If you’ve never eaten a Cronut®, chances are you know someone who has. At the very least, you’ve seen it in all its flaky, sugar-dusted glory on Instagram. The Cronut®, which does indeed have its own trademark, is part-doughnut, part-croissant, and 100% viral sensation. It hit the scene on May 10, 2013, when French-born pastry chef Dominique Ansel unveiled it as a Mother’s Day special in his NYC bakery. It made an instant splash on social media, and in less than a week, people lined up for hours to get their very own Cronut®.
There have been many imitations in bakeries across the world, but Chef Ansel’s secret recipe makes the original Cronut® special. Although it it’s made with a laminated dough similar to a croissant, the ratio of ingredients is unique. The finished product was the result of two months of testing (and over 10 different trial recipes!). In honor of this flaky, sugary, infinitely ‘grammable sweet treat’s 10th birthday, we chatted with Chef Ansel himself about its humble origins, his favorite flavors, and the right and wrong ways to eat a Cronut®.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What is your personal favorite flavor? You must choose!
It's so hard to choose. There's been so many! Rose vanilla, the very first flavor, is definitely one of them, as it's what started it all. And some of our flavors from our shops around the world have been really nice, especially as we're able to use local ingredients—like the Hokkaido milk and yuzu in Tokyo, lychee jasmine at Dang Wen Li in Hong Kong, and English rhubarb and brown sugar in our London shop.
You’ve never repeated a flavor, even between your different shops (there are locations in Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Los Vegas, London, and Tokyo). How do you create so many new combinations?
We plan ahead anywhere from six months to a year, looking at the seasons and what flavors work well (for example, ripe fruits like berries and stone fruits during warm weather, and heartier flavors like chocolates, cinnamon, caramel etc. during the wintertime. Right now we have our flavors through part of 2024 already. We have a Cronut Flavor Bible that's shared amongst our teams around the world, so we can cross-reference and make sure no flavor is ever repeated in any city. We have created 121 flavors for NYC alone, and more than 250 around the world over the years.
Have there been any flavor flops or fails?
It's really interesting because people have such varied palates, so sometimes there's a super popular flavor that most everyone loves but a few people who are pretty averse to that particular ingredient, for example. We did have one flavor a few Christmases ago, white chocolate peppermint ganache with cherry jam. It was pretty polarizing and some people loved it… but there were definitely some people who didn't.
The Cronut® originated as a Mother's Day treat. What flavors do the mothers in your life like best?
My mother visited from France awhile back and has tried one before, but she actually prefers a classic croissant. I remember my mother-in-law waited in line years ago too. My wife has tried every single flavor, as we have developed the flavors together since the start. Her favorite was milk and honey with lavender, back in the early days in 2014.
Are there any Cronut® rules you wish people would stop breaking?
You can eat them any which way you want, whether you take a big bite, or cut them in half to share with a friend (just remember to use a serrated knife!). I've also seen some people eat them layer by layer. The most important thing is that you want to eat them as soon as possible. They're baked fresh every single morning and have a pretty short shelf life of just 6-8 hours. Since they're filled with cream and jam, you definitely want to eat them that same day. And while we do still sell out every day, we try our best to make what we can without compromising the quality. We also have a pre-order website so people can plan ahead and order in advance without having to wait in line.
Do you think the Cronut® is at its heart a croissant-ish donut, or a donut-ish croissant?
I think that's like asking what came first: the chicken or the egg.
If you could redo the last ten years knowing what you know now about the Cronut®, what would you do differently?
No, I wouldn't change anything. The Cronut® is a beautiful pastry, and I'm grateful for it. Those early days were really tough, because we had just four employees and I remember sleeping about 2-3 hours a night. But we pushed through, grew our team, and I will always be grateful for everyone who has come to visit us, for the people who've waited in line rain or shine, the couples who have gotten engaged in the line, for all the birthdays, wedding days, graduations, and all the happy moments that we've been fortunate enough to be a part of. This is why we do what we do.