Cakewalk: A Sweet Tour of Levallois, France from Cake Gumshoe Robert

CakeSpy Note: The best part about being a professional cake gumshoe? Meeting other pastry enthusiasts and learning about their bakery adventures. What follows is a Gumshoe report of Levallois, which is just outside of Paris and dubbed "honorary 21st arrondissement", contributed by Robert N. Mayer of Salt Lake City. Who is this fella? "As a professor of Family and Consumer Studies at the University of Utah, I take my consumption seriously and believe that my findings should be validated by others.” 

This past April, CakeSpy reported having visited over the course of seven days a bakery (or other sugar‐oriented place) in each of Paris’ 20 districts (arrondissements). My first thought was that I should don my running shoes and try to perform the same feat in one day. But that would only attest to my envy.

Instead, I broke some new ground, literally. Just outside the Paris Périphérique Highway but still on the Metro line lies the city of Levallois‐Perret. Although it occupies less than one square mile, Levallois is full of street names that evoke French history (Danton, Voltaire, Victor Hugo), and, more important to me, is more densely packed with pâtisseries and boulangeries than any arrondissement in Paris proper. It also has a lively covered market on Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, a pedestrian‐only street, and a quaint city hall.

It is ironic that rue Louise Michel (1830‐1905) is named after a French anarchist who sentenced to prison for leading a Paris mob in pillaging a baker's shop. That’s because rue Louise Michel is home to four fine bakeries:

Fougeret Henry, 16 rue Louise Michel

This is the archetype of a traditional, neighborhood bakery, down to the baby blue paint and paintings that surround the front door.

L’Atelier des Pains, 32 rue Louise Michel

With its original location in Courbevoie, this new bakery has taken Levallois by storm. From the front window, you can see their pastries and breads coming out of a huge, shiny over. The fruit tarts are especially good, but the lunch crowd lines up for their baguette sandwiches.

Maison Baillon, 57 rue Louise Michel

Baker Philippe Baillon has won the award for the best baguette in the Haut de Seine region three times in the last eight years. This shop in Levallois is his second, the original being in nearby Neuilly. I particularly like the well‐browned palmier.

Festival des Pains, 85 rue Louise Michel

The wide smile of the baker is almost as good as the pastries in this new shop; I zeroed in on the items with pistachios.

Of course, if you manage to escape rue Louise Michel with your sweet tooth intact, you are within two blocks of:

Boulangerie Alain Bernard, 6 place Henri Barbusse

Alain recently took over a bakery that used to attract me with its pear tart. Alain is partial to brioche dough. You practically need sunglasses to look at the brioche with its bright pink pralines.

G Jusseaume, 16, rue Henri Barbusse

OK, this is technically a traiteur rather than a patisserie, but the shop (located on the pedestrians‐only block) makes its pastries on site. I enjoyed the fruit tart shaped like a bird’s nest.

Eric Kayser, 19 rue Trébois

True, this is one of 19 locations in the Paris area, but even its chocolate chip cookie was worth trying.

Le Grenier à Pain, 53 rue du Président Wilson

Most bakeries occupy corner lots, but this one is tucked into the middle of the block. The breads are notable and change every day. I opted for a chocolate item that resembled a bouchon with its gooey middle.

If you get back on the metro at the Anatole France stop, you might stop at William Galland, 73 rue Carnot, where I learned to love the almond croissant, and Jeanne, 63 rue Voltaire.

You won’t find web sites for these (mostly) family‐owned bakeries. Nor will you hear a lot of English spoken in Levallois. It’s the real France. But the people will take the time to communicate with you if you’re willing to use whatever French you have and let them take it from there. 

CakeSpy Note: and it's a sure bet that if you try to communicate, the rewards will be sweet.

Cakewalk: A Patisserie for Each Parisian Arrondissement

On a recent trip to Paris, my travel goal was simple: I wanted to try at least one pâtisserie in each of the 20 arrondissements. Happily, I attained my goal and then some, having visited a staggering 35 bakeries in a mere 7 days (I'll leave you to ponder that for a few moments).

My game plan? To try a mix of places I'd heard (and dreamed about) from books, guides, and trusted websites, but to also go to several arrondissements with no particular destination in mind, thereby allowing for some unexpected sweet experiences. And may I highly suggest this as a method of tourism? Not only did we make it to neighborhoods we probably wouldn't have discovered otherwise, but we also ate some seriously sweet stuff at every point along the way!

Here, I've listed at least one pâtisserie visited in each of the 20 arrondissements.

Note: While you may recognize several of these from my report on Serious Eats, I've also expanded and added several other spots to the roundup; enjoy!


