Great cakes of France – Saint Honore cake

Written by on May 12, 2014 in French Cuisine

Saint Honore cake in a shop in France, strawberries, cream puffs, cream on a bed of puff pastry

The cake was named in honour of the French patron saint of bakers and pastry chefs, Saint Honoré, (Honoratus – died 600 AD), bishop of Amiens.

Saint Honoré Patron Saint of French bakers

Born in Port-le-Grand (Ponthieu), near Amiens, to a noble family, it is said he was an extremely virtuous man. He resisted the trappings of promotion within the clergy but rose to the status of Bishops of Amiens. Legend has it that his nursemaid, who was baking bread when she heard of his elevation to Bishopric, was so astonished at the news that she refused to believe it. She declared only if the peel she was using turned into a tree could it possibly by true. Quite what bread she was making with peel is not clear. But, you will not be surprised to hear that the peel took root in the ground and grew into a Mulberry tree.

Several miraculous happenings were attributed to the Bishop during and after his lifetime and he was made a Saint. In 1202, a baker in Paris named Renaud Cherins donated land for a chapel to be built to honour the saint. The chapel became one of the richest in Paris, and gave its name to Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. In 1400, the bakers of Paris established their guild in the church of Saint Honoratus, celebrating his feast on May 16.

How Saint Honore left his mark in Paris

In the 13th century, a Parisian baker donated land for a chapel in honour of the saint. It became one of the wealthiest chapels in the city and gave its name to the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, 8th Arr.

In 1659, Louis XIV ordered that every baker should observe the feast of Saint Honoratus. He told them they must give donations in honour of the saint and for the benefit of the community.

History of the Saint Honore cake

In the 1800′s a pastry chef named Chiboust, who had a shop in Rue Saint Honoré created a cake called a Saint Honoré. It has remained a firm favourite ever since.

It is a very challenging cake to make. Thee are several different components and lots of interpretations of how it should look. The basics though must include the traditional elements: a base made from puff pastry; profiteroles (cream puffs), dipped in caramelized sugar; chiboust cream, a type of crème patisserie (or sometimes Chantilly cream).

Read about the Festival of Bread in France, a week long celebration of cakes and bread

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