French Pastries Explained 🍰

Author: Florence

What is a macaron? What’s an éclair ? Let’s explore the world of French pastries and French pastry terms as we explain the most famous French pasties.

Many people are familiar with the names of French pastries such as macaron, éclair, tarte tatin… But what are they exactly? I’ll tell you what to expect.

What is a macaron?

A macaron is a French pastry made of almond meringue filled with ganache or buttercream.

Various flavors of macaron are possible (chocolate, pistachio, strawberry are traditional)… even the most unexpected ones (what about a foie-gras macaron?)

Now let me explain the most famous French pastries.

What are the most famous French pastries?

  1. Un éclair : chou pastry filled with flavoured custard cream
  2. Une tarte au citron meringuée : shortcrust filled with lemon custard and meringue
  3. Un Paris-Brest : puff pastry with praline buttercream covered of powdered sugar
  4. Un Saint-Honoré : choux pastry with puff pastry vanilla cream and caramel
  5. Un mille-feuilles : layers of puff pastry with pastry cream and icing on the top
  6. Un opéra : chocolate sponge cake with several layers of chocolate ganache and coffee buttercream. Chocolate icing on the top.
  7. Un fraisier : sponge cake ( génoise in French ) filled with fresh strawberries and custard cream.
  8. Une charlotte : sponge cake or biscuits used to line a mold, which is filled with fruits ( for example strawberries : a charlotte aux fraises ) or custard.
  9. Une religieuse : same ingredients and flavors as the Eclair but with a different shape.
  10. Un baba au rhum : yeast cake saturated in rum and sometimes filled with whipped cream or pastry cream.
  11. Une tarte tatin : an upside-down pastry with caramelized apples in butter and sugar before the tart is baked.
  12. Une madeleine : buttery small sponge cake baked in scallop-shaped Madeleine moulds. Made with sugar, flour, melted butter and eggs, often flavoured with lemon or almonds.
  13.  Une profiterole ( used most of the time with plural indefinite article des ) : hot chocolate sauce on a choux pastry filled with vanilla ice cream.
  14. Un financier : small French cake baked in shaped molds, usually small rectangular loaves that resemble a bar gold. Similar to sponge cake, and usually contains almond flour or almond flavoring.

Ma pâtisserie préférée est le mille-feuilles.
Et vous ? Quelle est votre pâtisserie préférée ?

My favorite pastry is the “mille feuilles”.
What about you? What is your favorite pastry?

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A Few Local French Pastries

  1. Un Far breton : specialty of the Brittany, a region in the north-west of France. Dense custard ( texture is like a flan ) containing dried prunes.
  2. Un canelé: a speciality of the Bordeaux region. A small pastry with a soft and tender custard center and a dark, thick caramelized crust. It takes the shape of small, striated cylinder.
  3. Une tarte tropézienne : culinary speciality of the famous chic town of the French Riviera St Tropez . Two brioches (buns), sugar sprinkled on top and a thick layer of custard in between.

French Pastry Ingredients

  1. La crème au beurre : butter cream
  2. La crème Chantilly : whipped cream
  3. La crème anglaise : custard cream
  4. La crème pâtissière : custard cream
  5. La crème glacée : ice-cream
  6. La pâte d’amande : marzipan, almond paste
  7. La pâte à choux : choux pastry
  8. La pâte brisée : shortcrust pastry
  9. La pâte sablée : shortbread
  10. La pâte feuilletée : puff pastry
  11. Le chou à la crème : cream puff

Boulangerie or Pâtisserie?

In France, you’ll find the most delicate French pastries in “une pâtisserie”, which specializes in French pastries.

However, many pastry stores also sell French bread, and are then called “boulangerie pâtisserie”.

Author: Florence


Bonjour à tous ! I am a « Parisienne » with the eyes turned toward abroad. I feel both like a native and an expat. I have a passion for French language as well as an endless curiosity for Paris.

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