How The Cronut Changed Everything

Happy birthday, Cronut, you flaky little phenomenon!

In 2023, a combination croissant and doughnut might sound like just another TikTok food trend, but 10 years ago, the brand-new mashup hit the scene for the first time, setting off an explosion in the culinary world and the wider culture that no one could have anticipated—and we're still seeing the ripple effects to this day.

The Cronut made its debut in the pastry case in May 2013 at Dominique Ansel Bakery in SoHo, New York, which had opened only two years prior in 2011. French pastry chef Dominique Ansel, inventor of this flaky phenomenon, saw such success with the Cronut that his business has since become a mini-chain, with additional locations in the Flatiron District, Hong Kong, and Las Vegas. (The Vegas shop, located in Caesars Palace, even has a robot that makes Cookie Shots.)

For those not yet blessed with the experience of biting into a Cronut (ahem, this author included), the process involved in creating one sounds just as mouthwatering as the finished product. It's made from a laminated dough—already difficult for most home bakers—and takes three days to make, as that dough is then mixed, rested, formed, proofed, and fried. The resulting pastry is then rolled in sugar, filled, and topped with a glaze and other toppings, depending on the chosen flavor.

A brief history of the Cronut

Ansel tells Tasting Table that although the Cronut took months to develop and went through at least 10 different iterations before becoming the pastry we all know and love, his original intention for the mashup was just to create a special Mother's Day treat.

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Ansel's then girlfriend (now wife) suggested he sell doughnuts, but given that he is French, he felt more familiar with croissants. From there, inspiration hit and Ansel began playing with the idea of combining the two confections.

The very first Cronut to hit the bakery trays was a rose and vanilla variety filled with Tahitian vanilla ganache, topped with crystallized petals, dusted with rose sugar and rose glaze. The floral creation was perfect for Mother's Day, and thanks to a preview of the pastry in Grub Street, it gained early rave reviews. The Cronut sold out almost immediately on the day of its launch.

How the Cronut grew its fandom and became a legend

Once word spread, there was no stopping the frenzy. Lines went around the corner from the bakery, news outlets flocked to get shots of the sugar-dusted combo, and then the real sign of success hit: Imitators sprang up, their recipes flooding the market.

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People were so desperate to get their hands on a Cronut that some were even willing to shell out $40 for the pastries on Craigslist. Within three months of the Cronut's launch, other bakeries, from Washington to Los Angeles to Australia, began creating their own "fauxnuts" in an attempt to cash in on the hype.

The imitations and emulations vary, from the "Doughssant" to the "Scronut" to the "Cruffin." Thankfully for Ansel, a lawyer friend suggested he trademark the Cronut almost immediately after debuting it. Ansel did so just in time, as only five days after filing his trademark for his invention, around 27 applicants were already attempting to do the same.

"I think it's nice that people enjoy it," Ansel told Tasting Table. "It's nice that people wanted to try it, but at some time when they rip you off to try to make a business out of it is a different feeling." Ansel also notes that as much as imitators may try, they have not been able to exactly duplicate his original Cronut recipe.

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After the first Cronut, Ansel's bakery began releasing a brand new flavor on a monthly basis and continues to do so to this day. This, of course, helps to set the original Cronut makers apart from the imitators.

In celebration of its 10th birthday, Dominique Ansel Bakery is releasing a five-piece box of Cronut Holes with some favorite flavor throwbacks from across the past decade, Time Out reports. Those flavors include:

  • Dark Chocolate & Raspberry Chambord (a type of jam)
  • Caramelized Banana & Brown Sugar
  • Lychee Rose & Pistachio
  • Brown Butter & Caramel
  • Strawberry & Hojicha (a type of green tea)
  • Past flavors have also included Pumpkin Chai, Dulce de Leche, and Milk and Honey, among many others.

What the Cronut inspired

Imitation might be the sincerest form of flattery, but the copycats aren't what truly demonstrates the lasting impact of the Cronut. The pastry's lightning-in-a-bottle moment opened up the door for all kinds of other mashups, ones specifically designed to catch the public's attention and create a sensation. Two incredible examples of this have popped up in recent years, both of which involve traditional Mexican pastries.

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The Manteconcha, which gained popularity between 2017 and 2018 in Mexico and eventually spread to Mexican bakeries in the U.S., combines two traditional Mexican sweet breads (aka pan dulce). Mexico News Daily explains that a Manteconcha is a combination of a Mantecada, a type of muffin in a paper cupcake liner, and conchas, the iconic sweet bread roll with a crunchy, sweet seashell design on top. 

The Manteconcha became so popular that its inventors, the owners of a bakery in Santiago de Querétaro, Mexico, found themselves in a legal battle with big-name bread supplier Bimbo, as well as others who wanted to register the Manteconcha as their own trademark. Thankfully, Bimbo eventually withdrew its application and the original creators applied for the rights.

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Not long afterward, the Croncha appeared. This hybrid pastry is not only a nod to the Cronut, but also helped bring Mexican pan dulce to a mainstream American audience. The Croncha, as the name implies, combines a concha with a croissant. This mashup was created in 2018 in San Antonio, Texas by David Cáceres, owner of La Panadería bakery.

"After learning about the manteconcha, we were inspired to put our own La Panaderia-style spin on a 'fusion concha,'" Cáceres told Forbes. "We experimented with a few different doughs at the bakery and, in the end, the croissant was hands down the best combination with the concha. As soon as we tried our first Croncha it was obvious we had a winner."

And so the mashups will continue inspiring mashups, as one fusion food leads to another. Bakers are endlessly creative, and the viral popularity of the Cronut set the stage for an entire decade of experimentation and beyond. Thanks, Cronut, and happy 10th birthday. You still look great.

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