoon a bit of the filling into the center of each pastry. Brush all of the exposed edges of the pastry with egg wash. Bake for 16-18 minutes.
- Cylinder: Brush two corners of each square with egg wash. Gently spoon a generous dollop of filling into the middle of each square. Next, fold the two brushed corners over the filling into the center, overlapping the corners. Pinch together to seal. Brush the top and all exposed edges with egg wash. Bake for 15-18 minutes
- Parcel: Brush the corners of each square with egg wash. Gently spoon a generous dollop of filling into the middle of each square. Next, fold all four corners up and over the filling, into the center to create a parcel shape. Pinch together. Brush the top with egg wash and bake for 15-18 minutes
How to braid danish dough?
A danish pastry braid is not quite the same thing as a braided bread dough. In fact, it’s much easier to do! Instead of literally braiding dough, a single rectangular slab of pastry dough is cut and folded to resemble a braid.
How to easily braid a danish:
- Roll-out dough: Roll out the dough into a rectangle.
- Slice strips: Use a sharp knife to slice the outer thirds of the dough into 1-inch strips at a diagonal angle.
- Remove notches: Use a knife to remove the 2 triangle segments from the top and bottom of the dough.
- Add filling: Spread the filling into the middle third of the dough.
- Fold top flap: Gently fold the top flap over the filling. Pinch the dough together to seal the top end.
- Start braiding: Fold the left strip up and over the filling. Brush the outside of the strip with egg wash.
- Repeat: Cross the right strip up and over the left strip. Brush the outside of the strip with egg wash.
- Continue to braid: Repeat folding, alternating strips up and over the filling, and brushing the outside of the strip with egg wash before folding over the opposite side. Stop braiding when you have two strips remaining on each side.
- Fold bottom flap: Brush the bottom edge of the bottom flap with egg wash. Gently fold the bottom flap over the filling.
- Finish braid: Fold the remaining strips over the bottom flap, alternating sides, and brushing the outside with egg wash as your fold. Pinch the end of the dough together to seal the bottom end.
- Egg wash: Brush any exposed puff pastry with egg wash.
How to braid danish dough step by step photos:
Can I make cheese pastries ahead of time?
This Danish recipe is incredibly easy to prepare ahead of time, making it perfect for an easy weekend breakfast or holiday brunch spread!
To make ahead and refrigerate:
- Assemble the danish: Prepare the cream cheese filling and assemble the danishes as directed in the recipe below – stopping before you brush the outside of pastry with egg wash.
- Wrap: Cover the entire baking sheet with plastic wrap.
- Store: Transfer the baking sheet to the refrigerator and store for up to one day. (Alternatively, you can prep and freeze pastries! See below.)
- Bake: When ready to bake, remove the baking sheet from the refrigerator. Prepare the streusel topping. Brush the Danish with egg wash and sprinkle with streusel. Bake according to recipe instructions.
To make ahead and freeze:
- Assemble the danish: Prepare the cream cheese filling and assemble the danishes as directed in the recipe below – stop before you brush the outside of the pastry with egg wash.
- Wrap: Cover the entire baking sheet with plastic wrap.
- Flash Freeze: Place the entire baking sheet in the freezer. Flash freeze until danish is completely frozen, at least 3 hours.
- Store: Remove the danish from the baking sheet. Loosely wrap the pastry in parchment paper. Wrap it again with plastic wrap and store in a freezer-safe resealable bag. Store in freezer for up to 4 weeks.
- Bake: Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Place frozen danish(es) on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with streusel. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown.
How to store Danishes?
Store leftover cheese danish in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day. To extend the shelf life, store danishes in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Can I freeze cream cheese danish?
Absolutely! I love having baked pastries on hand in the freezer for quick and easy breakfasts on the go!
To freeze baked pastries:
- Cool: Allow pastries to cool completely to room temperature.
- Wrap: Wrap the Danishes tightly in plastic wrap and place it in a freezer-safe resealable bag.
- Store: Store in the freezer for up to 6 weeks.
When ready to enjoy, thaw the pastries in the refrigerator overnight. Reheat in a 325-degree oven for 8-12 minutes, or until warm throughout.
This flaky cream cheese danish is rich, absolutely delicious and guaranteed to be a crowd pleaser! You can serve it for family breakfasts, or as part of your holiday brunch spread! No matter how you serve this danish braid, definitely make two of them! Trust me, you will want to hoard one all to yourself!
Until next time, friends, cheers!
Looking for more breakfast recipes?
