The Best French Desserts

Ice eclair

The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

Centering around eggy custards, rich sauces, delicate pastries, and plenty of butter, French baking epitomizes decadence and sophistication. Although certain recipes admittedly require a level of mastery, there are some that are simple enough for the beginner baker. Try your hand at eclairs, macarons, crepes, or chocolate mousse, just to name a few.

  • 01 of 29

    Mille-Feuille

    Mille Feuille Homemade Napoleon recipe

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

    Mille-feuille is a dazzling dessert but it’s surprisingly simple to make, especially if you use pre-made pastry dough. Thin sheets of pastry are layered with pastry cream and then finished with a coating of beautifully decorated icing. Enjoy this sweet confection with coffee, tea, or at the end of a special meal. 

  • 02 of 29

    Beignets

    Easy Classic French Beignets

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

    A popular treat at Mardi Gras in both France and New Orleans, Beignets are similar to donuts but are a deep-fried choux pastry instead of a yeast dough, which makes them airy on the inside while lightly crisp on the outside. Simply shake some powdered sugar over top and you have yourself a pretty, no-fuss dessert.

  • 03 of 29

    Eclairs

    Chocolate eclair recipe

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga 

    With their custardy filling, delicate pastry, and coat of chocolate, eclairs are a true fixture of French baking. The dough is made on the stovetop and then piped into short logs and baked until golden. A homemade pastry cream fills the insides while a chocolate glaze is draped on top.

  • 04 of 29

    Palmiers

    Palmiers recipe

    The Spruce / Debbie Wolfe

    Flaky and coated in cinnamon-sugar, palmiers are a great complement to a shot of espresso or cup of tea. Calling for just 4 ingredients (including store-bought pastry dough), this recipe is quick to put together.

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  • 05 of 29

    Apple Tarte Tatin

    French Apple Tart
    French Apple Tart. Elaine Lemm

    Tarte aux pommes is made with a delicate tart dough and delicious almond cream filling (or frangipane) that is topped with a fan of sliced apples and melted apricot jam for a glossy, sweet finish. The recipe calls for a sweet-tart apple variety, so pick something like a Braeburn or Pink Lady.

  • 06 of 29

    Cherry Clafoutis

    cherry clafoutis

     Leah Maroney

    Cherry clafoutis is a creamy dessert consisting of black cherries baked in a pancake-like batter. A portion of the simple batter of eggs, sugar, milk, flour, and vanilla is first baked to create a stable base, then the cherries and remaining batter is added before baking again until set. A dusting of powdered sugar is the finishing touch.

  • 07 of 29

    Mont Blanc

    Mont Blanc Chestnut Dessert

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

    Translating to “white mountain” in French, Mont Blanc is a luxurious dessert that consists of a layer of meringue topped with a rich chestnut purée and whipped cream. The traditional version is made with a homemade chestnut purée, but another variety, like hazelnut, would work just as well.

  • 08 of 29

    Macarons

    Easy Macarons

    The Spruce

    Macarons are colorful, delicate, and almost too pretty to eat, but their reputation for being difficult to make causes many to shy away from trying at home. This recipe breaks it down into bite-sized pieces, starting with baking the macarons and then making the filling and assembling.

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  • 09 of 29

    Galette

    Berry Galette Recipe
    Elaine Lemm

    Galettes are freeform pies that are filled with fruit. This recipe uses smashed berries as a filling, but you can also try pear and pistachio. A simple homemade crust is filled with a mixture of warmed berries and sugar and then baked until golden and crispy around the edges.

  • 10 of 29

    Babas au Rhum

    Classic French rum baba recipe

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

    Made from fermented cane sugar, rum is a natural companion for desserts like babas au rhum. A citrus-scented yeast cake is studded with rum-soaked raisins and then brushed with a boozy syrup laced with apricot and vanilla. Wonderful to serve at the holidays or special occasions.

  • 11 of 29

    Chocolate Mousse

    Chocolate Mousse

    The Spruce / Cara Cormack

    This chocolate mousse is light and airy but with a deep chocolate taste. Make sure to use good-quality bittersweet chocolate and avoid over-mixing the egg yolks and whites into the melted chocolate. A little bit of cognac or espresso helps bring out the rich flavor and a generous dollop of homemade whipped cream with chocolate shavings rounds out this quintessential French dessert.

  • 12 of 29

    Marrons Glacé

    Marron glace candied chestnuts recipe

    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt

    Candied chestnuts, or marrons glacé, are made by simmering boiled chestnuts in syrup and then letting them soak for several hours, repeating the process a few times until the sugar has penetrated the nuts. It’s a labor of love that pays back tenfold, resulting in tender chestnuts with a sugary sweet coating. 

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  • 13 of 29

    Pears Belle Helene

    French pear dessert

    The Spruce 

    This fragrant, simple dessert is a classic and one that will be sure to please fruit and chocolate lovers, alike. Peeled pears are poached in a cinnamon-scented syrup and then drizzled with a luscious chocolate sauce. If you would like to make the pears well ahead of serving, add the zest and juice of a lemon to the poaching water to avoid oxidation and ensure a beautiful finished product.

  • 14 of 29

    Pâté de Fruits

    Strawberry Pate de Fruits
    (c) Elizabeth LaBau

    These fresh fruit gummies, called pâté de fruits, sound and taste much more luxurious than any store-bought fruit chewy candy. This recipe is made with raspberries which are cooked along with sugar and pectin and then rolled in sugar once set.

