My quest for the (almost) perfect cannelé

Ah! Les petits cannelés ... those lovely little delicacies!!! Born in Bordeaux, having spent a lot of holidays in the area, on the seaside and at my grandmother’s house near Libourne, those have nurtured, figuratively and literally, my gourmand imaginary universe… Le cannelé, I have always called it “petit cannelé” since my childhood, is a specialty from Bordeaux. To describe it rapidly, it is a bit like a melting-in-mouth vanilla/rum flavored custard inside, wrapped in a crispy caramelized envelop. This contrast of texture and those rich flavors are some of the reasons for its success, along with its particular shape of course.

Three years ago, as I was craving the cannelés of my childhood, I decided to make my own ones. I started with just silicone molds and an old non-performant electric oven... Reading many recipes and reports about the topic, investing in new bakeware (copper molds), new ingredients (beeswax) and new equipment (a gas oven), and testing new personal tricks, I progressively improve my technique. Here are the results of my quest for the best cannelé as possible. It is not over and there are still many aspects to improve, but I am really satisfied with the results obtained, visually and taste-wise, which would not mismatch in a pastry shop in Bordeaux...

Like often with iconic specialties, they are made of stories and legends, which are difficult to differentiate, and also include some marketing ingredients… Let’s deal with the marketing first, as it will solve a crucial problem: should we write cannelé with two “n’s” or canelé with one “n”? Originally and forever, it spells with two “n’s” for a very simple reason: “cannelé” means “splined” and is self-explanatory when you look at its shape. The story, or the legend, is that the first bakers who made cannelés used classical round molds. As they didn’t use yet beeswax to coat the molds and facilitate unmolding, they were said to hit the molds on their table edge, which ended up giving the cannelé its much recognizable splined shape. Subsidiarily, this shape increases its outside surface and contributes to enhance its crunchiness. Although you can find now, even in French, canelé written with one “n” only, this spelling was introduced recently, in the 1980’s, for pure marketing and branding reasons... For the same reason, marketing, there are now different sizes, but it was originally a small thing, 1 or 2 mouth bites only. To finish with the etymology and for the record, cannelé has nothing to do with cinnamon, “cannelle” in French, all the more so as there is absolutely no cinnamon in a cannelé.

Regarding the origin itself of this little cake, there are different versions. The first one would be that, something like in the 18th century, the nuns, from the Couvent des Annonciades located near the Garonne’s left bank, took the habit to collect the flour spilled during the unloading from the boats moored at the quays. They used it to make those little cakes, which they distributed to the poor people in their neighborhood. Another version, not contradictory from the first one, is that the local winemakers, in particular those from the Saint-Émilion area, used egg whites as finings for their wine, and either made cannelés with the yolks or were giving away (to the nuns?) the yolks…

The cannelé recipe calls for copper molds. I was able to take advantage of a really interesting promotional sales to get copper molds of a decent quality, but they remain expensive. The other possibility is to use silicone molds, much more affordable than the copper molds. In a nutshell, you can offer yourself 16 silicone molds for the price of 1 copper mold made by the French company Mauviel, the Rolls Royce of molds and pans! It is undoubtedly better with a copper mold, in particular in terms of color consistency and of crispiness, thanks to the much higher copper conductivity. I made my first cannelés with silicone molds, before switching to copper. I present below the method I have progressively developed for both materials after at least 25 positive but also negative tries during the last 2 years, obviously based on the mainstream methods, but with a few personal twists that I have no seen anywhere.

To enjoy… with a slightly oaky/butterscotch Chardonnay or with a shot of aged rum.