If you love this cream cheese danish, try one of these delicious recipes next:
How to make the best Apple Danish recipe👇
Cream Cheese Danish Recipe
- Mixing Bowls (3)
- Handheld or Stand Mixer
- Rolling Pin
- baking sheet
- 1 Box (2 sheets) Puff Pastry – thawed according to package instructions
- 1 large Egg + 2 tsp Cream, milk or water (Egg Wash)
- 2/3 Cup Jam or Preserves - DIVIDED
- 2 TBS EACH: All-Purpose Flour & Rolled Oats
- 2 TBS Pecans – coarsely chopped
- 2 TBS EACH: Granulated & Brown Sugar
- 1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
- 2 TBS Butter – cold & cubed
Cream Cheese Filling:
- 10 ounces Cream Cheese – softened to room temperature
- ½ Cup Granulated Sugar
- 1 large Egg Yolk
- 1 ½ tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
- 1 Cup Powdered Sugar
- 4 TBS Heavy Cream – or more as needed
- ½ tsp Vanilla Extract
- Pinch Kosher Salt
- Prepare the Cheese Filling: In a medium bowl using a handheld mixer, or a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and egg yolk together on medium speed until smooth, about 2-3 minutes. Add the sugar and extract. Beat until creamy and combined. Cover and set aside in the refrigerator.
- Prepare the Pecan Streusel Topping: In a medium bowl, combine the flour, oats, pecans, both sugars and cinnamon. Mix well. Using a pastry cutter or fork, cut the butter into the mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Place the topping in the refrigerator until ready to use.
- Roll out the Puff Pastry: Place the thawed puff pastry on a lightly flour a clean work surface. Roll the puff pastry out lengthwise by an extra 2-inches – the pastry should be about 9x11-inches.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Whisk together the large egg with the milk to make an egg wash. Set aside.
- Assemble Danish Braid – cut pastry: Transfer the rolled-out puff pastry to a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. With a sharp paring knife or pizza cutter, cut 1-inch diagonal strips down both long sides of the pastry, leaving the center third on the pastry uncut. Using a sharp knife, make a cut to form a triangle on the bottom left side of the dough and remove the small triangle of dough. Repeat with the bottom right side. (See visual below or see detailed photos in the post.)
- Assemble Danish Braid – add fillings: Carefully spread half of the cheese filling in an even layer, about 2-3 inches wide, down the center of the puff pastry – leave a 1-inch border along the top and bottom of the dough. Spoon 1/3 cup of the jam on top of the cream cheese filling.
- Braid the Danish: Fold the top flap of puff pastry over the filling and gently pinch to seal. Use a pastry brush to gently brush the top flap with egg wash. Then, start folding the strips over the filling, alternating between and overlapping the left strip with the right strip. Every time you pull a strip of pastry over the other side, gently brush the outside of the strip with egg wash (this will help seal the strips together.) Before you cross over the last two strips, fold in the bottom flap over the filling and brush with egg wash, then cross the last two strips over top to enclose the Danish. Pinch the ends of the Danish to seal.
- Brush with egg wash: Use a pastry brush to gently brush any bare, exposed edges and sides of the Danish braid with egg wash.
- Top with Streusel: Generously sprinkle the streusel topping all over the danish. Gently press the streusel into the egg wash.
- Bake: Transfer the baking sheet to the oven. Bake, rotating pan halfway through baking, for 20-25 minutes or until the top is golden brown in color. (The pastry will puff up quite a bit during baking, but it will settle down as it cools.)
- While the danish is baking, prepare the glaze: In a medium bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, cream, vanilla and salt. Add more cream, one tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency is achieved. (Tip: Don’t add too much cream or the glaze will be drippy and won’t set up properly!)
- Cool: Remove the danish from the oven and allow it to cool on the pan for 10 minutes. Pick the danish up by lifting the sides of the parchment paper and transfer the danish to a clean work surface or wire rack. Allow the danish to cool completely.
- Glaze & Serve: Once the danish is completely cooled, drizzle it all over with the glaze. Cut the danish into individual pieces. Serve and enjoy!
- To make one braid: If you want to halve the recipe, simply cut all the ingredient measurements in half. (You can use the slider bar at the top of the recipe card to adjust the servings to 6 – this will halve the measurements for you!)
- Tips for success:
- Don’t overstuff the puff pastry dough!
- Make sure you leave a boarder at the top and bottom!
- When alternating strips of puff pastry dough, do NOT pull on them - just gently fold them across the filling.
- Use the egg wash to prevent the puff pastry from bursting open when baking
- Leftovers: Store danish in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 day. To extend shelf life, store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- Freezing: Alternatively, you can freeze Danishes for up to 6 weeks. Thaw before serving.
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