How Your Favorite French Sweets Got Their Names

France and delicious pastries go hand in hand, with each cake carefully lined up on the counter filled with history and stories.

Each cake and pastry has its own name and many have interesting origins behind their inspiration.

This is where some of our favorite French patisseries got their names….

Tarte Tatin

A world-famous French classic that can often be found in French restaurants around the world.

The story behind this popular dessert is a winding tale that involves kitchen accidents and even stolen recipes!

According to legend, the tart is named after its creators – the Tatin sisters – who lived and worked in a hotel in the town of Lamotte-Beuvron, in northwestern France, south of Orléans (Loiret).

According to history, this hotel was known for its apple pies. However, one day—during a particularly busy time—in the late 1800s, one of the sisters hastily placed a standard apple pie in the oven upside down. She discovered that she had cooked well, despite the accident, and served it. This is how Tarte Tatin was born.

History books point out that upside-down pies had long been a staple in the region, but by 1903 Tarte Tatin was famous enough to be mentioned in a local geographic newspaper, which claimed it was famous throughout the region.

Its popularity continued to spread throughout the early 1900s and it was eventually served in Paris’ most up-and-coming restaurants.

In fact, the owner of the Parisian restaurant Maxim’s – frequented by people like Marcel Proust – allegedly posed as a gardener at the Tatin sisters’ hotel, in an attempt to steal the much-desired recipe to use in his own restaurant. kitchen.

However, as he was only six years old when the sisters retired in 1906, this story is probably a total fabrication – despite it undoubtedly adding to the drama surrounding the prostitute.

Read too: Five things they don’t tell you about baguettes in France


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Paris Brest has a particularly interesting history, as it was created in honor of the infamous cycling race between Paris and Brest.

As the story goes, in 1891, newspaper editor Pierre Giffard wanted to encourage people to use bicycles in Brest by launching a cycling race between the city and Paris.

To support the initiative, he asked a local pastry chef named Louis Durand to create a special pastry to help promote the race.

In line with the cycling theme, Duran created a wheel-shaped pastry filled with hazelnut mousse and topped with almonds.

The cream inside the pastry wheel is piped to roughly mimic the spokes of a bicycle wheel.

The Durand bakery is still owned by Louis’ family, and they claim to be the only ones who have the exact recipe for the famous pastry.

The nun

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The story behind this pastry shop’s name might not be what you’d expect.

Although it refers to pastry, ‘une Religion’ is also the word for ‘nun’ in French, and that’s where the inspiration for the pastry came from.

The color of the treat is said to have reminded the creators of the habit worn by nuns, leading them to call it La Religieuse. It was first served to customers in a Parisian café in 1856 and was an immediate success.

Although similar to the éclair in flavor and content, the religion’s format is different, consisting of two balls filled with chocolate or coffee cream balanced on top of each other with a chocolate or coffee topping.

However, in recent years, the pastry has been in decline, with bakers choosing to save time and resources and make its simpler sister, the éclair.

The opera

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L’Opéra is a layered cake that has been around since 1955, when it was created by Cyriaque Gavillon, known for his modern attitude to baking.

Gavillon wanted the cake to be simpler than other, more elaborate creations, so that customers could savor every element in every bite. It was named l’Opéra by his wife, who thought it went back to l’Opéra Garnier – the Parisian opera house not far from where Gavillon worked.

The cake is assembled with two layers of biscuit, two layers of coffee cream and then covered with ganache.

Saint Honore

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Saint Honoré is the patron saint of baking, so it’s only fitting that there’s a cake with the same name.

The name of the extravagant gateau originally derives from the street on which it was created, in the Chiboust confectionery. However, it is also considered a tribute to Saint Honoré, patron saint of bakers and pastry chefs.

It consists of sweet puff pastry, whipped cream, puff pastries filled with cream and salted caramel, and is usually served as a dessert at dinners and special occasions.


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Often found on restaurant dessert menus and also on supermarket shelves, the popularity of profiteroles has permeated the market across the world.

Although now seen as an indulgent dessert, profiteroles had humble beginnings. In the 16th century it was customary to reward employees with food, so at the time, small balls of dough were cooked over a fire, then soaked in broth and offered to employees as a small profit.

These were then called ‘profiteroles’, which ended up inspiring the name of the dessert we know today, which was developed in the 19th century.

The Tropezian pie

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As its name suggests, this famous cake originates from Saint Tropez, but did you know that the famous cake has famous origins?

The cake gained prominence by people like Brigitte Bardot, who loved the cake, as seen in the Netflix series, Bardot.

The actress discovered the cake while filming in Saint Tropez, in the 1950s, after it was created by Polish baker Alexandre Micka, inspired by her grandmother’s recipe.

It was Bardot, who loved the cake, who suggested calling it Saint-Tropez, which soon became tropézienne.

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