Fine French Patisseries, Pastries And Cakes Are The Parisian Affordable Luxury



In recent years, Paris has been witness to the trend of mono-product pastry boutiques. One of the great pastry shops that are doing this remarkably well are the Pouchkinette shops which specialize in cream puff pastries that come in fanciful flavors as thought up by their head pastry chef the "world's best" Julien Alvarez, such as rose petal, coffee and of course Tahitian vanilla. They also offer an array of divine French pastries as well as the best chocolate macaron in the city. Speaking of macarons, Laduree is still on the cutting edge and have just this year opened their boutique dedicated to that delicacy alone. But the pioneer in this mono-product strategy remains Aux Merveilleux which is a meringue, cream, chocolate flake cake-confection that must be tasted in order to be understood. Their lone shop in Passy has now duplicated around the city and can be found in the Marais and also near the Eiffel Tower.

French chefs are a competitive bunch, always striving for excellence and evolution. This couldn’t be more true for French pastry chefs. The friendly rivalry between top pastry chefs in Paris has always been present but in recent years it has become even more heightened. One of the greatest challenges for French Pastry Chef looking to stand out in Paris is to create a signature patisserie, or two, that requires you to make the pilgrimage to that particular shop in order to get it.

Pastry chefs who have succeeded in this are Christophe Michalak, now with several boutiques around Paris; Carl Marletti whose shop at the base of rue Mouffetard is so popular his full-sized cakes must be ordered at least 24 hours in advance; Sebastien Gaudard whose native Loire Valley roots has translated into fine pastries that are like eating chantilly lace; Gerard Mulot whose classic St. Germain des Pres location, now being overseen by his young new replacement Fabien Rouillard,  promises to maintain the tradition of their signature Amaryllis fine patisserie cake; and Aki Boulanger which, in good Japanese fashion, not only has mastered the skill of fine French pastry-making but added their own Japanese twist to the recipes. And if a good ol' layter cake with extra-whipped buttercream frosting is what your tastebuds dictate, look no farther than the 18th arrondissement where you'll find the newly opened Love & Cakes. 

Not on this list this time are the stalwarts (because they are on everybody’s best lists and therefore easy to find for yourself): Pierre Herme, voted the best pastry chef last year; Lenotre whose boutiques are still the bastion of classic French pastries such as the Millefeuille, the Opéra and the Fraisier; Dalloyau which stays with its classics and has been providing fine delectables to Parisians since the days of Louis XIV and Hugo & Victor whose shops continue to offer standout fine French pastries. Another young fine pastry entrepreneur, Cyril Lignac, has also expanded since I first wrote about him back in 2012, with two more shops opening recently. Pain de Sucre is another fabulous pastry shop just near the Centre Pompidou with original cakes that look almost too beautiful to eat. And for the sheer pleasure of making your walk around the prettiest parts of St. Germain des Pres sweeter, be sure to stop in at La Maison du Chou on the Place Furstenberg.

So, happy pastry hunting.The one really gratifying thing about French pastries, besides biting into one, is that they remain a thoroughly affordable Parisian luxury.

 

*When Lenôtre passed away in 2009, the French President at the time said, "He succeeded in raising...patisserie to the rank of an art." 



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7th Arondissement - Eiffel Tower
Aux Merveilleux de Fred
Photo courtesy of Aux Merveilleux


 

The Aux Merveilleux shops deserve to be credited as one of the very first (if not the very first) fine pastry shops in Paris who dared to offer one product and one product only. The Aux Merveilleux cakes are a tradition in French pastry that dates back in history, but it wasn't until Frederic changed the recipe to his liking and added different flavors that the pastry really took off. The selection now includes The Incroyable (white chocolate), The Impensable (coffee flavored), The Merveilleux (dark chocolate), The Magnifique (praline with almond chips and caramelized hazelnuts), The Sans-Culotte (with caramel whipped cream), and The Excentrique (cherry whipped cream and cherry meringue). Most of these come in both individual sizes and minis. A few come in cake size that can serve 6 - 8 people. Everything is made fresh before your eyes. Success has never tasted so good!


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1er Arrondissement
Aki Boulanger
Photo courtesy of Aki Boulanger


 

This is a self-described franco-japanese pastry shop and bakery. The items here are reminiscent of what you find in Tokyo - meaning they are wonderfully japanized cakes and fine pastries such as matcha-flavored pastries and the classic doruyaki or sweet red bean cakes. One of the classics here is the matcha-millefeuille which is exactly what the name implies: a classic millefeuille whose cream layers have been flavored with matcha tea. The lunch crowd gets pretty crazy here as they also offer some savory selections like tonkatsu sandwiches for the surrounding office workers who don't have time to eat at their restaurant across the street. Another treat they have here for Japanica lovers is Calpico, the yogurt flavored soft drink. It pairs perfectly with that matcha Millefeuille chased by a doruyaki.


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1er Arrondissement


 

Laduree does a lot of things very well, especially fine pastries. But few things in the world equal their mastery of le macaron. A dozen or so are emblematic and will always be there for you. While other flavors, like chef Claire Heitzler's ginger heart that has been created for this season, will change as new inspirations come. Gift boxes are another of the specialties here and the selection here is unequalled by any of the other shops. The gift box themes change each month at Laduree so here is where you can find past favorites as well as new creations that have yet to be released at other locations. There is even a treasure chest of macarons available here for those who can't say Non! to a delicious little Laduree macaron.


