Desserts and Pastries Every Pastry Chef Must Know.

While the scope of their craft is vast, and their creativity knows no bounds, there is a foundational repertoire of essential desserts and pastries that every pastry chef must master, as explored in this article.

Included are pastry doughs pastry chefs must know, along with a list of desserts predominantly made by pastry chefs.

Table of Contents:

Desserts and Pastries Every Pastry Chef Must Know.

Every pastry chef should have a diverse skill set and be able to make a wide range of desserts. Here are some of the essential desserts that every pastry chef should be able to create, from classic to contemporary creations:

Classic Tarts like Apple, Lemon or Chocolate.

Tarts are baked pastries with sweet or savoury fillings. Tarts like apple, lemon, chocolate, and fruit tarts are fundamental to pastry skills.

Apple tarts typically feature thinly sliced apples arranged in a buttery, flaky pastry crust. Lemon tarts are known for their tangy lemon curd filling, while chocolate tarts contain a rich chocolate ganache in a pastry shell.

Cakes like Sponge, Pound or Chiffon.

Pastry chefs should master various cake types, including sponge, pound, and chiffon cakes.

Sponge cakes are light and airy, made with whipped eggs, sugar, and flour. Pound cakes are dense and buttery, often with vanilla or lemon flavours. Chiffon cakes are light and moist, incorporating vegetable oil and whipped egg whites. Popular flavours include chocolate, vanilla, and red velvet.

Pound Cake

Pies like Apple, Cherry or Pecan.

Classic pies, like apple pie, cherry pie, and pecan pie, are staple desserts. They consist of a pastry crust and a fruit or nut filling.

Quiches also fall into the pastry chef’s repertoire. Quiches are savoury pies filled with ingredients like cheese, vegetables, and meats.

Custards-Based Treats Like Crème Brûlée, Flan, And Pots De Crème

Desserts like crème brûlée, flan, and pots de crème showcase a pastry chef’s proficiency with custard-based treats.

Crème brûlée, a rich and creamy custard with a caramelised sugar top. Flan, a Spanish custard with caramelised syrup, and pots de crème, small pots of dense custard typically flavoured with chocolate.

Cookies like Chocolate Chip, Oatmeal and Macorons.

Pastry chefs should be proficient in various cookies, such as chocolate chip cookies with soft centres and crispy edges, oatmeal cookies with rolled oats and raisins, classic shortbread, and delicate macarons, often filled with flavoured buttercream.

Eclairs and Cream Puffs Made from Choux Pastry.

These French pastries are made from choux pastry, resulting in hollow, crispy shells filled with various creams. Eclairs are elongated and glazed, while cream puffs are smaller and often dusted with powdered sugar.

Mousse Desserts like Chocolate and Fruit Mousse.

Mousse desserts involve whipping cream or egg whites into a light, airy texture. Pastry chefs should be able to make various mousse desserts, such as chocolate mousse, a decadent, silky chocolate dessert and fruit mousse, like raspberry or mango.

Tiramisu, an Italian Dessert.

This classic Italian dessert consists of layers of coffee-soaked ladyfingers and mascarpone cheese. It’s often dusted with cocoa powder and served chilled.



A traditional Sicilian dessert made from fried pastry shells filled with sweetened ricotta cheese often garnished with chocolate chips and candied fruit.

Bread Pudding.

It is a comforting dessert that combines stale bread, eggs, sugar, and milk. It’s often flavoured with spices, such as cinnamon and nutmeg, and can include dried fruits like raisins.

Tres Leches Cake.

A moist sponge cake soaked in a mixture of three types of milk (condensed milk, evaporated milk, and whole milk) and topped with whipped cream.

Panna Cotta.

An Italian dessert made from sweetened cream set with gelatin, creating a silky and smooth texture. It’s often flavoured with vanilla and served with fruit compote or caramel sauce.

Sorbet and Gelato Frozen Desserts.

Mastery of frozen desserts, including fruit sorbets and Italian-style gelato, is essential for a pastry chef.

Sorbet is a dairy-free, fruit-based frozen dessert with a refreshing, sorbet-like consistency. At the same time, gelato is an Italian-style ice cream with a lower fat content and a denser texture. Both come in various flavours.

Custard-Based Ice Cream.

Pastry chefs should know how to make rich, creamy ice cream using a custard base with egg yolks. Flavours can range from classic vanilla to unique creations.


A traditional pastry consisting of thin dough layers, often filled with fruits (like apples), nuts, and spices. It’s rolled and baked until crispy and golden, often served with a dusting of powdered sugar.

Apple Strudel

Soufflé: Chocolate or Cheese Soufflé.

A delicate and airy dessert, either sweet or savoury, made by folding beaten egg whites into a flavourful base. Popular versions include chocolate soufflé and cheese soufflé.

Pâte à Choux Used for Eclairs and Cream Puffs.

