French cakes are some of the most delicious and impressive cakes out there.
Pastry and cake making is an art form in France.
If you want to put your baking skills to a technical challenge and have the reward of indulging in a rich, delicate, creamy, and sublime French dessert, you have got to try your hand at French cakes.
Some French cakes can be tricky or demanding.
But in all my years of baking, one thing I’ve learned is never to let fear get in the way of learning new skills and experiencing new levels of deliciousness. Most of them aren’t as hard as they seem.
This Buche de Noel, or “log of Christmas,” is a swiss roll of sponge cake filled with chocolate whipped cream.
You can decorate it simply with powdered sugar, or you can use ganache, chocolate, and even little mushrooms made from meringue to make it look more like a yule log.
It is the classic, eye-catching, edible Christmas centerpiece.
This is a classic holiday dessert!
The Charlotte Russe cake is easy to spot because of the ladyfingers that line it like a pleated skirt.
This recipe for the French cake uses store-bought ladyfingers arranged and layered in a Springform pan with custard and fruit.
It is a no-bake recipe, relatively simple and quick. I love how impressive this looks, considering how easy it is.
Dacquoise is a traditional French cake of layers of meringue filled with roasted nuts and whipped cream.
Meringue was one of the first things I was terrified of making, and while you have to be a little careful handling it, it’s pretty easy.
Even if you mess it up, this is a forgiving recipe.
Fiadone Corsican cheesecake is a type of cheesecake made with ricotta instead of cream cheese, and it doesn’t require a crust.
Similar in texture to flan, it is made by baking custard. This is a simple, quick-to-put-together cheesecake.
Because it has few ingredients, I like to use the best-tasting, highest-quality ones I can find.
The French Financier is a small, soft French cake perfect for snacking or for arranging an impressive tray of desserts.
Financiers use brown butter, egg white, hazelnut, and almond.
If you’ve never made brown butter, you should try this recipe.
Brown butter is easier to make than it seems and adds a je ne sais quoi to the cakes.
Frasier cake is a French strawberry cake with a top and bottom layer of sponge filled with creme mousseline.
The top of the cake features a layer of strawberry compote, while the sides of the cake show off the beauty of cut slices of strawberry.
This is another recipe that is easier than it seems. The fraisier cake makes a great birthday cake for adults or older children.
If you’re up for a challenge, I recommend the French galette des rois or king cake.
The king cake is a puff pastry filled with almond frangipane.
Making your own puff pastry involves lots of steps and can feel tedious, but there is nothing as gratifying as making your laminated dough.
Traditional Gateau Basque cake comes from the Basque Country of France.
This decadent French cake features a buttery crust, vanilla pastry cream, and black cherry jam.
The Basque cake makes an unexpected ending to a dinner party or a delightful treat to have alongside a cup of Sunday morning coffee.
Baba au rhum, a yeast cake soaked in rum syrup and brushed with an apricot glaze, is a sophisticated and boozy way to close a meal.
It makes a great special occasion or anniversary dessert.
This recipe also includes currants and whipped cream.
Even though this is made from yeasted dough, it is relatively quick and easy.
Cannelés are small custard cakes, caramelized on the outside.
These beautiful cakes are made using a mold.
Cannelés can be a tricky French cake to master, but this recipe guides you through the process and makes this challenging cake approachable.
I have yet to create the perfect Cannelés, but it’s one thing I don’t mind trying at over and over.
Clafoutis is a custard-based tart baked in a cast iron pan.
Typically a clafoutis is baked with fruit or other filling such as chocolate or nuts.
If you’ve ever had a Dutch baby, clafoutis is similar, like a super creamy pancake.
It is delicious and pretty easy to whip together, and I love serving it for dessert or brunch.
I’m not sure if any other dessert makes quite the impression as a classic French croquembouche.
The croquembouche is eye-catching and breathtaking, a conical tower of cream puffs held together by caramel.
This recipe uses pastry cream to fill the cream puffs, but you could experiment with different fillings, even using a combination of fillings for your tower.
