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The story of “Let Them Eat Cake”

Santa was very good to me this past Christmas.  I received some wonderful cooking and baking gifts (thank you Santa).  But, it was 2 gifts in particular that have sent me on a new path …  Junior’s Cheesecake Cookbook  and a KitchenAid mixer.  It didn’t take long to realize that this was no ordinary mixer.  It was like no other mixer I had owned in the past — it had a “flour power” rating —  seriously a 14 cup flour power rating.  Never knew there was such a thing.  To quote the product feature section:  “the Professional 600 Series mixer can effectively mix up to 14 cups of all-purpose flour per batch.  Powerfully churns through yeast bread dough (yields 8 1/4 loaves) and triple batches of cookies (yields 13 dozen).”   But what caught my eye was it  “yields 8 pounds of mashed potatoes”.  The only thing better than baked goods is mashed potatoes.  I knew I was good to go …  I not only had maximum “flour power” but a second 6 quart stainless steel mixing bowl and a grinder attatchment!  So it should be easy to see how I could have been inspired to such great baking lengths … hopefully not “widths” (I will bake and others can eat).

From my renewed excitement in “all things baked”,  this blog has emerged.  Blog name selection took on a life of its own.  I found myself reviewing baking terms, perusing baking and equipment catalogs (this was dangerous … almost as dangerous as turning a certain someone I know loose in the Apple store),  reading cooking themed T-shirts and aprons and enlisting the aid of friends to think of something for me.  It was when I googled baking phrases that I hit the jackpot … my search was over … I knew, without a doubt, it had to be:  “LET THEM EAT CAKE” .

“Let them eat cake …” is a translation of the French “qu’ils mangent de la brioche.”  Correctly translated it means, “let them eat brioche” and more literally translated it means “let them eat rich, expensive, funny shaped, yellow, eggy buns.”  It is thought that the word cake may have been substituted because it was more familiar to English speakers then brioche.

Brioche, being a form of French bread enriched with eggs and butter and considered a fancy pastry item, was priced far beyond the means of any but the wealthiest classes.  One cooking historian writes that brioche originally contained brie cheese, hence its name.  A recipe from 1679 calls for butter, eggs and soft cheese, plus a glaze containing beaten eggs and (if desired) honey.  (I can certainly see brioche in my baking future!)

The origins of many phrases in English are unknown.  Even so, “Let them eat cake” is widely attributed to Marie-Antoinette (1755-93), the Queen consort of Louis XVI.  She is supposed to have said this when she was told that the French populace had no bread to eat.  This phrase is often misinterpreted as a bad thing.  But in reality what it meant was that the peasants, who didn’t have bread because of a shortage, should buy brioche (a kind of pastry) since French law required bakers to sell loaves at fixed prices and fancy loaves were to be sold at the same price as basic breads.  This was aimed at preventing bakers from selling just the more profitable expensive products.  “Let them eat brioche” would have been a sensible suggestion in the face of a flour shortage as it would have allowed the poor to eat what would have otherwise been unaffordable.

I have been doing a lot of research on the internet, so I guess my info is only as good as that contained in the articles.  I have decided that it really does not matter to me who originally spoke the words in question.  People often do not “invent” a phrase, but they can make a phrase already known or uttered famous!

 So, here goes.  I am saying it now, “LET THEM EAT CAKE … and all things baked!”

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2 Responses

  1. Debbie,
    WOW, what a nice website, Carol says she isn’t cooking for you.
    Do you have a recipe for peach cobbler?
    We hope you and Steve will visit us soon.
    Rick

  2. Hey Debbie,

    Remember me? I thought I should stop and tell you, I love your posts and your blog. So there.

    Keep it up….

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