Fronuts by L'Atelier des Lilas

Donuts, 2,90€ each, L'Atelier des Lilas

Paris has tabacs. Cleveland has donut shops. Far more than a place to pick up toroidal sweets, the corner donut shop was a boardroom where business deals were made; a social club which fostered the next generation of quarterbacks, local news anchors, and politicians. Whereas other foods- kale, kombucha, slow-churned ice cream- indicated a certain level of discretionary income, the donut was a class equalizer beyond compare. Any age, race, or budget could appreciate its ephemeral pleasures, mass-produced into affordability.

After WWII, donuts had little presence on French soil until Starbucks started carrying them a few years ago (beignets aren't equivalent; a more accurate comparison might be pet de nonne, bits of deep-fried choux pastry). Finally, thanks to L'Atelier des Lilas, Parisians can enjoy gluten-free donuts, too. L'Atelier des Lilas was founded by Alexandra, a celiac, and Sarah, who is gluten-and-lactose intolerant. After meeting in college and traveling the world, they quit their jobs, turning a shared love of baking into a booming business, with cakes, cookies, pies, and pastries distributed all over Paris. The gluten-free brownies at Cojean? These girls made them. The quiches and financiers at Biocoop? L'Atelier des Lilas originals. They accept individual orders also, accommodating specific allergies and intolerances.

I ate an entire L'Atelier des Lilas cheesecake in one sitting, so imagine how happy I was to hear they developed a gluten-free, vegan donut. Baked, not fried, the donuts come in various flavors, including seasonal flavors- lemon poppyseed, chocolate hazelnut, original, matcha green tea (my favorite!), and coffee, which tastes like a day on a yacht in Lake Como with George Clooney and Jean Dujardin. These are not slavish confectionary narratives on North American consumer society. They are lighter and fresher than their US counterparts, yet every bit as good for dunking. The frosting tastes natural, not cloyingly sweet. Lemon zest or candied rose make an appealing, sophisticated alternative to sprinkles. Basically, L'Atelier des Lilas' fronut is a melt-in-your-mouth, luscious improvement on Western ecumenical values. I took each flavor at Le Cairn and defiantly ate one on the street and one in Carrefour, as French people and tourists alike watched disapprovingly. When I ordered a few dozen matcha fronuts for a baby shower, they were gone within minutes.

This is a lot of flowery language to describe donuts. It's stupid, but to me, donuts represent continuity and security. My dad and I bonded over smiley-face donuts from Jack Frost. My mom used Spudnut Donuts to reward good behavior (Krispy Kreme banned us from presenting our report cards for free donuts; my mom's homemade version was a thousand times better anyway). Donut Scene was the setting for my personal bildungsroman. We went there after nights of driving around aimlessly, contemplating the future- it was the only place open besides Taco Bell.

The city experienced upheaval, but the donut shops never changed. They never stopped being good, even when everything around them was crumbling. When I go to Cleveland, I feel like a tourist. It's nice being able to visit the same places I went as a little kid and pretend I belong. I love my Paris life, but I love it more now that I can have a taste of home in the form of a baked, gluten-free dough ring from L'Atelier des Lilas.

Paris to Go


  1. Beautiful photos, beautiful post. I appreciate the little tidbits I learn about French culture from every post, and love the way you compare your two countries without resorting to navel-gazing. Please, keep up the good work! It's so great that you have so many gluten-free options in Paris.