The History of French Desserts

Fruit or cheese were offered after the main course in 17th century France.

The word “dessert” comes from the French word “desservir” which means “to clear the table.” The word was first used during the 17th century to describe the offering of sweets (usually fruit or cheese) after the main course. Over time, the custom of eating dessert became more popular. The French developed a multitude of delightful pastries, cakes and confections that are still celebrated today.

1 Time Frame

The 17th century was the age of France's King Louis XIV.

The French perfected the craft of dessert making during the 17th and 18th centuries. Antonin Carême, considered the first “celebrity chef,” created elaborate dessert sculptures for royalty.

2 Features

Creme brulee is a well known French custard dessert.

French desserts are typically made from cream, custards and fruit. Often delicate and complex in nature, they take time to prepare.

3 Types

Chocolate mousse is another popular French dessert.

Popular French desserts include chocolate mousse, crème brulee and flaky Choux pastries such as profiteroles, éclairs and cruellers. Other specialties include tarts, cake-like cookie madeleines and crepes with sweet fillings.

4 Significance

tempting desserts in a Parisian bakery

French desserts are often regarded as the best pastries and confections in the world.

5 Famous Ties

The napoleon doesn't get its name from the emperor.

One of the most famous French desserts is the Napoleon which ironically has nothing to do with Napoleon Bonaparte. The name is actually a mistranslation of the French word "Napolitain” which places its origins in Naples, Italy.

Rachel Roberts Quartarone is an Atlanta-based freelance writer and museum consultant. For more than 10 years, she worked in the museum field writing for exhibits and developing programs on all manner of topics--from dinosaurs to chocolate. Roberts Quartarone continues to work with museums while also pursuing her love of journalistic writing. She holds a Bachelor's in history and a Master of Heritage Preservation degree.