Photograph by Alice Dison, The New York Times/Redux
The perfect Parisian patisserie: Is it a grand establishment with centuries-old baking traditions? A nouveau spot that blends daring flavors and artistry? Or the neighborhood gem that locals hope will remain their secret? With such a delectable question, the answer is simple: all of the above.
Ladurée (8th arrondissement)
When it opened in 1862, Ladurée was one of the city’s only tea salons. Today, as the ubiquitous mint green bags around town attest, it’s the most popular. With magnificent belle epoque styling, the salon de thé owes a great deal of its following to the macaron, the pretty meringue cookie that is as iconic to the French as the cupcake is to Americans. But there are dozens of other douceurs to bite into, including religieuse cakes—puff pastry filled with cream and painted with pastel-colored glaze—and the bakery’s own interpretation of the cupcake—in French flavors, such as black currant-violet. 16 Rue Royale.
La Pâtisserie des Rêves (7th arrondissement)
Philippe Conticini’s Pâtisserie des Rêves on tony Rue du Bac is unlike any other sweet spot in Paris. Against a candy-colored backdrop of pink, green, and tangerine, glass domes descend from the ceiling, each protecting an individual cake that’s displayed on a central table like fine art. Conticini takes dazzling liberties with traditional French desserts. The éclairs, for example, are enrobed in tubes of dark chocolate, while the rectangular Saint-Honoré cake has swirling ribbons of crème Chantilly. Of all the avant-garde creations, don’t miss the Paris-Brest, a ring of pastry piped full of hazelnut cream and liquid praline. 93 Rue du Bac.
Stohrer (2nd arrondissement)
Step across “Stohrer,” scrolled in gold on the turquoise tiled floor of this patisserie on the Rue Montorgueil, and reverse time. It was founded in 1730 by Nicholas Stohrer, who was King Louis XV’s pastry chef. He also created the baba au rhum dessert when he splashed a dry Polish brioche with sweet Malaga wine. Don’t care for rum-soaked cake? You can leave the historic patisserie with almost any French classic, from raspberry tarts with perfectly aligned berries dusted with sugar to Puit d’Amour cake filled with vanilla custard. 51 Rue Montorgueil.
Pierre Hermé (6th arrondissement)
If there is one patisserie that rivals Ladurée in macaron prowess, it is Pierre Hermé. Visit his original Saint-Germain boutique, and look beyond the Technicolor macarons—in flavors like lime and ginger—and admire the rows of gateaux behind the long glass partition. Decorated with shards of glossy chocolate, rose petals, or cherries, the cakes are almost too pretty to eat. But, as is the case with the Plénitude Individuel, a dark chocolate cake filled with chocolate mousse and accented with salted caramel, it would be a crime not to. 72 Rue Bonaparte.
Blé Sucré (12th arrondissement)
After stints as pastry chef at the acclaimed Bristol and Plaza Athénée hotels, Fabrice Le Bourdat went to the residential 12th arrondissement to open a small patisserie with his wife. The modest size belies Le Bourdat’s expertise and the massive selection of breakfast pastries, cakes, and breads. Many Parisians insist his flaky pains au chocolat are the best in the city, and nary a soul will dispute that his classic madeleines take top honors. Moist and airy sponge cakes, with a crackling layer of orange icing, madeleines are sweetly satisfying—especially when enjoyed across the street under the trees of Square Trousseau. 7 Rue Antoine Vollon.
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