Cafe Angelina: Our pick here? The hot chocolate. The legendary hot chocolate here, called "L'africaine," is so thick that when sold by the bottle, it doesn't budge even when you turn bottle upside down. When heated, the hot chocolate is extremely thick and velvety, with a rich, dark chocolate flavor that isn't overpoweringly sweet. And it doesn't hurt that it's served up in a grand old tea room in the shadow of the Louvre by austere waitresses in French Maid-esque getups. 226 Rue de Rivoli, 75001, 1st Arrondissement, Paris, France‎ (map) 01 42 60 82 00‎


Stohrer: For one thing, if a bakery has been around since the 1730s, it's probably doing something right. While Stohrer's chocolate éclair was voted among the best in Paris, I think their coffee-flavored ones are even better: a perfectly piped cloud of choux gives way to an insanely rich coffee-toned cream and icing. 51 Rue Montorgueil, 75002, 2nd Arrondissement, Paris, France‎ (map) 01 42 33 38 20‎;


Pain de Sucre: This gorgeous little shop featured a sweet variety of goods, including baguette-shaped macarons (!), but our victim--er, choice--was the quatre quarts cake, which was rich, buttery, and oh so good. 14, rue rambuteau, 75003, 3rd Arrondissement, Paris, France; 


Berthillon: You've probably read about this place in a tour guide or seen it on a travel show—I'm here to tell you that you should listen to them. This ice cream is amazingly creamy and flavorful, with a rotating cast of flavors like salted caramel, roasted pistachio, and creamy coconut, and served up in clever two-cupped cones which taste pretty good themselves. 31 Rue Saint-Louis en l'Ile, 75004, 4th Arrondissement, Paris, France (map) 01 43 54 31 61;

Boulangerie Julien: Oh, bebe. The delicious rhubarb tart here was the stuff of dreams; read a full review here. 24, rue St. Martin, 75004, 4th Arrondissement, Paris, France.

Legay Choc: The first patisserie we visited after landing, and one of our favorite stops. Two words sum it all up: Roulé Cannelle. Read all about it here. 17, Rue Des Archives, Paris 04; online at


Le Maison Kayser: Now, I had headed to Kayser intent on trying the Tigrés (Tiger Tea Cakes) as featured in Dorie Greenspan's book Paris Sweets (which, by the way, if you don't own, I have to say "You've got to be kidding me". Buy it now). But when I got to the bakery, I couldn't seem to drag myself away from the vision of these little chocolate tarts, served in sweet little squares topped with a disc of white chocolate and some candied hazelnuts. 8, rue monge, 75005, 5th Arrondissement, Paris, France (other locations too)


Pierre Hermé: So I'll admit it: I feel like macarons are often better in theory than in practice. Unless they're done perfectly, they can fall into the traps of being too chewy, too brittle, or too sweet. But if there's a macaron that can make you a believer, I think Pierre Hermé's may be it. Biting into one is like biting into a cloud: the macaron is light as air, and yields perfectly to the generous dab of ganache, which is smooth, rich, and creamy without having a texture that is incongruous with the delicate cookie base. And this dude is somehow able to make crazy flavors like strawberry and wasabi not only work, but work well. 72 Rue Bonaparte, 75006, 6th Arrondissement, Paris, France (map) 01 43 54 47 77;


La Patisserie des Rêves: I couldn't imagine a sweeter place to pick up Breton specialty Kouign Amann Breton than Dorie Greenspan-approved La Patisserie des Rêves, where large glass domes that resemble huge upside-down wineglasses cover gorgeous cakes arranged in a circle on a main table, and then shelves off to the side have various individually-sized treats. Also noteworthy: their unique brioche. 93 Rue du Bac, 75007 Paris, France‎ (map) 01 42 84 00 82‎;


Dalloyau: Opera Cake wasn't technically invented at Dalloyau (it's derived from another version of the fancy cake, the Clichy) but it was made famous here. For well over 100 years they've been serving up this slice of heaven, a serious cake comprised of thin layers of biscuit Viennois soaked in coffee syrup and then layered with coffee-flavored buttercream and bittersweet chocolate ganache. Various locations in Paris; we visited the one in the 8th;


Ladurée: A religieuse is a pastry supposedly takes its name from its resemblance to a nun's habit, but some hard-core pastry lovers might argue the name stems from its taste (which approaches an absolutely religieuse experience). Ladurée's intriguing Blackcurrant-Violet Religieuse, made up of choux pastry, blackcurrant and violet flavored confectioner's custard, is exquisite--but the violet taste is powerful, and this one is best shared. Various locations in Paris, including one in the 9th, and beyond;


La Baie des Anges: This place didn't look like much from the outside--and it was raining and we were eager to get into a bakery and get back to our hotel-- but the eclair was surprisingly delicious, fresh even at the end of the day, and redolent with chocolate-y goodness. 23 Rue du Faubourg du Temple, 75010 Paris, France.