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18éme Arrondissement
Love And Cakes
Photo courtesy of Culinique


 

Searching for real buttercream frosting in Paris can be a challenge. In fact, after years of looking for the real thing (since Sugar Plum closed) you could say you just had to be satisfied with sugar icing in its place. But now, since late 2016, this young French woman (with Haitian roots) has succeeded in mastering the art of buttercream frosting and has added it to her delicious cakes and cupcakes. What's more, she's convinced her florist neighbor to add beautiful fresh flowers as decoration and Voila - the perfect wedding, birthday and special occasion cakes. It's definitely worth the scenic bus ride up to the 18th arrondissement to pick up one of these beauties. But keep in mind, for full size cakes, they must be ordered at least 24 hours in advance.


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5th Arondissement - Latin Quarte


 

This patisserie in the idyllic and old Latin Quarter of Paris will become as much a reason to visit this neighborhood as the nearby rue Mouffetard and the Arenes de Lutece. Every once in awhile a pastry chef comes along who has a hand so light and masterful of technique that his confections of cream, sugar and pastry flour sprout wings of their own. Such is the case of the pastries you'll find here at this Left Bank, classic Latin Quarter address. Chef Patissier Marletti had been at his craft several decades before opening his own boutique. One of the first things he did was create a fine pastry for his new wife - called Lily Valley and topped with a beret of spun lilac-purple sugar. Another signature cake is chocolate-based and incorporates pop rocks into the crust, hence the sensation is truly one of exploding chocolate ecstacy.


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6th Arrondissement - Rive Gauche


 

Since embarking on his entrepreneurial endeavors, this pastry chef extraordinaire has been popping all over Paris. One of his newer shops is in the beautiful neighborhood of Place St. Sulpice. One of the best things about visiting the shop and loading up on pastries and chocolates is that you can head across the street and sample your treasures while watching the beautiful fountain just in front of the St. Sulpice church. Michalak brings his fun and playful spirit to his pastry-making craft. Everything he does is infused with a rock-n-roll vibe - so expect the unexpected. For example, many of the pastry cakes actually come in small glass containers and are meant to be eaten with a spoon. Once you've visited you'll know exactly why the presentation is creative and deliciously pushes the boundaries in the world of French pastry-making. He also makes excellent chocolates.


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He was voted France's best pastry chef in 2012 and ever since, his pastry shops in Paris have taken off. This location is particularly charming given that it is just across the street from the Tuileries and the Louvre Museum. The pastry shop greets you as you enter on street-level with its old-fashioned glass counter and display cases reminiscent of sweet childhood memories. The tea room is upstairs and offers seating overlooking the golden statue of Joan of Arc and also the Tuilerie gardens. These pastries are the embodiment of lightness and finesse. You won't walk away feeling any heaviness or lingering aftertaste of overly sweet. Though your arms might be laden with lots of goodies since the shop also offers chocolates, jars of Baba au Rhum pastries soaked in rum syrup, and other sweet nothings. And of course the pastries - must try's are the Montblanc and the Mussipontain.


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6éme Arrondissement


 

For 40+ years Chef Patissier Gerard Mulot got up and made the day's pastries all from scratch here at this location. Late in 2016 he decided to retire and handed these tight, successful reins to the young Fabien Rouillard, also a Chef Patissier. Gerard Mulot Patisserie is a Left Bank institution. At Christmastime people line up around the block to pick up their Christmas cakes in time for the holiday dinner. Here you won't find innovation so much as classic interpretation of the classics. Like your Baba au Rhum just so? Here is where the recipe will not have changed since your grandparents started coming here. The pastry shop's signature pastry is called the Amaryllis, named after the flower. What's even nicer is that in time for summer they have launched their ice creams and sorbets - for takeaway. Their tea salon is also just a few doors away.


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1er Arrondissement


 

A specialty shop of the very popular and Moscow-originated Cafe Pouchkine, this is where you go to get your cream puff fix. These aren't just any cream puffs, though. They are conceived of by Julien Alvarez, the pastry chef who has under his belt the title of world champion pastry chef. Each bite-sized cream puff that comes in flavors like Tahitian vanilla, rose petal, rum, orange flower and pistachio almond is frosted with a confectioner's spun frosting and crystalized sugar that complements the flavor variety of the puffs. All of this is to be had while on your way to or from visiting the Louvre. Then again you could enjoy your box of six or 12 Pouchkinette cream puffs before or after visiting the world famous museum since there is so much shopping to do at this underground mall, the Carrousel du Louvre. It's open on Sundays as well.


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9éme Arrondissement

 

This is the pioneer patisserie in Paris that launched their no-gluten menu of fine French pastries. When they did that, several years ago, no one in this town was doing it yet. Since then, a number of their pastries have become cult classics and are, mind you, gluten- and dairy-free. Some favorites include their Lemon Tartelette with meringue, La Madame de Fontenay ( a re-visited "Religieuse"), their éclairs and the La Tartelette Pistache Rouge which is a pistachio-based cake adorned with perfectly-perched red fruits. These creations are all conceived of by Marie Tagliaferro, who works with co-founder and husband François.


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