Puff, the magic (Kosher) pastry
The cupcake. The macaron. And now the nuage cake.
The public embraces dessert trends with an intense — and sometimes fleeting — passion. Fortunately for those who observe the laws of kashrut, the latest sweet treat to appear on the L.A. scene happens to be certified kosher.
Supervised by Rabbi Jonathan Benzaquen of Kosher LA, the trés chic Bo Nuage shop, located on Melrose Avenue just west of Fairfax Avenue, is the first L.A. business to specialize in the whipped cream and egg white-based confection. Pieces of meringue are filled with layers of cream, and then swathed in a creamy exterior. The round pastry is covered in shaved chocolate to make a featherweight — yet satisfying — sweet treat. In tune with other dietary concerns, these “cloud cakes” are gluten-free, and Bo Nuage offers a version of their cakes made without dairy.
A 120-square-foot jewel box of a shop that’s decked out in a modern black-and-white color scheme designed by Jessica Marx of J. Marx Atelier (who also oversaw the design of Wexler’s Deli, which recently opened in Grand Central Market downtown) and glamorous chandelier lighting, the contemporary pastry retailer feels like a bit of Paris in L.A. The nuage cakes come in two sizes and in 15 flavors, including chocolate, vanilla, mocha, raspberry, passion fruit, hazelnut and lemon. Bo Nuage — which translates as “beautiful cloud” — also makes a larger nuage cake, as well as a strawberry and meringue Pavlova (or variations with other fresh fruits), and individual simple meringues.
“We decided to be kosher because I am a part of this Jewish community, and it was important for me to share my passion for this meringue treat with my community, too,” said Audrey Achcar, a Paris native who owns Bo Nuage with her husband, Pascal.
Pascal Achcar, also a Paris native, had initially come to baking via the commercial flour business, and then established a successful wholesale baking business and training school in Mali in 2006. Social and political upheaval, however, meant the Achcars had to give up their business (Audrey had joined him there) and leave Africa in early 2012. After spending time with Audrey’s family in Los Angeles — her mother founded Lette Macarons here in 2007 — the couple eventually relocated to Southern California. In the process, they decided to establish an artisanal food business centered on the delicate northern French meringue cakes they had come to love in Paris.
Also specializing in the cream-and-meringue pastry niche is Le Mervetty in Beverly Hills, where Israeli-born and raised pastry chef Etty Benhamou specializes in similar meringue and cream cakes known as merveilleux. (Le Mervetty’s goods are not, however, certified kosher.)
The Achcars’ embrace of life in Los Angeles can be attributed, in large part, to a factor echoed by many transplants, especially those who hail from colder climes. “L.A. has the best weather in the world,” Audrey said. “It’s great when you have children to be surrounded by beaches and mountains.”
Plus, the nuage suits the palates of Angelenos who crave culinary novelty, yet want to temper dietary indulgences with treats that shy away from the more intense end of the decadence spectrum. (Or at least those that seem to; it’s hard to separate heavy cream from Bo Nuage’s raison d’etre, after all.) “When our customers try our cloud cakes, they all have the same reaction,” Audrey said. “They first are surprised by its lightness and its taste that is at the same time crispy and soft because of the meringue and the whipped cream. When they first see the petit nuage, they think they won’t finish it, but their spoon always comes back to it.”