This little round and golden cake is made with eggs whites, sugar and almonds powder. The current recipe was created in 1899, by a baker from Saint-Léonard, Camille PetitJean, based on an old medieval recipe.
The massepain name ("marzipan") comes from massa ("pastry") and panis ("bread"): Italians call it marzapane and Germans marzipan.
Anyway, the marzipan was a pretty special sweet, in the Middle-Ages, made for rich people only. They made it with almonds, nuts, pine kernels, pistachios and sugar. Olivier de Serres, in his book Théâtre d’agriculture, book I, chapter 8, talked about a "marzipan pie", made with almonds flavoured with rose water.
The famous French baker François-Pierre de La Varenne published in 1664 his book Le parfait confiturier ("The perfect jams maker"), where he explained the cooking of marzipans. And he had lots of recipes!
• The marble marzipan, very coloured.
• The iced almonds marzipan, flavoured with orange flower water.
• The green marzipan with pears
• the royal marzipan
• the curled marzipan
• the marzipan soufflé
• the soft marzipan, with citrus peels
• the orange marzipan, with candied oranges or lemons...
The recipe from Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat comes from Compostela’s pilgrims. A pretty old recipe!