It’s a truly remarkable, and most welcome, phenomenon.

In the past 18 months, at least 10 new patisseries have sprung up in the city.

The French, who lead the world in creating these delightful baker’s confectionaries, have two different words for bake shops. A patisserie is about pastries and cakes. A boulangerie is about bread.

Edmonton has always had independent bread-based bakeries – Italian, Handy, Popular, Bon Ton, Artistic, Boulangerie Bonjour, Italian Centre, Hazeldean, Portuguese Canadian, Cobs and more.

But this patisserie thing — small boutique bakeries with sit-down tables, making hand-crafted and individually-sized pastries and cakes — is something new.

What’s surprising is the overall quality. In my patisserie rounds, every single shop was impressive. Not one failed in freshness, quality, price or ambience.

This is due to several possible reasons.

The reigning queen of Edmonton’s patisseries has set high the bar: Duchess Bake Shop, on 124 Street since 2009 is a shining example to which other patisseries aspire. Heralded as one of Canada’s best pastry shops, with line-ups from opening to closing, Duchess has proved patisseries in Edmonton can be both artistic and commercial successes.

Location and trends: Every emerging, trendy commercial cluster needs a patisserie as a finishing touch. Art of Cake anchors the emerging boutique precinct on 105 Avenue west of 116 Street. La Boule is on the ground floor of a trendy condo building on the developing east end of Old Strathcona.

Expertise: Making pastries and baker’s confections is a specialized culinary calling. By coincidence, a number of European-trained pastry chefs (Fadoua Derbel at Macarons & Goodies, FanFan’s Franck Bouihol) have settled in Edmonton and, inspired by Duchess, opened their own shops. At the same time, NAIT culinary school graduates (like Kai Wong at Chocorrant) have gained enough pastry expertise to venture out on their own.

One last general impression: Move over Ukrainian sausage and green onion cakes, macarons – those cute, toonie-sized, pastel-coloured, multi-flavoured chewy “cookies” – are fast becoming Edmonton’s signature dish. Led by Duchess, every patisserie shop has its own take on macarons.

The new patisseries

Arno’s Fine French Pastry, 10038-116 St. (just south of Jasper Ave.): A combo patisserie/tea shoppe specializing in French cakes, like a yummy orange and vanilla cream Tropezienne. A good place to take mom for tea or coffee and petit fours.

Art of Cake, 11807 105 Ave. (directly behind 104 Avenue’s new Brewery District): Hipster/antique/trendy warehouse ambience: High-end cakes ($40 and up) plus delicious pastries – the cruller with a scented almond-vanilla glaze is to die for. Great cookies too.

Chocorrant, 10328-124 St. (four blocks south of Duchess): Kai makes the most beautiful and delicious multi-layered “opera cakes” you have ever seen. Her croissants are killer too – especially the almond strawberry.

Macarons & Goodies, 10548 101 St. (kitty-corner from EPCOR Tower): Don’t let the run-down streetscape deter you, Fadoua’s pastries are wide-ranging and unique, her shop most welcoming. The 18 macaron flavours challenge Duchess for variety and quality.

FanFan, 10330 80 Ave. (south of Whyte Ave. between 103 St. and 104 St.): Tiny but still with a few tables. Its famous croissants were sold out by 10 a.m. Saturday morning, but the pureed/sweetened rhubarb and crumble Danish was as smooth as silk, and the macarons superb. FanFan’s mille-feuille with custard/fruit filling comes highly recommended.

La Boule, 8020-101 St. (south of Whyte Ave., west of 99 Street): Industrial chic with polished metal surfaces. “Cruffins” (croissant dough baked in muffin tins) are a specialty – try the coconut cream/pineapple for a delicious difference. The white chocolate raspberry tarts are cool and sweet.

Passion de France, 11812-86 St. (just off 118 Ave., close to St. Alphonsus Church): A delightful, hidden patisserie serving the city’s northside, specializing in croissants and macarons.

Reinette Café and Patisserie, 301 Woodvale Rd. W. (Mill Woods): A taste of France hidden in a run-down Mill Woods strip mall, but still with a pleasant tea-room atmosphere. Tarts and macarons are very good.

Also in Mill Woods, YEG Bakers in the Mill Woods Town Centre.

Too often overlooked and around since 1985 is La Favorite Pastry Shop at 11401 96 St. and now also at 12431-102 Ave.

Skip brunch and head to a patisserie on a Saturday/Sunday morning for a low-cost ($3 to $5 per pastry, $4 specialty coffee) breakfast snack. You won’t be disappointed.

Bon appetit!