La Bague de Kenza: I was intrigued by the writeup on Chocolate and Zucchini of the rfisse, which she described as "a mix of semolina, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, date, and honey, ground into a marzipan-like, pleasantly grainy paste"; happily, the sweet pastry was freshly made and delicious--vaguely reminding me of my days of serving Basbousa in Brooklyn106 Rue Saint-Maur, 75011, 11th Arrondissement, Paris, France.


Aux Castelblangeois: Our favored pastry here? The Tartelette aux Fraises. Starting with the fattest, most flavorful strawberries you've ever tasted on top of a rich bed of cream and a flaky pastry crust, this was a sweet tart indeed. 104 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine, 75012, 12th Arrondissement, Paris, France‎ (map) 01 40 19 93 36


Boulangerie Pâtisserie Renard: While walking around this neighborhood, which was nearby a hospital and was full of medical students and doctors, we found ourselves in this unassuming little bakery and were happily rewarded with a heavenly pear and chocolate tart. 113 bis, boulevard de l'Hôpital, 75013, 13th Arrondissement, Paris, France (map); 01 44 24 13 49


Bonjour Bakery: What we indulged in here was something called a chouquette aux marrons. What's that? Well. Imagine an éclair. Now, fill it with rich, unbelievably creamy chestnut filling and top it with sweet vanilla icing. You're getting the idea, and it is delicious. 16 Avenue René Coty, 75014, 14th Arrondissement, Paris, France‎ (map) 01 43 27 70 97‎


Maeder Véronique: Even blueberries are different in Paris! I didn't actually realize that's what the little berries were on top of this tart until I later looked it up: these were small, piquant, and more tart than mere US blueberries. Studded with pistachios atop a layer of pastry cream, all perched on a sturdy crust, this little tart was basically like heaven. 18 Rue de Lourmel, 75015, 15th Arrondissement, Paris, France (map) 01 45 78 89 31


Lenôtre: Walking into Lenôtre is kind of like walking into Tiffany & Co., only the wares are edible. The brioche, which was light and buttery all at once, was beautifully accentuated by the rose-colored candied nuts (I believe pistachios)—I think I liked their version even better than the famous Praluline, which is similarly flavored, if different in construction. 48, Avenue Victor Hugo, 75016, 16th Arrondissement, Paris, France (map) 01 45 02 21 21; Brioche Pralines Rose,


Alain Bernard Artisan: Here is where we devoured the Salambo. Named after a literary character, this choux pastry filled with pastry cream and topped with icing and chocolate sprinkles is much more delicious to gobble than any old book. 6, Place Henri, 75017, 17th Arrondissement, Paris, France, 01 47 57 43 89.


Berko: An American cupcake shop in Paris! But what made these cupcakes so good? My theory is that it's the butter. France takes it a whole lot more seriously than the U.S., and it shows in these cakes, which are so tantalizingly buttery that really, a small one is sufficient (honestly). Their cake is unbelievably moist, and the frosting...well, it's buttercream (accent on the butter). 31, rue lepic, 75018, 18th Arrondissement, Paris, France. (note: there is also another location in the 4th Arrondissement)


La Boulangerie par Véronique Mauclerc: This sweet shop seems a bit hidden, but is worth seeking out: we had an apple and raisin tart which, in spite of its name and ingredients, managed to taste buttery enough to make up for the virtuous fruit. 83 rue de Crimée, 75019, 19th Arrondissement, Paris, France.


Banette: Here, we scored La Figue. This unusual little squat pastry was on show at patisseries all over town, and nearby Pere LaChaise I finally picked one up at Banette, a boulangerie-patisserie with several locations throughout Paris (and, it seems, Montreal as well). Comprised of a fig-and-chocolate mixture topped with a rich green marzipan wrapped in a way to suggest a fig-like form, this was an absolute pleasure to eat. It tastes somewhere between cake and confection. Boulevard de Menilmontant, 75020, 20th Arrondissement, Paris, France; various Banette locations can also be found around Paris;

Boulangerie 140: After having read about this place on David Lebovitz, we simply had to give this gem a try. Everything in the case was so obviously made with care that it was hard to decide what to settle on; while the bread was definitely the point of pride here, we tried the pain au chocolat, and were not disappointed. 140, rue de Belleville, 75020;

State of the Tarte: The Tarte Fruits Rouges, Rhubarbe from La Boulangerie Julien, Paris

What's sweet, tart, rich, and exceedingly attractive?

No, we're not talking about some celebutante here, we're talking about something with staying power: the delicious rhubarb tarte from La Boulangerie Julien in Paris.

Now, deciding on this sweet treat was no easy feat--just look at some of the other offerings:

Oh, bébé.

But ultimately it was the tarte that we selected, and were we ever rewarded: it was practically perfect in every way.

Starting with a sweet and sour-tart mix of assorted fruits, heavy on the rhubarb, the filling was perfectly paired with a flaky, thick, and very, very, very buttery crust. Its bright taste made a dull winter day bright--if you find yourself in Paris anytime soon (please, take me with you!), I'd highly suggest making a stop at one of the three Maison Julien locations for a taste of this delight.