The Far Breton is another example of how much the French love custard.
Far Breton’s batter is similar to the clafoutis batter and has that flan-like texture.
The Far Breton is typically filled with raisins or prunes, sometimes soaked in rum or brandy.
For a traditional Far Breton, I like letting the top of my cake get dark.
Another hallmark of French cakes is simple ingredients combined with precise and challenging techniques.
The St. Honore cake has a foundation of puff pastry and a ring of choux holding a filling of chiboust cream.
A circle of choux puffs, a classic French pastry, decorated with caramel top the ring of the St. Honore.
It is tricky with many components to get right, but it is a surprising dessert that is both light and rich.
Also known as a Beton Butter Cake, the Classic Kouign-Amann comes from Brittany.
The Kouign-Amann dough is made in a similar way to croissant dough.
Rather than just laminating it with butter, the Kouign-Amann is laminated with sugared butter, so the layers of pastry are sweet, buttery, and caramelized.
This one takes some extra effort, but it is worth it.
Famous in the Alsace region of France, the Kugelhopf is a yeasted French cake baked in a tall, circular mold.
Typically the Kugelhopf features almonds and raisins. It is a sweet, sophisticated dessert that will showcase your ability with bread and cake.
It is delicious with coffee or a glass of wine.
Mille Feuille means “a thousand sheets” in French, which refers to the puff pastry this dessert is built on.
You will also see this dessert, sometimes referred to as a Napolean.
It is a stack of puff pastry filled with pastry cream and topped with a feathering of chocolate and vanilla icing.
This recipe uses frozen puff pastry to make this a more accessible dessert. Anyone can whip this one up, and it is beautiful and delicious!
Named after a French bicycle race, the Paris-Brest is a choux bun filled with hazelnut mousseline cream and topped with almonds and powdered sugar.
Choux is a light, airy pastry. There is a trick to it, but it is not as difficult as some believe.
The Paris-Brest is a lovely combination of flavors and textures and is well-worth learning how to bake.
The Quatre Quart is a French pound cake.
The key to the quatre quart is to match the weight of the eggs, butter, flour, and sugar.
This easy cake features orange zest and is baked in a loaf pan.
I’ve used this as a dessert, brunch dish, or even an afternoon snack with coffee. It will disappear quickly, so you might want to make two!
These Canelés De Bordeaux take some prep time and can be tricky to perfect, but they are as French as French cakes.
They have a soft, creamy custardy inside with a thin, caramelized shell and are made in a mold.
With a little rum, these are a bit boozy and are a great dessert to celebrate a special occasion or to treat your book club.
If you love tiramisu as much as I do, you must try the French Opera cake.
The French Opera cake is made from layers of sponge cake soaked in coffee, then sandwiched with a buttercream filling and topped with a layer of chocolate ganache.
While there are a lot of components, they are simple.
Also known as Madelines, these french butter cakes are often eaten as cookies.
They are baked in molds to get their distinct shape and creases.
Airy, soft, and buttery, they are a great companion to coffee, tea, and hot chocolate.
These are my favorites to make when I want cake but don’t want to bake an entire cake.
The French apple cake is another one that works well for a dessert or a holiday brunch.
It is a simple, soft, buttery rum-flavored cake with chunks of fresh apple. It is topped with powdered sugar and is the ultimate in simple sophistication.
I like French apple cake as a fall flavored dessert!
French for “little nuns,” nonnettes are small, round gingerbread cakes filled with jam and topped with a lemon glaze.
For the shape, I make these in a muffin pan. You can also experiment with the type of jam you use.
My favorite is blackberry jam with a lime glaze that adds another dimension and a tart pop to the gingerbread spices.
This easy and decadent French chocolate cake is made using only five ingredients.
Because there are so few ingredients, I like using the best I can find, starting with my favorite butter.
From there, you want to choose quality dark chocolate since this is where the cake will get most of its flavor.
I haven’t met a chocolate lover who hasn’t gone crazy for this decadent cake, and it’s something you can whip up on a whim.