France is known for many things like its rich art and culture, famed food and wine, and tourism. However, when it comes to sweet indulgences, no country can match the incredible collection of creamy, sugary treats that France has to offer. French pastries and desserts are truly world-class and have evolved after several centuries of refinements. One of the key cultural legacies of the country, the mouth-watering desserts of France are ideal for bringing home as souvenirs or gifts to family and friends.
So, on your next trip to France don’t just go sightseeing and dining. Instead, do savour these 10 classic French pastries and desserts in one of those charming patisseries and bakeries found in every nook and corner of the country! Rest assured, you will have the sweetest culinary memories of France!
Top 10 French Desserts
One of the local favourites, canelé originated from the famous French wine producing region of Bordeaux. Known for its thick caramelized crust filled with soft vanilla cream and rum. Canelé is eaten as an evening meal with Chantilly cream and goes well with a cup of tea or a glass of wine.
Where to have canelé in France: Head straight to the Bordeaux region in France, the birthplace of the decadent dessert! Any bakery in the region will serve you an authentic version!
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One of the classic French desserts, Opéra cake is known for its thin layers over a coffee flavoured cake. It’s made up of thin layers of almond, ganache, coffee, and buttercream topped with a very glossy chocolate glaze. Opéra is one of the shining examples of French specialization and sophistication when it comes to desserts and pastries.
Best place to have Opéra in France: The Dalloyau serves the best Opera cake in France. Not a surprise, since it claims that its pastry chef, Cyrique Gavillon created the first Opera in 1955! There are 11 outlets of the Dalloyau patesserie spread across France, so don’t miss hopping into one of them!
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The colourful macarons are among the most photographed desserts of France, shared across social media platforms to much fanfare. Even though macarons originated in Italy, they are certainly counted among the top French desserts ever since they were introduced in the early 1500s. Made of two almond meringue pieces filled with gooey buttercream, ganache, chocolate or jam along with added food colouring, macarons are ideal for gifting and sharing.
Where in France to indulge in macarons? Laduree and Pierre Herme are equally famous sweet shops, both renowned for their authentic macarons!
Friendly tip from us: Never make the grave mistake of referring to macarons as “cookies” 😉
Crème caramel is a wonderful custard dessert with a soft caramel layer. It also has a variation, Crème brûlée, which is more of a pudding with a hard caramel top. Crème caramel is a heavenly dessert that tastes smooth, light, and syrupy. Definitely, among the top French desserts, Crème caramel is also available in Spain, Portugal, Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Latin America, Mexico, Cuba, and Philippines.
Mousse au chocolat
Commonly known as chocolate mousse, this highly famous classic French dessert is widely available and savoured with plenty of fan following across the world. However, in France,’Mousse au chocolat’ seems and taste very different from the rest. It’s more luxurious than your regular chocolate mousse and is made of quality cocoa powder, bittersweet chocolate, whipped cream, and vanilla essence.
There are three types of Nougats in the world – White Nougat is made of egg whites and honey and is of Italy, France, and Spain. Brown Nougat doesn’t have egg whites and has a firmer and crunchy texture. German Nougat is a mix of chocolate and hazelnut. The recipe originated in the Middle East and Central Asia but in France, Nougat is among the top French desserts. Nougat de Montélimar is considered as the best variant available in the country.
Top French Pastries
Fondly known as the ‘Napoleon’ this amazing French pastry’s origin is unknown, but it’s among all-time favourite classic French pastries. Mille-feuille is made of three layers of puff pastry filled with two layers of pastry cream and is dusted with sugar, cocoa, almonds, and glazed with icing and chocolate strips. This classic dessert feels so good and is a must try when travelling in France.
This classic pastry of France demonstrates the level of baking sophistication and techniques perfected through generations. Originated during the 19th century, éclair is a made of light choux dough is baked until its crisp and hollow inside. Once cooled, the pastry is filled with vanilla, coffee or chocolate flavoured custard or whipped cream or pastry cream. A layer of fondant icing adds its glazed dark colour. These days, éclairs in different flavours and fillings are widely available in France. Don’t miss this classic French pastry!
Local legends say that Tarte Tatin originated in France in the 1880s as a result of a kitchen accident. Mistimed caramelization by sisters Stéphanie and Caroline in their hotel resulted in the heavenly dessert of Tarte Tatin. The delicious fruit tart, mostly apples and pear are caramelised in butter and sugar before baking the tart. The French Tarte Tatin is much more luxurious and sophisticated that its humble cousin – apple pie.
The earliest known recipe of Crème brûlée can be traced back to François Massialot’s 1691 cookbook ‘Cuisinier royal et bourgeois’. Today, the French, the English and the Catalans claim the creative rights for this classic pudding dessert consisting of a rich custard base, made of vanilla, and is topped with a layer of hard caramel. Nowadays, different flavours are available across the length and breadth of France.