La Boulangerie Julien, 3 locations (we visited the one at rue St Martin); for directions and more, visit their site at

Beautiful Pear-ing: Tarte Poires Chocolat from Thierry Renard, Paris

I'm a firm believer that when something is done extremely well, it can make you a believer.

I'm also a believer that sometimes the most wonderful experiences are the ones that you stumble upon accidentally (if serendipitously).

Case in point: the pear-chocolate tart from Thierry Renard, a tiny boulangerie-patisserie in a Paris neighborhood off the beaten path, in a neighborhood with a hospital and what looks like a lot of medical students milling about.

Though I don't consider myself a big fan of pear desserts -- or chocolate-and-fruit flavor pairings, for that matter! -- after tasting this I had to concede that it was very, very good.

When the bitterness of the dark chocolate meets the mellow sweetness of the pears, which were soft but not in a mushy way, something lovely happens: both flavors make the other better. It's not a pastry made of sharp contrasts but more composed of subtleties, all wrapped up in a deliciously buttery crust. And the glaze and chocolate chips on top don't hurt, either. Oh, let's look at it again:

Who knew what a perfect pear-ing these flavors could be--merci, Thierry Renard!

Tarte Poires Chocolat from Thierry Renard, 131 bis Boulevard de l’Hôpital, 13th Arrondissement, Paris.

Mac Daddy: Lovely and Amazing Macarons by Pierre Herme

I'm going to start Macaron Day (March 20, natch) by saying something bold: Macarons are not the new cupcake.

Don't get me wrong--in spite of this statement, I am not a macaron hater. It's just that I firmly believe that a good macaron is harder to come by than a good cupcake. Too sweet, too eggy, too chewy--the pitfalls with macarons are numerous, whereas cupcakes, like pizza, seem to go by the adage that even when they're bad, they're still kind of good.

If, however, all macarons were made like the ones at Pierre Hermé, it might be a different story.

Dubbed the "Picasso of Pastry", Pierre Hermé is basically--dare I say it--the mac daddy, the closest thing to a rock star that the macaron could possibly claim.

This is a lot to live up to for pastry pilgrims like myself, and so when we approached the macaron mecca on Rue Bonaparte, I must confess to a soupcon of hesitancy. 

But you know what? If there is a macaron that will make you a believer, it is probably going to be from Pierre Hermé.

We picked up three from the eclectic menu: the Marron et the Vert Matcha (chestnut and green tea), the Fragola (strawberry-balsamic), and the Magnifique, an unlikely pairing of strawberry and wasabi.

(Warning: I'm about to wax very poetic about these little burger-cookies.)

I said it on Serious Eats, and I'll say it again. Biting into one is like biting into a cloud: the macaron is light as air, and yields perfectly to the generous dab of ganache, which is smooth, rich, and creamy without having a texture that is incongruous with the delicate cookie base.

And that's just the texture--the flavors are just as thoughfully balanced and delicious. Each of the flavors we sampled, while unusual, not only worked, but worked well. This was most notable in the strawberry-wasabi flavor. The wasabi was not so much a smack as a whisper, giving the sweet strawberry a little nudge and certain je ne sais quoi. It wasn't spicy per se though, and you really shouldn't be scared of it.

So what is this all to say? Pierre Hermé makes a mean macaron. If you're in Paris, go there.

Pierre Hermé, various locations in Paris (we visited the one on Rue Bonaparte); online at

Ultra Violet: The Blackcurrant Violet Religieuse from Laduree, Paris

Walking into Laduree in Paris is a bit like walking into Tiffany or Cartier: it is one of those supremely luxurious places that has the ability to make you feel fancy by simply walking through the door.

Laduree's Champs-Elysees Location, complete with Ladureemobiles!Of course, while both are luxury brands, buying a few of the delights spun from sugar at Laduree is far more reasonable to the typical shopper than shelling out cash for something silver (or gold, or platinum, or diamond-studded) from Tiffany.

Not only is it a delightful place to visit, but it's an important landmark in the world of pastry: founded in 1862, the cafe pioneered the concept of the salon de thé. Per the Laduree site:

Under the Second Empire, cafes developed and became more and more luxurious. They attracted Parisian high society. Along with the chic restaurants around the Madeleine, they became the showcases of the capital.

The beginning of this century found Paris wrapped up in a frenzy of distraction and going out in public. Parisians flocked to the Universal Exposition. Women were also changing. They wanted to make new acquaintances. Literary salons and literature circles were outmoded.

Ernest Ladurée’s wife, Jeanne Souchard, daughter of a well-known hotelier in Rouen, had the idea of mixing styles: the Parisian café and pastry shop gave birth to one of the first tea salons in town. The “salon de thé” had a definite advantage over the cafés: they permitted ladies to gather in freedom. Jeanne Souchard succeeded in combining the turn-of-the-century trend to modernism with knowledge of the merits of a craft transmitted by her family.