Levels of difficulty

30 minutes
12/24 hours
65/80 minutes

Ingredients ~20 cannelés

§  0.5 liter of whole milk
§  50 grams of (room temperature) salted butter
§  125g of AP flour
§  250g of caster can sugar
§  2 normal size eggs + 2 yolks (NB: some recipes call for egg yolks only. I used both methods without observing a real difference. Just follow my tip in the instructions regarding the egg whites)
§  1 shot of aged agricole rum (from the French Caribbean, but dark Mount Gay rum from Barbados, or even a good Bourbon will do the job)
§  1 vanilla bean (or the equivalent in vanilla extract)
§  Mold coating:
o   Copper: 1 tsp. of butter + 20 g of beeswax (i.e. ~2 tbsp. of melted beeswax)
o   Silicone:  1 tsp. of butter + 2 tbsp. of heated up honey
§  Start to warm up the milk and the butter, scratch the seeds from the vanilla beans and put them in the milk, with the empty beans, stir up regularly till the butter is melted and the milk lukewarm, but not hot, and surely not boiling, and add the rum
§  Mix the flour and the sugar in a mixer bowl, add the egg whites and yolks and gently mix the whole, with a wooden spoon or in a low-speed stand mixer with the flat beater (NB: some recipes instruct to mix the eggs with the milk. I opted to mix them with the flour as it allows to dissolve the whites more easily. If you use only yolks, which is possible, you can add them to the milk, to make what is called in French a “lait de poule”, i.e. “hen’s milk”)
§  Remove the vanilla empty bean and pour the milk  progressively in the flour mix and stir gently (with the wooden spoon or in the stand mixer) to avoid making lumps. You will obtain a batter very similar to crepe batter, except that it is sweet and rum- and vanilla- flavored
§  Your cannelés are almost done. As easy as it could be!!!
§  Keep this batter in the fridge for a minimum of 12 hours, and ideally 24 hours or more
§  After these 12/24 hours, take the batter out of the fridge, stir it gently with a wooden spoon or a similar tool, but not with a whisk as you don’t want to incorporate air, and let it warm up around 1 hour till reaching room temperature

§  Prepare the coating of your molds:
o   Copper molds: Heat together the butter and the beeswax over low temperature (the mix should not be above 180 F) till it is liquid and coat the inside of the molds with a brush
o   Silicone molds: This is where my personal twist intervenes. It is normally not advisable to coat silicone with butter. My personal observations had led me not to follow this advice for cannelés. Coat the inside of your molds with soft (but not liquid) butter. Then brush the inside of the molds with a little bit of liquid honey. You can really see the difference between the honey-brushed cannelés: they are darker than the ones lubed only with butter, and they are also crispier…
§  Pour the batter in the molds, at around 75% for the copper molds and 85/90% for the silicone molds. The batter will swell first like a soufflé outside of the mold, before retracting. The reason why you should fill less the copper molds than the silicone molds is due to the difference of rigidity of the materials. When the cannelé retracts in the mold, the suppleness of the material allows it to fall down fully on the bottom of the mold in case of silicone, whereas with the copper, the cannelé remains stuck outside, therefore the cannelé top is no more in contact with the bottom of the mold and doesn’t caramelize. The quantity indicated allows to make 16 cannelés in medium size silicone molds and around 20 in the medium size copper molds.

§  Bake the cannelés first in a 450 F preheated oven (but this should be adapted to your oven performance: in my old electric oven, I had to go up to 500 F) for 20 minutes, which should correspond to the moment when the cannelés start to fall back in the mold and to take a darker color. Then, lower the temperature to 350F (375 F for a non-performant oven?) for around 45 minutes with the copper molds and 60 minutes with the silicone molds. But you will have to test it specifically with your own oven, and possibly add 5 or 10 minutes of baking if you realize your cannelé sides and tops have not yet reached the looked for dark brown color and addictive crunchiness. Also, it is important to place your mold tray in the center of the oven and to rotate it regularly to cook consistently all the cannelés. Last point: be careful if you use a convection oven. Cooking time are shortened (10 + 30 minutes with copper molds) and you might end up burning your cannelé before you even realize it (lived experience!)
§  Take the cannelés out of the oven, and unmold them quasi immediately while the lubing wax is still liquid. Be careful, it is very hot
§  Let cool them down, not covered, at the room temperature. They will become crispier. Eat them lukewarm or at room temperature (no fridge)


Cannelés in silicone (bottom) vs. copper (top) with a honey coating (no beeswax yet).
Note the differences of color and, mainly, visual crunchiness. Quod erat demonstrandum


  1. Mmmm... I'll take mine with the shot of rum. If only!! They look wonderful. And I never knew my Mauviel copper pans were Rolls-Royce caliber. I just knew they were crazy expensive when I had them shipped here from France! Keep cooking, Patrick. It's a special treat to see what you come up with, and a wonderful distraction from all that's going on these days.

  2. I'll be happy to taste test one for you! I have never had one before, seems like a problem that needs to be solved. Yours are lovely


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