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The marzipan from Issoudun or how French author Balzac became a pastrycook

The marzipan | / CC-BY-NC-SA
Speciality Honoré de Balzac

What’s this?

Crushed almonds, sugar, eggs white, a little flavour of orange water… do you know the marzipan (massepain in French) from Issoudun?

We recognize it by its rectangular or square shape, his mellowness and its nice golden colour, inside...

The little history

Nuns and pastry

Do you know where does this marzipan come from?

The tradition says it was created by the Ursuline nuns of Issoudun, in the 18th century. And the marzipan was a big success!

So, after the closing of the convent during the French Revolution, the nuns decided to open a cake shop, in the city, on the current rue Danièle-Casanova.

And in the middle of the 19th century, everybody was fond of their marzipan: from Russian Court to the Vatican!

Unfortunately, this pâtisserie closed in 1960… A young chap, Jacques Guyard, get the genuine recipe back and re-launched the marzipan in Issoudun!

Today, this sweet is produced and sold in the restaurant La Cognette. Hey! French writer Balzac used to frequent this inn, in the 19th century...

Balzac put his shoulder to the wheel

Augustin Cabanès said in his book Indiscrétions de l'Histoire... that Balzac became a pastry-cook!

Well, well, well… It deserves a little explanation! The famous French author spoke about the marzipan in his novel La Rabouilleuse (1842).

The story takes place in Issoudun! Balzac knew Issoudun pretty well: he spent lot of time, here, while his creditors were harassing him…

In fact, the writer tasted marzipan. He loved it!

And to make advertising for his brand new book, he decided to sell marzipan in Paris, in a pâtisserie!

Pretending he was the pastry-cook, of course…

We could see this advertisement (he wrote it), in Paris, at that time:

″I opened a shop, rue Vivienne, at number 38, to sell a product from Central France. One of the most talented writer (H. de Balzac) in France wrote in one of his novel that it was the best French candy.
"Mr. de Rivière, ambassador in Constantinople, asked every year lots of them for the sultan Mahmoud.
"This unique pastry, only made for rich persons, is now available for everyone: Parisian could buy them 60 francs.″

About the the author

I'm fond of strolls and History, with juicy and spicy details!