Vandermeersch: King of the Paris Kouglof

kouglof

I was browsing through my archives this weekend and landed on a post that I wrote back in 2005, about Vandermeersch. The bakery is really out in the middle of nowhere and for most visitors and even local, whether you’re going by foot or even by métro. But I was looking at the pictures I’d taken back then, which didn’t do the kouglof justice, that I hadn’t been back there in a while and since I had friends in town, I figured there was no time like today.

When I arrived in the nondescript area just at the perimeter of Paris, my friends were a few minutes late and I noticed—then panicked—because there were only five large kouglofs left in the shop, and just a few individual ones. Certain they’d arrive just as the last ones were being bought up by someone less-worthy than me, I was a little rude and went ahead and bought two of the pastries, and stashed them in my bag.

mont blanc millefeuilles

My visitors arrived a bit later and they were lucky to get the very last one. (At least I didn’t buy them all—see? I’m not all that bad.) By the time we’d spent the afternoon in a café and I got home, it was late in the afternoon and we were meeting soon for dinner. But I decided it’d be fine just to lop off a slice from one of the yeasted cakes for myself, merely to taste it and see if it was as good as I remember.

There’s a school of thought that you shouldn’t use a lot of superlatives when describing food, so I’ll try to remain calm, but this is one of the all-time best things I’ve ever eaten, anywhere. The buttery yeasted cakes, have a slight bread-like texture and are soaked with a syrup that has a touch of orange flower water in it, so they’re nice and moist. The bundt-like cakes are rolled in grains of sugar which give them a sweet crackly-crunch. They’re sweet, but not at all overtly so, and every once in a while you get a moist nugget of raisin. You will not taste anything better in Paris.

kouglof kouglof

Still remaining calm, taking…deep…measured breaths, I won’t lie, but I will tell you that it took every bit of willpower not to eat the whole thing. It’s rich, but so good that I kept hacking off slices of the moist cake and shoving them in my mouth.

Les kouglofs are available is all sizes, but I’m the proud owner of two individual ones. (Er, one-and-one-quarter.) I was under the impression that Vandermeersch only makes kouglofs on the weekends, but after some discussion amongst the saleswomen, they came up with the answer that they also are available on Fridays as well. I can’t confirm that for sure, so I guess I’ll need to go back on Friday for myself, just to see.



Vandermeersch
278, avenue Daumesnil, (12th)
Métro: Porte Dorée
Tél: 01 43 47 21 66
Closed: Monday and Tuesday



Related Links and Recipes

Kugelhof Recipe

Paris Favorites

10 Insanely Delicious Things You Shouldn’t Miss in Paris

Paris Hot Chocolate Address Book



(Note: This is a complete update of a post, originally published in 2005.)

57 comments

  • I never had a Kouglof, but I think I will add that place to my list for my next Paris vacation!

  • We stayed opposite this bakery. It is so lovely and can get quite a line up on Sundays.
    mmmmmmm

  • this sounds nice… i’ll try Kouglof next time i drop by…

  • It looks so pretty; it sounds stupid, but I particularly like that they all leaned to the left…:)

  • Thanks for reposting…that place looks fantastic! I could happily live there!

  • The best kouglof (or kougelhopf) can always summon a good line of customers, I have noted. Was there some almonds on yours?

  • I had Kouglof when I was in Strasbourg recently but I recall it being a little disappointing–the one I had was pretty dry, which makes me want to go down to Porte Dorée and try these ones! It seems like such a good flavor combination I want to give it another shot!

  • They sound absolutely yummy, and I can’t wait to try one! Question: are they sold by weight? I’m trying to figure out what the different price tags are on the various kouglofs.

  • Hi David, these look amazing! Have you ever tried making them? Could you point me in the direction of a good recipe?

  • “one of the all-time best things I’ve ever eaten, anywhere.” wooh. and “You will not taste anything better in Paris.” ?! hitting ‘submit comment’, then going right to tgv.com – i think it’s about time i head back to paris, non ? [oui !!]

    i actually tasted vandermeersch’s kouglof, i believe it was when i was living in paris in ’99. i clearly need to remind myself how it tasted too… i’m a big fan of laduree’s mini kouglof, and recall that arnaud delmontel makes a pretty good one too. but by the sound of this post, they’ve both got some serious competition. thanks for this, and love the shots above david.

  • This is the most gorgeous boulangerie..
    I found it by accident and painted it a number of times without knowing it was Vandermeersh or getting a kougelof.
    What was I thinking?
    Must remedy this oversight toute a suite.
    Merci David
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/parisbreakfast/3953334834/
    My illustrations is missing the 7 in 278…

  • I’ve had a love affair with Vandermeersch since I first visited Paris, and stayed at a lovely little hotel across the street (a Franco-Californian enterprise). Every morning the hotel breakfast buffet offers up the fantastic croissants from Vandermeersch, and soon I began walking across the street at least every other day to sample other offerings, including the kouglof. While it’s out of the way, I continue to stay in the 12th every time I come to Paris, because it’s quiet, green, and it has Vandermeersch.