Pâte à choux is a versatile pastry dough used to make éclairs, cream puffs, and profiteroles. It puffs up dramatically in the oven and has a light, airy texture.

Proficiency in making pâte à choux is crucial for creating éclairs, cream puffs, and other pastries.

Opera Cake.

A layered French cake comprising almond sponge cake, coffee buttercream, and a chocolate ganache glaze. It’s known for its sophisticated appearance and flavours.


A Middle Eastern dessert made of layers of thin phyllo dough, filled with a mixture of chopped nuts and sweetened with honey or sugar syrup. It’s baked until golden and crispy.


Croissants are flaky and buttery pastries made from laminated dough. They require precise folding and rolling techniques to achieve their signature layers.

Making croissants and pastries requires mastery of laminated dough.



Cremeux is a creamy, silky custard used in various dessert applications, such as tarts or plated desserts.

Chocolate Truffles.

Crafting decadent chocolate truffles with various coatings and fillings is essential.

Chocolate truffles are small, decadent confections made by blending chocolate and cream, rolling the mixture into balls, and coating them with cocoa powder, nuts, or other toppings.

Chocolate Truffles


A French pastry comprising layers of puff pastry and pastry cream, often topped with a delicate glaze or icing and sometimes garnished with chocolate or fruit.

Dacquoise, a Nut Meringue-Based Dessert.

Dacquoise is a delicate French dessert made from almond or hazelnut meringue layers and flavoured whipped cream or buttercream. It has a light, crispy texture and is often garnished with nuts or chocolate.


Small, round choux pastry puffs filled with cream, often served with a drizzle of chocolate sauce or other sweet toppings.

Petits Fours Déguisés:

Petits fours déguisés, or “disguised” petit fours, are bite-sized, decorative pastries often adorned with intricate icing or glazes. They are served as elegant confections, especially during special occasions.

24 Easy Desserts That Pastry Chefs Should Know.

Even though pastry chefs are known for creating intricate and elaborate desserts, they should also understand easy and simple desserts well. These are often the foundation of pastry skills and can be served in various settings.

Here are some easy desserts that pastry chefs should know, arranged from the easiest to slightly more challenging based on the complexity of the recipes and techniques.


1. Fruit Salad: A simple mixture of fresh fruits with creative dressings.

2. Chocolate Dipped Strawberries: Fresh strawberries dipped in melted chocolate for an elegant treat.

3. Mug Cakes: Single-serving desserts that can be customised with various flavours and add-ins.

4. Parfaits: Layered desserts with yoghurt or cream, granola, and fresh fruit.

5. Fruit Sorbet: A homemade frozen dessert made from fruit puree, sugar, and lemon juice.

5. No-Bake Cheesecake: A simplified version of cheesecake made with cream cheese, sugar, and flavourings.

6. Cobbler: Desserts featuring fruit filling with a biscuit or crumbly topping.

7. Cupcakes: Versatile individual cakes that can be customised with various flavours and decorations.


8. Chocolate Chip Cookies: Classic and universally loved cookies with many variations.

Moderate Difficulty:

9. Tiramisu: Layered dessert featuring coffee-soaked ladyfingers and mascarpone cheese.

10. Crepes: Thin and delicate pancakes filled with various sweet or savoury fillings.

11. Mousse: A basic mousse, such as chocolate mousse, is elegant yet straightforward.

Chocolate Mousse

12. Fruit Crisp: A dessert featuring fresh fruit with an oat, butter, and sugar topping.

13. Bread Pudding: A comforting dessert made from bread, eggs, milk, sugar, and flavourings.

14. Fruit Tarts: Basic fruit tarts with pastry cream and fresh fruit are presented in various ways.

15. Gelato: A smoother, denser version of ice cream with a wide range of flavours.

16. Pound Cake: A buttery, dense cake that serves as a versatile canvas for different flavours and toppings.

Intermediate Difficulty:

17. Rice Pudding: A comforting dessert made from rice, milk, sugar, and vanilla, with room for experimentation in flavourings and garnishes.

18. Panna Cotta: Italian dessert made from cream, sugar, and gelatin, often topped with fruit coulis or caramel sauce.

19. Apple Pie: A classic American dessert featuring a pastry crust and spiced apple filling.

20. Fruit Pies: Varieties like cherry, blueberry, or peach pie with a flaky crust and fruit filling.

21. Crème Brûlée: A custard dessert topped with caramelised sugar that requires precision with a kitchen torch.

Crème Brûlée

Slightly More Challenging:

22. Trifle: Layered dessert made with cake, fruit, and whipped cream, often in a glass container.

23. Chocolate Cake: Moist and flavourful chocolate cake can be challenging, especially when paired with frosting and decorations.