So you can probably see why visiting Laduree is one of those pivotal pastry experiences that every sweet tooth should experience at least once (even if the company which now owns it, Holder, is responsible for putting macarons in French McDonalds too).

While they are perhaps best known for their macarons, on this visit, I had my eye not on the little sweetburgers but on their iconic and infinitely lovely religieuse.

A religieuse is a pastry which is said to take its name from its resemblance to a nun's habit--but being composed of choux pastry filled with thick custard and topped with delicate and pretty icing with buttercream piping on the sides, some harcore pastry lovers might argue that the name stems from its taste, which approaches an absolutely religieuse experience.

And at Laduree, they have a few different flavors; we chose the intriguing Blackcurrant-Violet, which is described as "Choux pastry, blackcurrant & violet flavoured confectioner’s custard."

As a general rule, I am not a huge fan of lavender or rose-infused pastries, which I feel often can err toward tasting a bit perfumey. However, if there is one that could turn me around, this would probably be it: while assertively flavored, the violet flavor is beautifully done: buttery and floral and full. But like I said, it's powerful--I don't think I could polish one of these off in the same way that I might attack, say, a chocolate variety, but it sure was a delight to share and savor with others (we shared it among a group of four).

But as always, it was a delight to visit Laduree. Next on my list to try there, though? The Marie-Antoinette, an exquisitely appointed little cake...or maybe the mont blanc? 

Laduree has various locations in Paris and beyond; for locations and more information, visit And as a P.S., if you want to try making your own religieuse pastries, why not check out this excellent post on Not Quite Nigella?

Neverending Stohrer: Coffee Eclairs and More at the Famous Patisserie Stohrer, Paris

So, let me start out by saying that if a pâtisserie has been around since the 1730s, clearly they are doing something right.

That having been said, it's time to talk about Stohrer, which, to the best of my research, is the oldest continually run pâtisserie in Paris. First, a bit of history (translated from their site):

When Mary Leszczynski, daughter of King Stanislas of Poland, married in 1725 King Louis XV's pastry Stohrer followed at the court of Versailles. Five years later, in 1730, Nicolas Stohrer opened his bakery in Paris at 51 rue Montorgueil. 

Nicolas Stohrer served his apprenticeship in Wissembourg in the kitchens of King Stanislas of Poland With a dry cake that the Polish King Stanislas had reported a trip, Nicolas Stohrer invented the Baba, made from enriched brioche dough which is basted with wine and finished with saffron and custard, raisins and fresh grapes. King Stanislas, when reading the tales of Thousand and One Nights, christened the new cake the ALI-BABA. 

(CakeSpy Note: You know what that last part means? This is the place that invented the baba au rhum. Glorious!)

I know, magical, right? You're probably already enchanted, and you haven't even walked into the shop. Staggeringly, the shop itself is just as storied:

The shop is a historical monument in its facade and interiors. The murals illustrate the reputation of the house with a woman wearing and Babas Savarin, made on canvas and protected by glass. These designs were created in 1860 by the painter Paul Baudry, who also executed the decorations of the grand foyer of the Opera de Paris. 

and it is beautiful. It has such beautiful detailing that it is hard to believe it is not an outpost of the opulent Versailles palace.

So it has history, and it has a beautiful interior. But what about the goods?

Let me first say that trying to decide what to get at Stohrer is sort of like trying to decide on a favorite child or sibling. 

On previous visits, I've tried the religieuse and the tarte au chocolat. They were both exceptional.

But on this visit, when I saw the magazine article outside proclaiming that Stohrer was the home of some of the best eclairs in town, that sealed the deal. Bucking tradition slightly, I chose a cafe flavored variation rather than the classic chocolate (perhaps feeling homesick for Seattle?).

So, I don't want to sound overly dramatic, but this eclair was, in a word, exquisite. The perfectly piped pastry shell contained the most creamy coffee-toned pastry cream I'd ever encountered, and the icing on top was the perfect sweet complement to that coffee-rich, not too-sweet filling. "Perfect" may not be the final word, but it does come to mind.

Of course, you'd be remiss if you didn't explore some of their other offerings--perhaps the signature Baba au Rhum, a treat which "has survived the centuries without modification, it is still very popular in many countries. At Stohrer, you can find four versions: the classic Baba Rhum; the Ali-Baba, which has pastry cream and raisins; the Baba Chantilly, sometimes served with red fruit; and the Saffron Ali Baba, original saffron, made to order for the holidays? Or perhaps the over-the top cake version of the religiuse, the Religiuse a L'ancienne, another traditional recipe, as it was made in the 19th century, a cake made of coffee and chocolate and topped with two balls of choux pastry which are said to be where the pastry takes its name, resembling a nun's habit.

