Every so often, a few former co-workers and I go on hikes (these are pretty short hikes, just a couple miles). It’s great to exercise and all, but the best part is going out to eat afterward. And then sometimes we get dessert. So many options around for dessert. Baked goods or pastries? Bubble tea? Ice cream? It all depends on your mood.
I’m a big fan of Asian bakeries. The cakes are usually lighter and fluffier, and their baked goods tend not to be as sweet as Western-style bakeries. There are a few of them in Little Tokyo, a small neighborhood in downtown Los Angeles that has a ton of Japanese restaurants, a couple bakeries, and a Kinokuniya bookstore, where I could spend forever in the school/office supplies section.
We recently went to Frances Bakery, a cute little Japanese/European bakery in Little Tokyo that’s been around forever. It has a display case of cute vintage china, including teapots, teacups, and saucers. It’s a small space but has a few tables for dining in. I’ve been here many times, mostly for their cake slices and macarons.
They have a variety of macarons, cake slices (green tea chocolate! strawberry white chocolate! marron vanilla cake! I could go on and on), and bready goods like croissants. You can also order whole cakes in advance.
I ordered a couple macarons in different flavors (it was hard not to order EVERY flavor) and reviews are below.
Strawberry: Very pretty color with red shells and light pink strawberry flavored buttercream. The strawberry flavor tastes fairly true to real strawberries. This was my favorite of the bunch. The macaron cookies have a nice thin, crunchy outer shell and a chewy middle; there are no hollows; just the way macaron shells should be. One sticking point – I have found most of the macarons from Frances Bakery are filled with a super meltable buttercream, so when it’s warm, the filling starts melting. The filling is pretty soft at room temperature. They are best eaten a few minutes after being taken out from the refrigerator.
Green tea: The different flavors come through mostly through the fillings; this one I couldn’t taste the green tea flavor. It was pretty weak. There was a little of a bitter aftertaste from what I assume is green tea or matcha powder, but I like a stronger green tea flavor. Not as sweet as the others.
Salted Caramel: A lot of salted caramel macarons I have tried have actual caramel as the filling. This one has salted caramel buttercream instead. Definitely tasted like a darker, more toasted caramel and then you get a hit of the salt after a little bit. The filling wasn’t too sweet, which I liked.
Vanilla: No photo. Did not like this one. Vanilla is a standard flavor, but because it’s perceived as so simple, it can actually be easy to mess up. The vanilla buttercream tasted artificial and was way too sweet. Texture and consistency of the cookies were great like the others, but the vanilla flavor was off putting.
Coconut: Ross loves coconut flavored anything, so I always get him a coconut macaron if they’re available. Both top and bottom shells are sprinkled with grated coconut. The buttercream has a strong tropical coconut flavor.
Frances Bakery also has its version of the Cronut called the Frances Donut. They have them in Original (with pastry cream filling, pictured above), Blueberry, Strawberry, and Nutella. These sell out usually by noon every day, and even faster on the weekends.
While I’ve never had the original Cronut from Dominique Ansel’s bakery to compare it to, the Frances Bakery version is pretty tasty. In case you lived under a rock, a couple years ago, Cronuts became a huge food trend. A Cronut is basically croissant dough in a doughnut shape and fried, and usually has a filling. A couple bakeries in LA make their own knock off versions but I’ve only tried the one from Frances. It is really rich but very good. It’s got the flakiness of a croissant and as you bite into it, you can feel the individual layers of the croissant dough. The pastry cream filling isn’t too sweet either, nor do they put too much in there. The sugar crystals rimming the outside add a nice bit of texture and a little more sweetness. I’ve also had the strawberry one, which is similar except it has thinly sliced strawberries sandwiched in it along with pastry cream.
Overall, Frances Bakery is a good place for Japanese-European style pastries and it isn’t super expensive either.
$1.85 each, $19.50 for a gift box of 10
Frances Bakery (no website)
404 E 2nd St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012