  • 15 of 29

    Orangettes

    orangettes
    Rebecca Siegel/Flickr CC 2.0

    Orangettes are strips of candied orange peel that are dipped in dark chocolate. It requires a few steps to prepare the citrus peels, but the result, especially once coated in chocolate, is a pretty and delicious addition to a cup of coffee or the dessert plate.

  • 16 of 29

    Crème au Caramel

    creme caramel

    The Spruce Eats / Leah Maroney

    A delicate custard wrapped in a caramel glaze, crème au caramel is created using a method called "dry caramelization." This technique uses only sugar and no liquid, so you'll want to keep the pan moving while it's over the flame. To make, ramekins are coated with the caramel before the custard is added so once baked, the dessert is enveloped in the golden brown liquid.

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  • 17 of 29

    Strawberry and Vanilla Charlotte

    strawberry charlotte
    French Strawberry Charlotte. Dorling Kindersley - Getty Images

    Desserts like the Charlotte make it clear that the French know a thing or two about presentation. This recipe is a simplified version, but no less stunning than the classic. A circle of ladyfingers is filled in with homemade vanilla-scented custard and topped with strawberries, making for a beautiful and delicious dessert.

  • 18 of 29

    Lemon Tarte

    Lemon Tart recipe

    The Spruce 

    A classic lemon tarte is made with a creamy, lemon-infused filling, so it tastes both bright and buttery. The crème fraîche or sour cream makes for a silky smooth custard, while the fresh lemon juice and zest add the right amount of zing.

  • 19 of 29

    Opera Cake

    Opera Cake

    The Spruce 

    Much like its namesake, the opera cake is dramatic and layered. It’s a masterpiece, composed of almond sponge cake, coffee buttercream, and chocolate ganache. This show-stopping dessert is well worth the effort, especially for a special occasion.

  • 20 of 29

    French Madeleines

    Madeleines served on plate, small white jug in background

    Howard Shooter/Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images 

    These little sponge cakes have been around for centuries, and once you taste them you'll know why. The simple batter is flavored with vanilla, but you can add a little orange zest if you like. Keep in mind French Madeleines do require a special pan to create their shell-like shape.

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  • 21 of 29

    Crêpes

    Homemade crepes pareve

    The Spruce

    Thin, tender pancakes, crêpes are typically stuffed with either sweet or savory fillings. For best results, allow the batter to rest for half an hour in the fridge before you make them, and remember that practice makes perfect when it comes to achieving an evenly thin crepe. Fill with peaches and mascarpone, Nutella, ham and cheese, or simply sprinkle with sugar.

  • 22 of 29

    Crème Brûlée

    Creme brulee dessert
    Sarah K. Lee/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images

    The crackle of caramelized sugar giving way to a creamy custard beneath—these are the signs of a perfectly made crème brûlée. This version has the added flavor of almond, thanks to the Amaretto and almond extract.

  • 23 of 29

    Soufflé

    Vanilla Soufflé Recipe

    The Spruce

    Perhaps too intimidating to try at home, a soufflé can be accomplished successfully if a few steps are taken, such as using room temperature ingredients and making sure to thoroughly coat the inside of the dish with butter and sugar. This simple vanilla souffle is a good recipe to start with if you've never made this quintessential French dessert before.

  • 24 of 29

    Truffles

    Dark chocolate truffles

    Elizabeth LaBau

    Although the original French truffle may have been made with crème fraîche, this version using heavy cream is just as rich. Truffles are a simple confection with room for a variety of flavor additions, such as using a bit of liqueur in the mixture or rolling in nuts at the end.

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  • 25 of 29

    Quatre Quarts Cake

    quatre quarts cake

    theogeo / Flickr CC 

    Tender and sweet, quatre quarts cake is the French take on a pound cake. Beaten egg whites folded into the batter help to make it light and airy, and the cake's subtle flavor makes it a versatile companion for a number of occasions.

  • 26 of 29

    Almond Tarte

    Baked Almond Tart
    Baked Almond Tart. Westend61 - Getty Images

    Almonds are an integral part of French baking, so this almond tarte fits right in. It features a crusty topping and soft filling, making the cake a perfect companion for a cup of tea. It is delicious on its own or served with poached peaches.

  • 27 of 29

    Oefs a la Neige

    oeufs a la neige
    Oeufs a la neige. Photo © Molly Watson

    Known as "snow eggs," oeufs a la neige is made up of dollops of meringue floating in a custard sauce. It does require a few steps but is a unique dessert and a wonderful way to diversify your recipe repertoire.

  • 28 of 29

    Gâteau

    gateau

    Gâteau” is simply the French word for “cake," but what differentiates it from other varieties is that it’s typically also lavished in thick layers of cream and fruit. The chocolate flavor in this recipe is deepened by the addition of espresso powder, making the perfect base for any enhancements.

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  • 29 of 29

    Breton Butter Cake

    Breton Butter Cake

    bonchan / Getty Images

    Originally from Brittany, France, the Breton butter cake uses sugar and generous amounts of butter, which helps to puff-up and caramelize the cake. It's a simple, yet indulgent recipe made of a yeast dough dotted with butter and sugar and baked until golden.