But no matter what you choose, making Stohrer a stop on your Parisian adventure is absolutely as vital as visiting the Louvre or the Notre Dame!

Patisserie Stohrer, 51, rue Montorgueil, Paris 75002; online at

Haute Chocolate: L'Africain at Cafe Angelina, Paris

Confession: I almost skipped the famous hot chocolate at Cafe Angelina in Paris.

After all, it's already famous--why does it need any more attention?

But then, when my crew of Cake Gumshoes found ourselves in the Grand Epicerie, we saw bottles of their hot chocolate for sale, and I was able to see that this drinking chocolate, when sold chilled, was not so much a liquid but more of a thick chocolate sludge--when the bottle was turned upside down, the chocolate didn't budge at all. 

And in an instant, the previous indifference was thrown out the window in favor of a sort of "get in my belly" approach.

And the next day, bright and early, we hit up the famous cafe on the Rue Rivoli in the shadow of the Louvre.

Cafe Angelina, which was founded in 1903, is a pretty fancy place, with a lovely front counter full of sweet treats, behind which lies a beautifully appointed tearoom.

You can ponder the beverage menu if you must, but really, you should just go ahead and order the hot chocolate--if you're confident in your French abilities, go ahead and call it out by name, "L'Africain".

When your hot chocolate is served, it will be in a pretty little pitcher, with a saucer of whipped cream on the side. You might think the cream on top is overkill, but I assure you, it's not. Add a healthy dollop.

Our group was in unanimous agreement: this hot chocolate is like a one-way ticket to Pleasuretown. Its flavor is deep, dark, rich, and unbelievably luxuriant--you may just find yourself looking back on all the times you settled for Swiss Miss and heaving a great sigh of regret.

Of course, all this epic hot chocolate drinking can work up an appetite, so you might desire something to go along with it--may I suggest the gorgeous Saint-Honore pastry? We went for it, and didn't regret it for an instant.

Now, this legendary chocolat chaud doesn't come cheap--it's 6.90 a pop, and the St. Honore weighed in at about 8--euros, not dollars (ouch). But partaking in such a timeless and thoroughly enjoyable culinary experience? Worth every centime, in this humble spy's opinion.

Cafe Angelina, 226 Rue de Rivoli, Paris; for other locations and more information, click here.

Thou Tart in Heaven: A Totally Sweet Tarte au Chocolat from Eric Kayser, Paris

It's true, that at its core, the Tarte au Chocolat is basically a perfect food. There is no part of its construction--usually a shortcrust pastry filled with rich, luxuriant ganache filling--that is not delicious.

But in the elite ranks of the tarte au chocolat, some do rise above others.

Case in point: this version, topped with candied hazelnuts, from Eric Kayser.

Now, I had headed to Kayser intent on trying the Tigrés (Tiger Tea Cakes) as featured in Dorie Greenspan's book Paris Sweets (which, by the way, if you don't own, I have to say "You've got to be kidding me". Buy it now). But when I got to the bakery, I couldn't seem to drag myself away from the vision of these little chocolate tarts, served in sweet little squares topped with a disc of white chocolate and some candied hazelnuts.

They may not be the Tigrés, but they are tiger-approved:

And they're CakeSpy approved, too. These tarts are made of magic, starting with a rich and lightly crumbly crust which is brilliantly held together by the sturdy block of ganache which mind-bendingly deep, dark, and mouth-coatingly rich.

And delightfully, the garnish--a white chocolate disc and candied hazelnuts--are not merely for looks, but they actually add thoughtful bits of flavor. The hazelnuts add a nice light crunch, and an interesting flavor shot that is simultaneously sweet and savory; the white chocolate is, well, sweet, which is actually quite when nice paired with the rich, slightly bittersweet chocolate flavor.

Of course, if there is one warning that I should offer before you seek out this tart, it is that you will want to devote several minutes solely to the eating of this treat: it is one that you will want to pause and savor until each bite of chocolate has melted away.

Eric Kayser sweets can be found in Paris (several locations) as well as in Greece, Japan, Russia, Taiwan, Dubai and more locations; find out where at If you want to create this brand of magic at home, you may also be interested in some of his books, including Eric Kayser's Sweet and Savory Tarts.

Coup de Coeur: Sweet Treats from Pain de Sucre, Paris

I don't know about you, but I think "Quatre Quarts" has a much nicer ring to it than "Pound Cake". After all, "pound" makes me think of jailed puppies, being punched, and chugging beverages in a most unappealing way, where "Quatre quarts" sounds...well, French.

Ramon loves French pound cakeIt's actually the place from which we take our "pound cake" too--the Quatre-Quarts refers to the amount of ingredients involved in making a Frenchie pound cake. 

