Classic French Desserts You Can Master at Home

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Strawberry Mango Rose Pavlova
Photo: Andy Lyons

Many cooks say "non, merci!" (that means "no, thanks") to the idea of making any kind of fancy French desserts at home. The truth is, most are easier than you think. The only real trick is to find tried-and-true recipes that won't let you down. 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 18

Maple Crème Brûlée with Hazelnuts

Maple Crème Brûlée hazelnuts
Blaine Moats

This crème brûlée recipe offers all the indulgence you expect in the classic French custard dessert, plus extra depth of flavor from maple syrup. For an ultra-French touch, we topped it with hazelnuts, a prized ingredient in French dessert recipes.

02 of 18

Caramel-Almond Profiteroles

Caramel-Almond Profiteroles
Jay Wilde

Have you ever made cream puffs? If so, you've essentially made profiteroles, one of the best French desserts around. Both are based on pâte à choux, an incredibly simple cream-puff dough made with flour, butter, water, and eggs. Dress up the little cuties with a three-minute filling and some orange liqueur-infused caramel sauce, and voilà—a spectacular French dessert anyone can make.

03 of 18

Chocolate Puffs with Mascarpone Cream

Chocolate Puffs Mascarpone Cream
Andy Lyons

If it's French chocolate desserts you're after, you've hit a winner! These beauties get a double dose, thanks to cocoa powder in the classic cream puff recipe and a decadent drizzle of melted chocolate in the finish. The rose water in the filling is optional, but it adds that certain something special that the best French dessert recipes offer.

04 of 18

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 that these are much easier to make than they are to remember—or pronounce (just call them sweet tart pastry and pastry filling, respectively).

Buy It: DATANYA Mini Tart Pans ($14, Amazon)

05 of 18

Lavender-Honey Lemon Tart

Lavender-Honey Lemon Tart
Carson Downing

The best 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.

Buy It: Gobel Rectangular Tart Pan ($25, Amazon)

06 of 18

French Filled Macarons

French-Filled Macaroons
Blaine Moats

These famous French desserts are no less than culinary miracles: They're so light and airy you almost expect them to float off the plate. And yet, just one (OK, maybe two) of these cuties makes you feel happier and more indulged than if you'd eaten any number of ooey-gooey gut-busters.

07 of 18

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. 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.

08 of 18

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.

09 of 18

Bittersweet Soufflés

Bittersweet Soufflés
Andy Lyons

At once airy and indulgent, soufflés are arguably the most elegant of French dessert recipes. While they're not difficult to make, they must be rushed to the table the minute they're done. Fortunately, with our make-ahead instructions, timing this luscious chocolate-caramel beauty couldn't be easier.

10 of 18

Ginger-Pear Galette

Ginger Pear Galette
Andy Lyons

While a good number of classic 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 just 25 minutes.

11 of 18

Madeleine Cookies with Vanilla Bean Buttercream

Madeleine Cookies Vanilla Bean Buttercream
Blaine Moats

Sur la TableWhile 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 dinner-party finale.

Buy It: Gobel Madeleine Mold ($20, Sur la Table)

12 of 18

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.

13 of 18

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.

14 of 18

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 shows off beautifully in a fruit sauce laced with dessert wine. A French cook would most likely top this with a touch of whipped cream, and we can't resist doing the same.

15 of 18

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. In this case, they're not cousins, they're identical twins. Make it and you'll get the same silky, cool, and sweet French custard dessert that's served (and cherished) in bistros all over France.

16 of 18

Berry Clafoutis

Berry Clafoutis
Martty Baldwin

A cross between a cake and a custard, a clafoutis is one of those easy French desserts that's more often made in the home than in the professional pastry kitchen. It's also one of the best ways to serve fruit. If you're not sure whether to choose blueberries, strawberries, or raspberries, do what a French home cook would do: Head to the market and see what's showing up at its freshest, most in-season best.

17 of 18

Hot Chocolate Soufflé

Hot Chocolate Soufflé
Maggie Wochele

Most classic French desserts are an indulgence in the fat-and-calorie category. Here, we've made an exception. By calling on a few switcheroos, we've navigated this beauty into the heart-healthy territory, while keeping the final destination exactly where you want to go: chocolate city.

18 of 18

Sparkling Grapefruit Sorbet Floats

Sparkling Grapefruit Sorbet Floats
Blaine Moats

High-end restaurants all over France serve fancy French 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/or sorbets with liqueurs or other alcoholic beverages. Here's a dashing example, and it's a great way to end a meal on bright, refreshing note.

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