It is one of the most infamous quotes in history, known even by many whose familiarity with the French Revolution is otherwise negligible, if existent at all. It is supposed that in 1789 when told her subjects had no bread, Marie Antoinette–queen of France and wife of King Louis XVI–muttered, “let them eat cake.” It is with this phrase that the queen became the disdained figure of the opulent and immoral monarchy that spawned the French Revolution. It is this callous phrase that served to catalyze the revolution whereby Marie Antoinette would literally lose her head.
According to historians, however, Marie Antoinette never actually said these enraging words. In reality, Marie Antoinette was a charitable and intelligent woman who, despite her indisputably extravagant lifestyle, donated handsomely and cared deeply for the poor provincials of France. Such an insensitive and heartless response to the poverty the French people faced would have been highly uncharacteristic of the queen. Further evidence against the allegation that the queen responded with such insensitivity lies in the fact that the phrase, “let them eat cake,” and others like it, had been attributed to several queens and princesses before Marie Antoinette even reigned. According to Nancy Barker, an Oliver H. Radkey Regents Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin, the hateful Marie Antoinette known throughout France during the period of the French Revolution was a mere “myth” designed by the desperately radical revolutionaries, “the perfect scapegoat” who “captured the imagination of the masses, aroused their fury, and united them in a frenzy to act.”
Despite the reality that Marie Antoinette never uttered such words, “cake” got her into trouble and eventually brought her to her untimely date with the guillotine. In honor of the French queen and the life of luxury, here are some recipes for other French pastries that can get you into trouble. Surely, you won’t get beheaded for suggesting your friends eat a croissant. But, if you can manage these royally challenging recipes without going grey, it isentirely possible that you’ll gain some unwanted pounds, and that there is trouble enough.
Flaky pastry cookies with a crystalized sugar crust. They’re so light and beautiful, you’ll feel as elegant as Madame Antoinette herself.
You can’t get more classic with your French pastries than this. Translating to “one thousand leaves,” it is the most difficult, time-consuming of pastries to create. It only makes sense that the arduous decadence of this pastry be named after the tiny-bodied, big-headed military figure. Compensation at its finest, ladies and gents.
This famous upside-down apple tart is both rustic and incredibly indulgent. Its asymmetric flaky crust boasts imperfection and balances the heavenly caramelized apples.
Macarons are light as a feather, but incredibly rich. These sophisticated little sweets are quite challenging to master, but immensely satisfying when you do.