But let's not linger on that right now: let's talk about the lovely heart-shaped raspberry flavored one I tried in Paris, at the super-cute patisserie Pain de Sucre.

Why is it a winner? Well, for one thing, it's heart shaped and a rather appealing shade of rich, visceral red.

And when you bite into it, you'll find it hard to imagine a more luxuriant, buttery, berry-infused cake. It's so dense, it will leave a slick of sweetness in your mouth. That's how you know it's good: the taste lingers so you have many moments to savor and ponder how delicious it is.

Of course, you'd be remiss not to try some of the other treats at the shop, ranging from homemade marshmallows to confections of all sorts, to a splendid array of viennoiserie:

and even baguette-shaped macarons(!)

We just happened upon this place by walking by, but I would firmly suggest seeking it out if you find yourself in the City of Lights. Or, even better, I suggest that you book a flight and get over there right now.

Pain de Sucre, 14, rue Rambuteau, Paris 03; online at

Bonjour, Delicious: The Praluline from Pralus, Paris

While walking around Paris, pretty much everything you see in shop windows is alluring.

But even amidst all of the beautiful objets d'art and tempting pastries showcased at the street level, there is still something that will stop you in your tracks: the Praluline at Auguste Pralus's shop, a signature brioche which is "Often imitated, but never matched!". 

Curious about this unusual-looking treat, I did a little sleuthing. Turns out it has a rather storied past:

One lovely morning Auguste Pralus places a brioche with pralines in his showcase. Since that special day in 1955, the Praluline has never lost its premier position in each of the showcases in the Pralus pastry shops. 

A rich brioche flavored with pieces of pralines made in-house: Valencia almonds and Piedmont hazelnuts coated in rose sugar and then cracked. The addition of these rosy nut bits adding a unique flavor and texture to make the creation so special!

The Praluline is regularly sent to enthusiasts over the world (USA, Japan, Sweden...) This star of the Maison Pralus has also become a culinary ambassador for the region of Roanne. “marvelous buttery brioche filled with rose pralines” according to the tasty definition of Gille Pudlowski, the Praluline has traversed its local borders to become the uncontested star in all of the Pralus shops (Paris, Annecy, Charlieu…)

and of course, if you're not sold on it yet, the legacy continues, per their website:

For its 50th anniversary, the Praluline is accompanied by a little “sister”: the Pralusienne. Cousin of the Tropezienne which celebrated its half century also in 2005, the Pralusiennne presents a tasty partnership of the Praluline and a delicious crème mousseline with Madagascar Vanilla.

Now, after coming across the Praluline, I did start to see variations on the rose-sugar-praline theme in a lot of patisseries, and I can tell you firsthand that it is a very good combination. 

Want to get your hands on one? I hear a rumor that they'll ship worldwide upon request; it undoubtedly won't be cheap, but you can find out more by contacting them

Or, if you're lucky enough to be in Paris, hit up one of their shops; locations can be found here.

Sweet Liaisons at Maison Berthillon, Paris

So, in Paris there is this famous old ice cream shop called Berthillon on the Rue Saint Louise en L'ile, which, if you've never been there, is pretty much center-city and just about the Frenchiest little street you'll ever walk down. 

This place is hardly a secret--it's mentioned in all manner of guidebook and website--but that's ok, because awesome like this needs to be shared with the world.

Oh, Berthillon. 

On Dorie Greenspan's list of "The Paris Ten: Must-Tastes", she says

I know ice cream isn't the first food that jumps to mind when you think of Paris, but it would be a true pity if you went all the way to Paris and missed a scoop from Berthillon (31 rue Saint-Louis-en-l'Ile, Paris 4).  No one knows how Berthillon does it (and they're not telling), but they make ice cream with the deepest, truest flavors ever churned.  Getting ice cream from the shop is a pleasure - when the shop is open: for reasons unfathomable, Berthillon closes in August, the peak of ice-cream season.  Luckily, many shops sell Berthillon and they're so proud to do so that they post signs on their doors saying it's their scoop of choice.

And after having visited, it's a delight to say that they're not just coasting on their reputation: they get the job (that being making ice cream) done, and they get it done right. The ice creams are unbelievably creamy, and full of rich, deep flavor that is assertively, but not excessively, sweet. The attention to detail is phenomenal--the salted caramel ice cream is flecked with red sea salt; the pistachio is redolent with a rich nuttiness, and studded with actual pistachios; the coconut is an absolute knockout of rich creaminess. The cones even taste good! 

The ice cream may have been cold, but it certainly warmed this spy team's hearts and appetites.

Berthillon, 31 Rue Saint-Louis en l'Ile, 75004 Paris, France; online at

Shockingly Delicious: Legay Choc, Paris

So, CakeSpy and Company (myself, Mr. Spy, and friends Nicole and Ramon) just packed up and went to Paris for a week (It's OK to be jealous. I would be if the roles were reversed). We rented an apartment in the Marais, and upon meeting with the rental agent who gave us the keys and let us in, the first pressing question about the neighborhood was posed: "Quelle est la meilleur pâtisserie?"

