Gateaux, cakes and pies contain roughly similar ingredients such as flour, eggs, sugar and butter. However, a pie generally requires less flour. All this beauty is often layered. The pies are very European – the most famous of them is the Viennese Sachertorte.
Here is a list of some of the many delicious cakes available, and this list is by no means exhaustive. These are the cakes I usually see locally in Charente and at Nico’s bakery BSdoce in our neighboring town of Aigre, with many locals and people from further afield buying their fantastic cakes:
A puff pastry-based cake, covered with crème pâtissière and with a small choux ball filled with pastry cream and covered with caramel sugar on the entire outside of the cake. Considered the patron saint of French bakers.
An iced cake usually reserved for celebrations. It has layers of ice cream or sorbet, meringue and cream.
This is a stunning choux ball pyramid/cone cake reserved for weddings, christenings and special occasions. The small choux pastries are filled with cream or vanilla cream, stacked in a cone shape and glued with caster sugar.
This is a layered cake made with layers of almond or hazelnut meringue separated by whipped cream or ganache.
This is traditionally a layered cake with two layers of sponge cake and mousseline cream between them. Sliced strawberries and almond paste decorate the outside, and there are whole strawberries on top.
This is a choux pastry ring made in the shape of a bicycle wheel to commemorate the long-distance bicycle race from Paris to Brest. Inside, the choux pastry is filled with praline buttercream.
A thousand sheets
This cake includes layers of puff pastry separated by crème pâtissière and the final layer topped with icing, sugar or caramelized nuts. It is often seen replicated on an industrial scale in the UK, but none as good as the real thing.
This is a layered almond sponge cake soaked in coffee and filled with chocolate ganache. It is usually covered with chocolate icing.
Don’t miss out on a handmade macaron while you’re in France! Made with two sweet and crunchy meringues with a chewy almond cream in the center, they come in all kinds of flavors. Caramel, lemon, rose, pistachio, chocolate, strawberry, orange, lavender… and almost every flavor imaginable!
Designed in 1856 in a popular Café in Paris, it is made of two choux pastry spheres, one larger than the other with the smaller one placed on top. The choux is filled with pastry cream, both covered with icing and decorated with buttercream ruffles to look like a monk.
You probably already know this one! The éclair is a long choux pastry filled with cream and covered with topping – usually chocolate, coffee or pistachio. I never got used to it as in the UK, they are made with a light, white whipped cream filling. Here in France it’s predominantly a heavy chocolate, coffee or cream center, and it always surprises me!
Traditionally from the Lorraine region of France, they are small sponge cakes baked in the shape of a shell. Perfect for to test (snack time) or for breakfast!
These small (approximately 5 cm tall) rum and vanilla flavored cakes have a crispy outside and a softer inside. They are a regional specialty of Bordeaux.
Originally from Provence and friendly, this is a decadent sponge soaked in rum and topped with cream. It is sometimes sold with a small pipette of extra rum to squirt whenever you want!
There’s no soggy bottom to French lemon tarts—they have a crisp, crumbly pastry base with a tangy lemon curd filling and are sometimes topped with soft meringue.
As above, but filled with a rich dark chocolate cream. As with all French cuisine, the emphasis is on high-quality products, and the quality of the chocolate here is key. An absolute biscuit is sold at our local bakery in Gourville: The Crown of Yesterday. Our neighbor is practically addicted to these pies and I’m after him.
The humble pudding is a French staple. Made from shortcrust pastry with a heavy egg cream filling, they are very filling!
The French version of a donut! They are usually fried dough balls – sometimes with a jam filling. I haven’t discovered a cream filling here in Charente yet, but they are always rolled in sugar.
This cake is normally made with ‘ladies’ fingers’ cookies lining a cake pan and, in the center, a mousse filling with flavors of your choice. Strawberry Charlotte or Apple Charlotte, for example.
A crispy, crumbly pastry pie with sliced apples in a syrupy apple base. Simply delicious!