15 Essential Pastry Doughs Every Pastry Chef Must Know.

Pastry chefs should be well-versed in various types of dough, as they serve as the foundation for a wide range of desserts and pastries. Here are 15 essential pastry doughs that every pastry chef should know:

1. Puff Pastry (Pâte Feuilletée): Known for its flaky and buttery layers, puff pastry is used in croissants, palmiers, and savoury and sweet pastries.

2. Shortcrust Pastry (Pâte Brisée): A versatile pastry dough for pie crusts, quiches, and savoury and sweet tarts.

3. Sweet Shortcrust Pastry (Pâte Sucrée): A sweetened version of shortcrust pastry often used for dessert tarts and tartlets.

4. Choux Pastry (Pâte à Choux): This dough forms the basis for cream puffs, éclairs, and savoury items like gougeres.

5. Danish Pastry Dough: Used for creating various Danish pastries, including bear claws, pinwheels, and Danishes.

6. Brioche Dough: A rich buttery dough for brioche bread and sweet brioche pastries.

7. Phyllo Dough: Thin and delicate layers of dough used in dishes like baklava and spanakopita.

8. Sablé Dough: A sweet dough often used for cookies, tart crusts, and dessert applications.

9. Millefeuille Dough: This is a variation of puff pastry used in creating layered pastries like Napoleon or Mille-Feuille.

10. Shortbread Dough: A simple, crumbly, buttery dough used for cookies, bars, and the base of some tarts.

11. Graham Cracker Crust: A popular crust for cheesecakes and pie fillings that uses graham cracker crumbs mixed with butter and sugar.

12. Filo Dough: Similar to phyllo dough but slightly thicker, filo dough is used for layered pastries and dishes.

13. Cornmeal Pastry Dough: A dough that incorporates cornmeal, often used in rustic tarts and pies.

14. Sourdough starter: A natural yeast used to leaven bread and other pastries.

15. Gluten-free pastry dough: A pastry dough made without gluten, often using alternative flour like almond or rice flour.

Desserts That Are Often Associated with Pastry Chefs.

What desserts can only pastry chefs make? While skilled home bakers can make many desserts, pastry chefs are trained and experienced in creating more intricate, specialised desserts that may require advanced techniques and equipment that make it easier to consistently create these complex and artistic desserts.

Here are some desserts that are often associated with pastry chefs due to their complexity or artistic nature:

Croquembouche: A towering cone-shaped dessert made of cream puffs held together with caramelised sugar, often served at weddings and special occasions.

Mille-Feuille: A multi-layered pastry made of delicate, flaky puff pastry and pastry cream, typically garnished with a glaze or icing.

Sugar Sculptures: Pastry chefs can create intricate sculptures and showpieces using sugar, often displayed as centrepieces for events or competitions.

Entremets: Elaborate layered desserts with various components like cake, mousse, and fruit, beautifully assembled and often featuring mirror glazes or intricate decorations.

Macarons: While home bakers can make macarons, achieving perfect consistency and texture in these delicate French almond meringue cookies is an art mastered by pastry chefs.

Caramel Work: Creating decorative sugar or caramel decorations, such as spun sugar, sugar cages, or sugar flowers, requires advanced skills and a steady hand.

Decorative Sugar Flowers.

Petits Fours: These bite-sized, intricate pastries, including mini cakes, tarts, and eclairs, are known for their detailed decoration and presentation.

Chocolate Sculptures: Pastry chefs can craft intricate sculptures and designs from chocolate, such as showpiece centrepieces or hand-painted chocolate truffles.

Filo Dough Pastries: Working with filo (phyllo) dough to create pastries like baklava or complex multi-layered desserts demands precision and skill.

Mirror Glaze Cakes: Achieving mirror glaze cakes’ smooth and reflective finish requires expertise in working with gelatin-based glazes.

Gâteau St. Honoré: A classic French dessert consisting of a puff pastry base topped with cream puffs filled with cream and often adorned with caramel.

Cannoli Shells from Scratch: While cannoli can be filled at home, making delicate, crispy cannoli shells from scratch is a specialised skill.

Complex Plated Desserts: High-end restaurants and patisseries often serve beautifully plated desserts with intricate elements, such as chocolate decorations, edible flowers, and delicate garnishes.

Opera Cake: This multi-layered French cake, consisting of almond sponge cake, coffee buttercream, and chocolate ganache, demands precise layering and decorating.

Opera Cake

Bombe Alaska: A dessert featuring a layer of cake or sponge, an ice cream centre, and a layer of meringue, which is torched to a golden brown finish.

Baked Alaska: Similar to Bombe Alaska, but baked to brown the meringue in the oven.

Complex Frozen Desserts: Advanced ice cream creations, such as parfait, terrine, and semifreddo, require specialised knowledge and equipment.Molecular gastronomy desserts: These desserts involve using scientific techniques like spherification and foaming to create unique textures and flavours. They require a deep understanding of food science and chemistry.

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