Few of the many visitors who come to the City of Lights, every year, know that in a charming pedestrian corner, at 51 rue Montorgueil, is located Stohrer, the oldest patisserie in Paris, founded in 1730. This wondrous and dazzling temple of sweets— a mandatory stop for gourmands—recently celebrated its 283rd anniversary.
Nicolas Stohrer, official baker of King Stanislaus of Poland, was its founder. The great Polish patissier settled in the Palace of Versailles after arriving with the bridal entourage that accompanied Princess Mary Leszczyńska for her marriage to King Louis XV.
Stohrer soon realized how much finesse there was behind the art of the French pastry chefs, and the huge variety of products in their recipe books, and decided to stay, in Paris, to learn the craft from them. He was quite successful with his creations for the court and managed to become the official baker of the king of France, Louis XV.
Years later he opened his own business called Stohrer, a thriving bakery, which still retains its prestige. For nearly three centuries, many remarkable bakers have worked there, faithfully following the hand written recipes left by Stohrer in his diary, which reads: “I Nicolas Stohrer, baker for the king (…) aim to bequeath to posterity everything my long life has taught me. Above all, I wish to convey my recipes, and my manual skills, from the meringue to the Ali-Baba, from the ‘Puits d’amour‘ to the Napoleon, without forgetting the old ways and everything that has given a great reputation to the Stohrer bakery.”
A visit to the bakery is already an incentive. The decor, perhaps a bit overdone, is reminiscent of the 19th century’s puppet theaters so popular in Europe, an idea integrated to the shop to attract children of noble families as well as the adults who accompanied them. Patisserie Stohrer was decorated by Paul Baudry, a prestigious artist who also worked in the decoration of the monumental building of the Paris Opera.
The Stohrer Patisserie is the birthplace of the most famous pastry in Paris: the Babà au rhum, which takes its name from a tale of the Arabian Nights. The light cake was originally soaked in a sweet wine from Málaga, which was later replaced by rum syrup. As they say, anyone who tastes this pastry falls in love with it for the rest of his or her life. Other famous confections served at Stohrer are the chocolate pyramids, chocolate éclairs, the tarte aux framboises and tarte aux pommes; and for chocolate lovers, the chocolate cookies with Madagascar vanilla covered with a cream of pure cocoa and black chocolate ganache. And of course, the famous Puits d’amour, small round cakes decorated with sugar and filled with caramelized cream or jam.
The Puits d’amour are Queen Elizabeth II’s favorite pastries. It is known that, during a visit to Paris in 2004, the monarch asked to go undercover to Patisserie Stohrer. Once there, without warning and to the astonishment of employees and patrons, she asked for her favorite treat in perfect French and enjoyed the legendary cakes in the atmosphere of the famous Parisian bakery, with a small entourage.
Her visit to the Patisserie Stohrer only lasted half an hour, but the news spread like wildfire and that afternoon all the Puits d’amour were sold. Photographs of that memorable day are still on display above the shelves where these cakes are honored among the many delightful creations served in Paris’s oldest patisserie. ■