    And I agree that the orange flower water syrup and the sugary crunch of the outside crust are what really make this kouglof special. And it was a real trial trying to track down the orange flower water so that I could try to replicate the recipe back here in the states. Even here in DC, it necessitated visits to six different grocery and baking supply stores before I finally stumbled upon some at an Indian market. But it was very much worth the extra effort.

    BTW, I hear that Vandermeersch also has a fabulous Galette des Rois, but I’ve never been in Paris during Twelfth Night to give it a try.

  • Oooh.. I have searching for years for the perfect kugelhopf. So many times it looks good, but is dry and tasteless, even from highly exalted patisseries. I know where I’m heading next stop in Paris… Vandermeersch. Thanks for keeping my search alive, David.

  • The kugelopf’s look fairly innocent in the picture. It sounds like one of those ultra pleasant surprise treats where it completely blows away your expectations. Last week I had a similar experience with a cake.

  • Once again, you provide the perfect destination — what more could motivate us to wander a new area of Paris if not one of the most delicious-sounding baked items ever! We will be in Paris again next spring, and will add this bakery to other spots we visit, thanks to you — le Nimrod, l’as du Falafel . . .

  • Have you walked the ‘Promenade plantee’ that takes you from Bastille almost to Porte Doree, via an old railway viaduct? It gives lovely views over the 12th, and is nicely away from the bustle of the main tourist sites. And a long walk is made better by the promise of something sweet at the end!

  • I have to say that of all the things in a pastry shop window, the kugel-thing is the least appealing to me. It looks like a steamed pudding type of dessert from Britian with a soggy middle and stale outside.

    But since you have never led me down the wrong path…and you say this is the best thing you can eat in Paris….. I am going to try one…and will get back to you :)

  • If you’re a kouglof fan, you need to get to the eastern part of Lorraine and Alsace! Where half of my family lives, in the Vosges, we get a delicious kouglof from a local bakery. It’s not overtly sweet, which makes it great with a cup of tea in the afternoon or even for breakfast. My aunt makes a great homemade version, in which the taste of yeast is much more present, which gives it an interesting depth, too. I’m a true lover of all things kouglof–looking forward to trying this one out!

  • That Kouglof looks scrumptious indeed!

  • The things that must make this kouglof special must be the orange flower water and the sugar. I have looked at recipes for it and all use powdered sugar for dusting. Only one suggested orange water as something you could add but said nothing about it being a syrup. I will taste this some day …

  • You (and my husbands family) got my interest in European pastries going and I’ve learned to enjoy the texture and less sweet (on the inside) cakes and breads. I’ve made several European pastries and have noted that the pastry/cake/bread may be less sweet on the inside, but they aren’t less sweet (or rich) when you consider the exterior treatment. Many are baked or doused on the outside with syrups or sugar or honey coatings that add the sweetness that the interior is spared. I finally quit trying to compare them to the Americanized versions of them. I think it’s true of any culture, that most flavor/sweetness/texture standards are set by what the majority of food you eat at home or where you are brought up. It doesn’t make one better or worse than the other, just different…and that’s okay! (Great!..Now I’m going to obsess over this one…the Kouign Amann wasn’t enough?)

  • I’ve never tried anything like this before! Oh, Paris, why must you be so much awesome than Canberra…

  • wow; a description of Gugelhopf-Heaven without a single exclamation mark… Only David can do that and get away with it too! :) Thank You – I had one the most delicious meals in Paris today, hidden away in a tiny little street, a few steps from Notre Dame – I thought I had died and awoke in Food Heaven… Chacun à son goût!

  • Do I see correctly? Each one of those little darlings are 16.03 euros?

  • The bakery name sounds Belgian or Dutch, and the pastry name resembles kugelhopf or gugelhupf. Is this the Euro bread? :)

    Kathleen

  • On one trip to Paris 25 years ago, I insisted on going into each and every Patisserie I passed, just to make certain I didn’t miss anything; much to the dismay of my companion who did not share my pastry passion. Over the years, though, he did share all of my baking endeavors and this recipe will simply add to reasons I make no apologies about my fetish. Glad to hear I am not the only one who thinks of every travel destination as an opportunity to sample the local cuisine!

    One question I have is whether you think using a simple bundt pan would yield adequate results?

  • How jealous I am not to live in a place that places such importance in their ‘patisserie’. Is this a Parisian tradition or is this pastry a tradition of another country?

