I have a long-time love of French pastries.
At our home, each Christmas my mum would make one of my favorite cakes—the Sarah Bernhardt—a decadent, layered and similar to a macaron. We used a rich walnut flour rather than the traditional almond, and added a coffee infusion to our meringue cream, which gave our Sarah Bernardt a signature flavour.
As a child, when I wanted something sweet, my grandma, also a professional baker, would bake a light sponge cake filled with strawberries she had planted and preserved herself. I pay homage to her and those memories with my Fraisier Strawberry Cake.
The ‘fraise’, or ‘strawberry’, is at the heart of this cake. It emerged, it is said, around 1860 as a way to use the abundant strawberry harvests after France became the first European country to cultivate the fruit.
The Fraisier base is made with a Genoise-style sponge. For this, I whip whole eggs and a touch of butter to create an airy and tender cake. Then I generously layer crème mousseline between the cake rounds. Mousseline is complex and takes great care to make. At its base are well-whipped egg yolks, butter and sugar, giving it a texture equally as airy as the cakes. The entire pastry is tender to the palate and flecked with fresh, red strawberries.
Another of my favorite French pastries is the Paris Brest.
The round pastry is named for the two cities that mark the route of the now-famous Paris-Brest bicycle race, first held in 1891 and precursor to the Tour de France.
History has it that the Paris-Brest pastry was invented to promote the race of its namesake. In 1910, the race’s founder and a well-known publisher, Pierre Giffard, asked Louis Durand of Patisserie Durand, located still in its original Paris storefront, to create a commemorative cake for the quadrennial sports event.
With the bike wheel and its spokes as inspiration, Durand crafted a wreath-shaped pâte à choux that is sliced through the middle and hazelnut mousseline is piped in individual rounds between the two layers. Others say the shape represents the winner’s crown.
I use only fresh, quality ingredients for my Fraisier and Paris-Brest and follow my family’s French recipes and techniques to produce these pillowy and luxuriant desserts without leaveners.
Similarly as decadent, but neither cloyingly sweet, is the Tarte Tropezienne. This delectable cake is made of buttery brioche and a layer of creamy confeccion that first caught the eye and palate of Brigitte Bardot in 1955 while filming in Saint Tropez. She fell in love with the cake and her fame gave the cake its own stardom.
Even in London it’s rare to find French pastries, particularly the Paris-Brest and Tarte Tropézienne, of the quality and care that I craft them. My creations are backed by experience, heritage and a personalized design that marries French traditions and English appetites.
I source only the best quality and finest ingredients to provide high class, valuable pastries for your special occasion, or everyday indulgence.