Creuse’s Famous Cake – Le Creusois
Creuse, our departément of France, is famous for its elderly population, its poverty – and a wonderful gateau. ‘Le Creusois’ is a cake made with nuts and butter. It’s thought to have originated in the fifteenth century, but wasn’t rediscovered until 1969 when the recipe was found on a piece of parchment in a monastery in Crocq. (The tourist office in the town has a copy of it on display.)
The resourceful André Lacombe, president of the Pâtissiers de la Creuse, saw an opportunity to develop a regional speciality. The pâtissiers all came up with their own versions of the cake and it was the one concocted by M. Langlande that became the official version. The recipe is a closely guarded secret, and known by only the 31 pastry chefs who make up Le Creusois association. They are the only ones who can make and sell this cake under the Le Creusois name. They all undertake to follow the recipe faithfully and use only the finest ingredients when making it.
Every year around 160,000 official Le Creusois cakes, weighing 320g, are sold. Since 1999 mass-produced versions of this gateau have been available in supermarkets but can’t be called Le Creusois. They therefore have names along the lines of ‘Moeulleux de Limousin’ or ‘Gateau Creusois’. These are the only ones we’ve ever eaten. I haven’t treated us to the official version yet.
We occasionally make our own and here’s the recipe we use:
2 eggs (some recipes say use 4 egg stiff egg whites instead, but our version comes out just as tasty)
250 g (8 oz) caster sugar
125 g (4 oz) flour
125 g (4 oz) soft butter
100 g (4 oz) ground hazelnuts
Mix the sugar, flour and hazelnuts in a bowl . Add the butter and mix well. Beat in the eggs (or egg whites).
Pour mix into a well-greased 22 cm cake tin (or thereabouts) . Bake at 350 degrees F (180 C) for 25 minutes. Apparently the original 15th century version was baked in a tile-lined oven but I think our modern ovens do the job just as well!
Serve with cream or custard.