  • Kugelhopf is one of my favorite breads, ever. I remember trying one at Pierre Herme last time I visited Paris but must must must make time to stop by Vandermeersch. Only I have a terrible sense of direction and Paris is so complicated. I’ll have to print out maps on my friend’s printers. It’s embarrassing but at least it’ll get me there.

  • These are so dear to me… growing up, my nana would collect their pans from all over the world… Although I’m not quite sure but originally, aren’t they German? I really do admire the molds. Although I love how my family makes them, but my most cherished bite was a (Kuglof) carrot cake from England.

  • Oh man, those look so delicious; I just want to take one and eat it all day. Here’s a tip for next time though: pick one up, cut a hole out of the bottom and eat that, then stick it back in the wrapping. That way, no one will ever know you’ve eaten it!

  • Janet & Polly: The prices of the kouglofs on the top of the post are larger ones, meant to feed several people & are priced by the kilo. The smaller, individual ones, are about €2.5 each. Which is a really good deal.

    Laura: Yes, they are famous for their Galette de Roi, which I haven’t tried. Because they’re way out in Porte Dorée, it’s not somewhere I go to often. But I should mark it in my calendar to go next January and try the King’s Cake.

  • I just have a question about receiving posts. I live in the same country as you, but seem to get my email subscription feeds a day or so after people in the States. Do they get sent out there first and then come to us on the way back? (Rather like the postman who lives next door to you but leaves your mailbox for the last, when he’s nearly home…..).

  • I live near Vandermeersch and you can’t go wrong with anything you get there. On Sunday mornings they always have a line out the door. A caution to visitors, they are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
    Other posters have mentioned the hotel across the street. My parents stayed there on a recent visit and it is indeed a very nice and reasonably priced establishment. It is the Hôtel de la Porte Dorée and I highly recommend it. It is part owned by an American so English is spoken and my parents were thrilled to find they had an ice machine. Plus as another poster has mentioned you get Vandermeersch pastries with your breakfast. Also, even though it is on the edge of the city, there is a metro station a few yards away.

  • A side note, if I may, for Kathleen. Yes, they are Euro Bread or more correctly Euro cake. The Gulhupf/Kouglof/Kugelhof/Tulband are all this distinctive shape and come in either a cake version or the yeasted cake version. The Romans had both, they made the egg-laden cake and this version. Which sounds sublime, orange flower water, yum. Everywhere they settled the forms have been found by archeaologists so the recipe and cake spread not just by Roman colonisation but also by trade.

    Vienna is very famous for the Guglhupf. Lots of very rich cake ones but also the more frugal yeasted version. My Sacher hotel cookbook says it symbolises affluence, so people like to eat it at New Year.

    Germany has them and Holland also had them but more baked for special occasions. When I grew up increasingly patissiers made both versions, but when my mother was young the patissier would make the cake one and the baker would make the yeasted one. That one was much less sweet.

    Back to Vienna, different princesses marrying French kings brought chefs and patissiers with them, but there also many bakers from Vienna came to Paris in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries. It was and is a great place to have a bakery. They brought recipes from Vienna like the croissant hence viennoiserie but of course lots of sophisticated French recipes then competed but the name viennoiserie stuck for rich pastries like the Danish ones.

  • That’s hilarious – I actually just looked over that previous post of yours about Vandermeersch and popped it on my to-do list so good to get an update. Will be cycling over that direction via Des Pains et Des Idées (I’m sure you have discovered their chaussons à la pomme by now) to get me some Kugelhof come Wednesday

  • I’ve never eaten kouglof but will make a point of visiting Vandermeersch on my next visit to Paris. Meanwhile, I’ll just have to try make my own.

  • We are going to need more than a week in Paris this Fall!

  • I devoured these when I was living in Paris – that dark golden colour and fluffy, yeasty innards were just too much for me to bear. I only realised recently what effort goes into making these… I was watching le kougelhopf de Christine Ferber the other day and those babies take hours and hours of nursing and exacting skill. All that hard work and there I was ignorantly shoveling them down. Tut tut.

  • My husband and I used to bake kugelhopf for our local farmer’s market, ours were a touch more dense because of the copious amounts of egg yolks but our trademark was the healthy dollop of caramel oozing inside. We kept the caramel rustic and grainy because the one time we tried a creamy version there were numerous grumblings in the camp so we switched back to a simple butter and brown sugar mix. I miss those frantic days of loading our car with tubs of baked goods with only a smidgen of room for the two of us and our baby. There is a French bakery now that make kugelhopfs but they so rarely make them that I’m “forced” to eat canelles. How can I possibly survive?

    Thank you for bringing those memories back, it really wasn’t that long ago but now that I’m more rested it does seem a little hazy.

  • I just baked a kouglof! (Or kugelhopf…or kugelhof…) Not nearly as yummy looking as these though… :)

  • Hello, David,

    I am wondering what time of the day (Paris time) your blog gets posted. I am signed up for email notification, but it’s arriving so late to my email that there are always 40 or so comments already there. I would like to get in on the blog earlier so as to maybe have a question or two answered before you get busy with your next great subject. (Exclamation point.)

  • Cyndy: Because of the nature of blogging, I don’t have a schedule. (This post was hammered out the moment I came home from the bakery!) Normally I post daytime, Paris time, and those who subscribe by RSS get it right away. I think Feedburner, which is the e-mail notification service from Google that I use, has a little more lag time.

  • I’ve never tried kouglofs but your words and pictures make these pretty little cakes sound like an ultimate must-try and I definitely look forward to doing so.

  • You have serious willpower. I would have eaten the entire thing. And part of the second one. It sounds so out of this world. If you or anyone else finds a recipe, I’m in trouble!!!

  • I have had the German version, Gugllhopf, a number of times–but not with syrup and definitely not with orange flower water. I would love it if you would reproduce the recipe–it sounds better than the ones I’ve had (which were good). I have a beautiful hand-painted Guglhopf mold I brought back and have never used and this would be a spectacular way to try it out. Actually, I think I’m inspired to work up my own version, based on your description. If I do and it’s worth sharing, I’ll let you know ;-)

  • I can hardly wait untill the end of march when I will take the Thalys from Amsterdam to Paris. Where I will stay is just one Metro stop away from Vandermeersch. Last time there were no kouglofs on the day I was there. This time I will make sure I’m going to miss them. Thanks for reminding and for all the great gourmet-tips in Paris!

  • Wow, that looks really good. I’m jealous.

    Nicole: looks like Clotide has a recipe up: http://chocolateandzucchini.com/archives/2009/03/kouglof_alsatian_brioche.php

  • Anyone know of a good recipe for these? I have a mini bundt pan and would love to make them.

  • Hi David,

    A few years ago, when my partner and I traveled from NYC to visit our cousins in Paris (some live in the 12th Arr), I took your 2005 article on Vandermeersch with me because I love cherries. We went there to get the Tarte Griotte that you had photographed. And it tasted even better than it looked in your photo. We also had a Kugloff from Patisserie Gerard Mulot in the 6th Arr. (which I try to go to every time we visit Paris). It was delicious. The next time we visit Paris, we will try to get the Kouglof at Vandermeersch. Thanks for bringing back great memories.

    Frank

  • That’s a brave statement – ‘you will not taste anything better in Paris’! I’ve never heard of these cakes but will certainly be on the look out for them when I’m next in Europe. Have you ever made your own Kouglof?

  • This photograph is so lovely I ran to my kitchen to make the recipe. Didn’t have lemon peel so used orange, which was fine with orange flower water glaze. Delicious! And it made our coffee this morning taste better than ever. The idea of adding crushed almonds to the glaze is brilliant.

  • They do sell kouglofs on Fridays, I confirm. I guess it’s just that they may sold out by the end of the afternoon already.
    Le Figaro also named Vandermeersch’s millefeuille one of the best in Paris, but I find it too soggy…
    By the way, David, I don’t know if you know one of my friend’s blog: raids-patisseries.blogspot.com
    I’m a regular contributor and “unofficial”-amateur photographer of the benchmarks.

  • I made a special trip to Vandermeersch in January 2010 to purchase one of their famous Three Kings Cake Galette des Rois and it was wonderful! My french friends said it was one of the best they ever had. The feves I got there too were charming and a purple crown too. -Also there was a large open market that day too. For years I had wanted to make this pilgrimage and it was a very special moment. LuLu

  • Oh man…delicious looking treats.

  • There is an amazing version of Gugelhupf made in the South-Carinthia part of Austria, where it’s called “Reindling”, but there are a few varieties. I prefer the version for special occasions (especially easter), folded with some walnut layers and raisins and then baked in a Gugelhupf mold… Apparently it’s eaten with horseradish and a special easter ham – sounds like a weird combination but tastes truly great.
    My relatives always buy this one, supposedly Schöffmann is the best Carinthian bakery to make this kind of reindling (they also ship to destinations outside of Austria! For the 1kg-Reindling it’s €13,10 + €9,50 shipping to outside of AT, pretty reasonable I think:)) http://tinyurl.com/63qb47r (I hope posting the link is okay!)

  • We stayed at the Hotel Porte Doree across the street last summer and, really, had no idea one of the most special patisseries in Paris was across the street. It has completely ruined croissants and pain au chocolat in NYC since. I dearly miss it. Absolutely recommended to anyone travelling to Paris.

  • what a delicious post, David! and so funny! :)