Forget Cronuts. Bordeaux, France, mastered the art of frankenpastries way before frankenpastries were even cool. Yet unlike the Cronut, you’ve likely never heard of the canelé. This elusive confection wasn’t invented for hybrid’s sake, but imagine this: a rich, crackly crème brûlée cross-pollinated with springy sponge cake—scented with vanilla and rum to boot. Sound good? Oh, it is. So good, in fact, that Bordeaux created a confrérie—or brotherhood—of pâtissiers to protect the treat as its own. Yes, a pastry brotherhood. Canelés are worth protecting: Their crispy, caramelized skin encases a tender, custardy center that’s beyond comparison. Ready to get your hands on one? Read on for nine of the best places to find them stateside:
1. Dominique Ansel Bakery: New York, NY
Let’s face it: This pastry maestro can do no wrong. Skip the Cronut line and seek out the bakery’s ethereal canelés. Their thick crusts are exceptionally crispy, yielding to a perfumed vanilla center. Bonus: The shop bakes batches in staggered shifts, ensuring fresh canelés all day long.
2. Canelé by Céline: New York, NY
The first (and only) canelé bakery in New York, this place has your traditional variety down pat. With a crust that’s just-this-side-of-burnt and a deliciously eggy interior, it’s a canelé you’d be hard-pressed to find a way to improve upon. Go beyond vanilla and try any of their 12 sweet and savory flavors; truffle, Parmesan, and orange blossom are good places to start.
Photo from Gotham
Canelé-making is a true labor of love at this farm-to-table institution. Their dedication to quality is extreme: The kitchen makes just 12 of these time-intensive pastries per day. If you can get one, you’re in for a treat—their crusts rival those from native Bordeaux.
Photo and video from CHOW
4. St. Jack: Portland, OR
Exquisitely even caramelization shows off St. Jack’s flawless technique. These delicate pastries boast ultra-moist, vanilla-bean-speckled centers, and are a favorite of acclaimed Pastry Chef Alissa Rozos. So you know they’re done right.
Photo from Eater PDX
5. Bosie Tea Parlor: New York, NY
You’ll find a wealth of excellent French pastries at Bosie Tea Parlor, but don’t get distracted—their famous canelé is the star of the show. It’s a touch less sweet and more blistered than most, in a very, very good way.
Photo from Eater NY
6. Bad Wolf Coffee: Chicago, IL
Canelé proves that it’s the simplest things that are the most difficult to master. Bad Wolf café owner Jonathan Ory spent three years perfecting his canelé skills before selling the cakes on weekends from his quaint storefront. Since then, his dark and burnished masterpieces have been selling out by 10 a.m. sharp.
7. Runner & Stone: Brooklyn, NY
Looking for a reason to visit Gowanus, Brooklyn, on the weekends? No? Well now you have one. These suckers are available at Runner & Stone weekend mornings only. Don’t let their lackluster exterior fool you—these are the crunchiest canelés in town.
8. Market Day Canelé: Philadelphia, PA
To Gil Ortale, canelé is a poetic endeavor. Before opening Market Day Canelé, he explains, “I had never been a baker, I had never even heard of a canelé. But the mastery of this required passion, real technical skill, and also a sense of beauty.” The obsession has paid off: He sells more than 2,000 canelés a week to local farmers’ markets and coffee shops. His famously spongelike and orange-scented cakes can also be ordered online.
Photo from Philly Market Cafe
Freida Hirsch is a New York City–based food writer and blogger who has worked both at private events and in test kitchens. She thinks people who don’t eat breakfast are seriously deranged and hopes to own at least 16 cats in her lifetime. Follow her blog at Bitters & Batters.