Brief History of Cannelés – & Some of the Best in Bordeaux

Last Updated on May 31, 2023

French cannelés, also spelled “canelés”, have a delightfully caramelized, crunchy exterior.

When visiting Bordeaux, Saint-Émilion and the surrounding region in southwestern France, you’ll likely see shop windows lined with little cakes shaped like large gumdrops or striated cylinders, boasting a deep caramel hue and pleasing sheen. They’re called cannelés (often also spelled canelés in French), and their history is both interesting and fortuitous.

Originating in the Bordeaux and Aquitaine region, cannelés are an important staple in the culinary traditions of the area. The custard-based pastry is baked in fluted copper molds and made with egg yolks, sugar, milk, flour, butter, and, traditionally, hints of vanilla and rum. The exterior is crusty and chewy, while the interior is soft and tender.

What’s the History?

Some say cannelés were invented by nuns at the Couvent des Annonciades, a convent outside Bordeaux, sometime between the 15th to 18th century, according to diverging accounts. This popular origin story has it that the nuns fabricated sweet custard cakes then called “canelas” ou “canelons“, by mixing egg yolks with local flours, rolling them on long sticks (cannes) then frying them in lard. But many food historians say the story can’t be confirmed.

{Related: The Curious, Disputed History of the French Macaron}

Others have it that cannelés were invented because winemakers had too many leftover egg yolks on their hands. The traditional process of making wine requires a clarifying step called collage, whereby egg whites are used to filter out impurities that float to the surface and can then be siphoned off the top.

According to this story, cannelés were thus the fortuitous product of leftover and unused egg yolks. Some say the aforementioned nuns procured the leftover yolks from local vintners, et voilà! But again, myth and facts commingle when it comes to the birth of this humble pastry, and can’t really be separated out.

{Related: The Best Places for Wine-Tasting in Bordeaux}

French cannelés, Roboppy/CC 2.5 license
French cannelés or canelés/Image by Roboppy/CC 2.5 license

Finally, there’s also a probable colonial aspect to the history: since cannelés are typically infused with rum and vanilla, two ingredients produced in the Caribbean Antilles (and through the violent enslavement of people there), one might argue that the pastry is part of the dark colonial legacy of France, alongside coffee, cane sugar and pastries like the rum baba.

In 1985, an association called the Conférie du Canelé de Bordeaux was created to officialize and regulate production of the pastry. The second “n” was removed from its historic name, making “canelé” the official spelling to distinguish the Bordeaux version from ones elsewhere, such as in Limoges where they were also known to be made, historically.

By the mid-1990s, there were some 800 manufacturers of canelés operating in the Aquitaine region of France, and 600 in the nearby Gironde region. While it has nowhere near the name-recognition of French pastries like croissants or eclairs, cannelés/canelés have become emblematic of Bordeaux, and are made in bakeries across France and the world.

Shopping & Tasting: Some of the Best Cannelés (or Canelés) in Bordeaux

Baillardran canelés are among the most famous in Bordeaux.

Traditionally peddled in bunches of 8 or 16, cannelés can be found across Bordeaux and the Aquitaine region, and are also sold at many bakeries around France. Here are a few places to beeline to, noted for baking some of the best in the city and region.


Baillardran in Bordeaux, France, baker of traditional canelés or cannelés

Baillardran is reputed as one of the best places in the Nouvelle Aquitaine capital to taste a classic version of the canelé de Bordeaux, and has several locations around the center.

You can choose between canelés baked to the classic recipe with rum and vanilla; these come in three sizes to suit any occasion or appetite, or opt for a “pur vanille” version that leaves out the rum and amps up the vanilla.

Baillardran canelés are, in my experience, especially delicious for their crunchy, deeply caramel exterior and moist custard interiors. They’re perfectly accompanied by a strong espresso or cup of tea (Earl Grey, with its notes of bergamot, is a lovely complement).

The flagship boutique on the bustling Rue Sainte-Catherine in central Bordeaux is teeming with tourists and locals, and you can expect lines on busier days. I recommend either getting a few canelés to go and devouring them with tea or coffee back at your hotel, or sitting in at the shop, especially on a rainy or cold day.

Location & Getting There
  • Address (Flagship boutique:) 10 rue Porte Dijeaux Angle, Promenade Sainte Catherine, 33000 Bordeaux
  • Tel: +33 (0)5 56 44 70 49
  • Visit the official website

La Toque Cuivrée

This Bordeaux-based bakery has several locations around the city, as well as outposts in Paris and elsewhere in France. First opened in 1980, the specialist bakery is known for both its excellent cannelés in several flavors and formats, and for treats such as salted butter caramels, sweet tarts and jams.

Head to shops on the Rue Sainte-Catherine or the Porte Dijeaux for the full selection of cannelés and other items. Food critics often note that Baillardran and La Toque Cuivrée stand in tense competition with one another for the title of “best canelé in Bordeaux”.

Some say they prefer the stronger vanilla note in those made by La Toque Cuivrée, while others say Bailladran’s thinner, crunchier crust is more successful at bringing out the delicate custard textures and flavors of the interior.

The only solution? Try both and make your own judgement!

Location & Getting There

Cassonade Canelés et Spécialités

For vegans eager to try the emblematic Bordelais pastry, you’re in luck: this independently owned bakery specializes in a variety of cannelés, including a dairy-free version.

In addition to classic cannelés in three sizes (similar to the formats offered by the other bakers mentioned above) Cassonade offers pure-vanilla specimens without a touch of rum, as well as an organic canelé and a sugar-free version.

Meanwhile, if you’re interested in bringing home a copper mold to try your hand at canelés in your own kitchen, Cassonade also sells molds in its shop on Rue Saint-James.

Location & Getting There

Where to Taste the Best Canelés in Paris?

Of course, not everyone can get to Bordeaux, but if you’re spending some time in Paris you may wish to taste a good cannelé or two as part of a self-guided, pastry-tasting tour of the capital. Or simply buy a few to taste with a good espresso in a café somewhere. Here are a couple of suggestions.

{Related: Our Picks For The Most Delicious Pastries in Paris}

La Toque Cuivrée

One of the emblematic Bordelais baker of canelés has, unsurprisingly, an outpost in Paris at the Montparnasse train station. If you happen to be exploring Montparnasse (see our full guide to the district here), consider stopping by the small boutique at the station.

Location & Getting There
  • Address: Gare Montparnasse (Hall 1-2), 11 Bd de Vaugirard, 15th arrondissement
  • Metro: Montparnasse-Bienvenüe
  • Visit the official website

Thierry Marx La Boulangerie

Celebrated French chef Thierry Marx recently opened a series of branded bakeries in Paris, and according to many his recipe for traditional canelés is superb. Visit the location in the 8th arrondissement, not far from the Gare Saint-Lazare, to test whether he deserves the accolades.

Location & Getting There

KL Patisserie

some of the best canelés in Paris

This independent patisserie helmed by pastry chef Kevin Lacote is a bit of trek from the Paris city center, nestled in the rather residential, upmarket 17th arrondissement. But it’s a worthy one, reportedly: cannelé fans (notice we aren’t using the “canelé” spelling because these aren’t made in Bordeaux) say Lacote’s version is sublime, full of deep caramel and subtle vanilla notes, and bearing a beautiful, glossy finish.

The other pastries at the boutique just north of the lush Parc Monceau in northwestern Paris also look more than tempting; consider picking up some and staging a Parisian-style picnic at the romantic-style park.

Location & Getting There
  • Address: 78 Av. de Villiers, 75017 Paris
  • Tel: +33 (0)1 45 71 64 84
  • Metro: Villiers

Like This? Pin & Share!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *