17 Authentic French Desserts You Can Master at Home

Whip up a classic dessert worthy of a pâtisserie in Paris.

Strawberry Mango Rose Pavlova
Photo: Andy Lyons

Many cooks say "non, merci!" (that means "no, thanks") to the idea of making any authentic French desserts at home. The truth is, most are easier than you think. The only real trick is finding tried-and-true recipes that won't disappoint you. We've got you covered—our entirely doable French dessert recipes give you everything you need to pull off the French desserts of your dreams.

01 of 17

Fresh Fruit and Cream Tarts

Fresh Fruit Cream Tarts
Scott Little

Make these tarts, and you will have mastered two mainstays of many traditional French desserts: pâte sucrée and crème pâtissière. Believe us when we say these are much easier to make than they are to remember—or pronounce (call them sweet tart pastry and pastry filling, respectively).

02 of 17

Lavender-Honey Lemon Tart

Lavender-Honey Lemon Tart
Carson Downing

The most authentic French desserts do this neat trick of being both rich and refreshing at the same time. That's the case with this gorgeous lemon tart, which gets extra Frenchness from a touch of lavender, the prized ingredient from Provence. Serve after a classic French stew, such as Beef Bourguignon or Coq au Vin, for a tart and tingly finish to a rich dinner.

03 of 17

Strawberry, Mango, and Rose Pavlova

Strawberry Mango Rose Pavlova
Andy Lyons

"Beat egg whites to snowy peaks, and you can build yourself one of the most stunning desserts imaginable," wrote Julia Child in The French Chef Cookbook ($23, Amazon). While Julia called this creation a vacherin, as it's known in France, we generally call it a Pavlova. No matter the name, Julia's right: A crisp meringue shell filled with a creamy filling and fresh fruit remains one of the most stunning French desserts imaginable.

04 of 17

Caramel Apple Crepes

Caramel Apple Crepes
Martty Baldwin

Any collection of fancy French desserts Must. Include. Crepes. Here's one of our best! The only tricky part to making crepes is flipping them, and this genius recipe is so simple it even skips that step. All you need is a 6-inch skillet.

05 of 17

Ginger-Pear Galette

Ginger Pear Galette
Andy Lyons

While many authentic French desserts start with pâte feuilletée, French home cooks don't necessarily make the flaky puff pastry from scratch. Their supermarkets brim with readymade options, as do ours. Take advantage, and you can have this gorgeous autumn-perfect tart ready for the oven in 25 minutes.

06 of 17

Madeleine Cookies with Vanilla Bean Buttercream

Madeleine Cookies Vanilla Bean Buttercream
Blaine Moats

While they're about the size of a cookie (and as handy to eat), these traditional French desserts are, in fact, little sponge cakes. Dress them up with a dab of buttercream, then serve them with a fresh fruit salad or ice cream for a lovely

07 of 17

Tiny Vanilla Crème Brûlée

Tiny Vanilla Crème Brûlée

Why make such a tiny version of this beloved French custard dessert? To serve as part of the most exquisite treat to hit the French desserts scene this century: café gourmand. Enjoyed all over France, café gourmand is a suite of mini desserts served on a tray with a cup of espresso. Tap into the trend by serving these cute custards alongside other small treats, such as madeleines, a small scoop of sorbet, a macaron, plus a cup of espresso.

08 of 17

Cocoa-Hazelnut Macarons

Cocoa-Hazelnut Macaroons
Kritsada Panichgul

Light-as-air cocoa-hazelnut macarons sandwich a sweet chocolate-hazelnut spread in these mini French desserts. The best part? The macarons freeze for up to three months, so you can serve them whenever the occasion calls.

09 of 17

Genoise in Strawberry Vin Santo Sauce

Genoise Strawberry Vin Santo Sauce
Blaine Moats

While genoise is named for the Italian city of Genoa, many fancy French desserts start with this classic sponge cake. Here, the rich delicacy is shown off beautifully in a fruit sauce laced with dessert wine. A French cook would likely top this with a touch of whipped cream, and we can't resist doing the same.

10 of 17

Caramel Flans (aka Crème Caramel)

Caramel Flans
Scott Little

While it's labeled "flan," this true-to-France recipe could just as easily be called crème caramel. The two dishes aren't cousins; they're identical twins. Make it, and you'll get the same silky, cool, and sweet French custard dessert served (and cherished) in bistros all over France.

11 of 17

Sparkling Grapefruit Sorbet Floats

Sparkling Grapefruit Sorbet Floats
Blaine Moats

High-end restaurants all over France serve fancy desserts painstakingly crafted by trained pastry chefs. In more casual cafés, however, you'll find all kinds of easy French dessert recipes. These include simple sundaes that combine ice creams and sorbets with liqueurs or other alcoholic beverages. Here's a dashing example, and it's a great way to end a meal on a bright, refreshing note.

12 of 17

Mini Roasted Apple and Pear Tarts

Jason Donnelly

This take on a classic French apple tart recipe comes together in just 20 minutes of prep thanks to frozen puff pastry and pre-sliced apples. Once the tarts come out of the oven, give them a generous sprinkle of flaky sea salt.

13 of 17

Raspberry-Peach Clafouti

Raspberry-Peach Clafouti in white bowl
Karla Conrad

Clafouti is a French dessert that starts with a layer of fresh fruit that's covered with a thick pancake-like batter. Generously buttering the dish flavors the sweet fruit and ensures the dessert is easy to serve. A sprinkle of fresh basil is the perfect pairing for the raspberries and peaches in the filling.

14 of 17

Chocolate-Drizzled Pumpkin Profiteroles

Chocolate-Drizzled Pumpkin Profiteroles
Kritsada Panichgul

If you see profiteroles on a French dessert menu, chances are they're filled with vanilla ice cream and drizzled with chocolate syrup. This profiterole recipe puts a new twist on the classic with a homemade pumpkin cream filling. After you've baked the cream puff shells, let them cool completely before stuffing.

15 of 17

Chocolate Eclairs

Chocolate Eclairs
Dera Burreson

Éclairs top the list of classic French desserts. Our take is a chocolate-lovers dream. Whip up a chocolate éclair pastry dough and stuff it with homemade whipped cream. Just before serving, top the French pastries with bittersweet hot fudge sauce.

16 of 17

Spiced Apple Tarte Tatin

Blaine Moats

You'll need just six ingredients (including sugar and salt) to pull off this classic French dessert. We've added Chinese five-spice powder in place of cinnamon to update the traditional recipe. Once out of the oven, let this easy apple dessert cool before flipping it onto a serving platter.

17 of 17

Bourbon-Brownie Petit Fours

Bourbon-Brownie Petits Four
Andy Lyons

Petit fours in French translate to "small oven." These tiny cakes are often filled with layers of cake and cream and then frosted. The combination of bourbon, chocolate, and coffee in this recipe make it one of the best French desserts we've tried.

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