Tarte Tropézienne

You can make this St. Tropez Classic, in your own kitchen.

By Jenny Adams

I was about 4 or 5 years old, the first time I had it,” says French-born chef, Nico Romo, of the Tarte Tropézienne.

“This dessert is a classic. I grew up with it. It's a comfort food that is a staple for Sunday lunch.” Born in Lyon, France, Chef Romo is the youngest-ever US member of The French Culinary Academy (l’Académie Culinaire de France) and Master Chefs of France (Maîtres Cuisiniers de France), one of just 66 French Master Chefs in the country, and the only recipient in South Carolina.

In 2017, Chef Romo opened his first concept, NICO, bringing his European training and appreciation for locally sourced ingredients, particularly seafood and oysters. In 2020, he opened Bistronomy by Nico in a quaint spot in downtown Charleston. Bistronomy by Nico is an approachable French Bistro that highlights innovative techniques and ingredients. His third concept, Laura, opened in Spring 2022 serving rustic Italian food as an ode to his Italian Heritage.

He's a man who dearly adores a Tarte Tropézienne, and we could think of no better to give us a great version. This recipe will take a few days, but it’s absolutely stunning when completed.

Tarte Tropézienne can be found in nearly every bakery along the busy, darling streets of St. Tropez. Each offers something slightly different, a rich and buttery brioche––always––filled like a circular sandwich with orange water or vanilla-scented cream. Some offer a moment of rum in the recipe; others are studded with berries or crumbles of dark chocolate.

This recipe’s history, like so much of the island’s global fame, points to a young, voluptuous Brigitte Bardot. It was during the filming of “And God Created Woman” that the film crew and producers took a fondness to Baker Alexandre Mika’s shop. The Polish baker’s cream filled tart took off, becoming a cult favorite and an oft-repeated staple of the island.

Chef Romo is careful to advise that this recipe is one that demands a little practice to perfect at home. “Brioche is hard,” he explains. “It’s susceptible to temperature and humidity. It may take a couple of times in practice, to get it right and fluffy.”

“Also, be careful not to burn the pastry cream,” Romo says.“Make sure the pastry cream is not hot when you mix it with the whipped cream, or the cream will break.”

Serves 12
Day 1: Making the Brioche Dough

2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/3 cup (80 milliliters) warm whole milk (warmed to 100 degrees)
2 cups (272 grams) all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt 
teaspoon pure vanilla extract
tablespoons (3½ ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature


Combine flour, milk, salt, and yeast in the bowl of a mixer. Mix on slow till well combined. Pour in roughly three-fourths of the egg mixture. Mix on speed 3, and then slowly add the remaining egg and the vanilla extract. Mix for about 10 minutes, until the dough forms, becomes smooth and does not stick to the bowl. You might need to stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl a few times.

Knead the dough a few times, fashion into a ball and let it rest on the counter in a covered bowl until it doubles in size. Depending on the heat/humidity in your kitchen, this could be 45 minutes to two hours. 


Once dough has doubled, lift and drop it in the bowl a few times to knock the air out. Reform the ball again, and place it in the refrigerator, tightly wrapped in cling wrap, until the next day. This dough can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.


Day 2: Making the Cream and Building the Tart
About an hour before you’re ready to bake, line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Remove the bowl from the refrigerator and turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Gently pat the dough down, lightly flour the top and roll it into a 10-inch circle. Slide the dough onto the baking sheet, cover with a piece of plastic film, but don’t press down on it. Let the dough rest in a warm place for 1 hour.


Make the Chapelure for the Top of Brioche:

2 ½ Tbsp. cold butter
5 Tbsp. powder sugar
½ cup flour 


Use a mixer to mix all ingredients until it looks like small grains, for about 5 minutes


To Bake the Brioche:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Brush the top of the dough with water and sprinkle the Chapelure on top of it.
Place the baking sheet in the oven and immediately lower the temperature to 340 degrees F. Cook for 20 to 25 minutes, rotating after 10 minutes.
Once it’s golden on both the top and bottom, remove from oven and let it cool on a pastry rack.


Making a Pastry Cream:
2 cups + 1 Tbsp. milk
1 vanilla bean stick
1 cup powder sugar
¼ cup flour
6 egg yolks
3 ½ Tbsp. soft butter


Boil the milk low and slow in a saucepan, with vanilla bean. Scrap the bean into the milk. In the mixing bowl whisk the flour, egg, and sugar until you get a good white paste. Add the hot milk slowly into the mix and continue to cook until it thickens up. Add the soft butter, whisk it together, and place it in the fridge. 


Making the Stuffing Cream:
12 ½ Tbsp. butter
7 oz. heavy whipping cream (40-percent milk fat)
3 cups of pastry cream
½ oz. Kirsch liqueur
2 tsp. of orange flower


Melt the butter and place in the bowl of your mixer. Whip in the heavy cream. Add the pastry cream slowly to the mixture, and then slowly pour in the kirsch and the orange flower. Incorporate it all slowly with a pastry spatula to finish.


Final Steps to Serve:
Cut the Brioche in half using a serrated knife. Add the stuffing cream to a pastry bag (or, create one using a Ziplock with the tip cut off) and pipe it across the bottom half of the brioche. Settle the top back on and place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before serving, to firm. This dessert is served cold and sliced like a pie.