Without skipping a beat, the response was "Legay Choc". Now, this kind of sounded like he was saying "the gay shock", but who am I to argue about a name when there is the promise of delicious pastry ahead?

And within five minutes, we were there. And Legay Choc, as it turned out, was tiny and adorable.

What did we get? So glad you asked.

A croissant, which was buttery, flaky, and tasted just how a croissant should;

a light and fluffy sweet demi baguette of briochelike dough studded with dark chocolate bits;

but the winner of the pastry round? Sans doute, the Roulé Cannelle (it translates to "cinnamon roll". I looked it up). It looks like a palmier, but it is really so much more. The pastry dough is coated in a sweet mixture of caramelized butter, sugar and cinnamon which gives it a tantalizing taste and crunch; it is harmoniously matched by a smattering of raisins which add little bursts of sweetness and soft texture to the mix. 

And as a side note, the employee  was extremely cute and nice--he somehow managed to not wince at my rusty gallic-speak, even when I accidentally pronounced "cannelle" as "canelé", which any French person can tell you is a different thing entirely.

Legay Choc gets a thumbs up, way haute.

Legay Choc, 17, Rue Des Archives, Paris 04; online at

Sweet Harmony: Opera Cake From Dalloyau, Paris

Dalloyau in Paris is renowned for their Gateau Opera, and I'm here to tell you why.

But before I do that, how about a little backstory on the baker behind the cake?

Dalloyau was founded in 1802 by Jean-Baptiste Dalloyau. He was no stranger to fancy food--both his father and grandfather had worked in royal kitchens. However, he was a visionary in that he was able to forecast that with the revolution coming and the end of court life, there would be a rising interest in food from the middle and upper classes--and he was there to feed them, with his concept of a "maison de gastronomie" which specialized in takeaway dishes that could be prepared by cooks.

Well, the concept certainly took off, and Dalloyau began to create quite a nice niche for itself. And pastry and sweets were a big part of it--according to the Dalloyau website, in 1883, founder Jean-Baptiste's great grandson, Achille Henri Dalloyau created the first modern ice cream store--and established the pastry union.

And as for the Opera cake? Well, according to an article in Advanced Bread and Pastry by Michel Suas,

The elegant opera cake premiered as the Clichy, introduced by Louis Clichy, with his name written across the top, at the 1903 Exposition Culinaire in Paris. Years later, the renowned Parisian patisserie Dalloyau reintroduced and popularized it as L'Opera. This classic gateau is composed of exquisitely thin layers of biscuit viennois soaked in coffee syrup and then layered with coffee-flavored buttercream and bittersweet chocolate ganache. The top of the cake is iced with a very thin chocolate glaze, creating a pleasantly firm texture. This cake is traditionally square or rectangular with the sides of the cake exposed to reveal its tempting layers.

And Dalloyau's storied version is very, very good. The rich coffee flavor infuses every bite, adding a deep, dark layer of flavor to every other piece of it: the biscuit, the chocolate, and the rich, smooth buttercream. Not to get too poetic about it, but this is sort of the kind of dessert that makes you want to close your eyes and say "mmmm" for a very long moment.

Today, Dalloyau today is comprised of over 500 employees, counting amongst their ranks "97 cooks, 100 pastry cooks, chocolate makers, confectioners, 4 ice-cream makers and 4 bakers"--all the better to make more Gateau Opera to share with the world.

Gateau Opera from Dalloyau, available at Dalloyau boutiques and cafes; for more information, visit

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Patisseries I'll Be Visiting in Paris

Guess what? I'm in Paris right now. And to share a bit of the sweetness, here's just a baker's dozen (in no particular order) of the many sweet spots on my must-visit list in the City of Lights!

Laduree, because it's a magical place.

Pierre Herme, because he's kind of like a macaron rock star.

Patisserie des Reves, because Dorie Greenspan says it's great.

Synie's Cupcakes, because I'm curious to see the French take on the American trend.

Hotel du Cadran, because apparently they have a chocolate shop and great macarons on premises!

Dalloyau, because I hear this rumor that they have a killer Opera Cake.

Chistian Constant, because Clotilde Dusoulier says they have a "picture perfect cup of hot chocolate"

Baillardran, because a pastry shop in a train station is intriguing.

Lecureuil, because they are said to have "petits fours that seem right out of a children's book.

U Sputinu, because I'm into "produits tres bons Corses".

Berthillon, because visiting a famous glacier sounds pretty fantastic.

La Grande Epicerie, because I think I could spend many hours just wandering here.

Patisserie au Grand Richelieu, because it looks old and wonderful.

(P.S. Any suggestions? Leave 'em in the comments! I'm in Paris all week!)