Almonds Make the Man

I bought a Frangipane (Almond Crème) Plum Tart at the farmers market this weekend (for our breakfast of course) and wondered about the musical word that is so fun to say (Fran-juh-peyn). Where did it come from and what did it mean? That curiosity led me to an incongruous connection between scented gloves, a Marquis and the almond pastry crème.

This is but just one story about how the crème got its name, and the most popular story. It concerned an Italian nobleman named Marquis Muzio Frangipani, and sometimes a plant named Frangipane, and in some versions of this story the man and the plant were connected and sometimes they were not. I won’t confuse you with all of the connections here, it is a complex story, but if you would like to read more, see the links at the end of the blog.

Apparently adding perfume to your gloves was a thing for hundreds of years. Wearing strong scents were important to help in masking your own poor hygiene and all of the foul smells that surrounded you every day—livestock, chamber pots, and other people with equally poor hygiene. Leather gloves could get stinky themselves, no doubt the process of producing leather in the past created an unpleasant aroma. And so, adding perfumes to the gloves became just another way to scent up your person.

It is said that the wealthy could simply change their gloves to change their scent. They would own many pairs of gloves, each having its own particular smell. Aromatic solutions were created as pastes, waxes and oils made using flowers and herbs and these were added to many clothing items including gloves. In many of the stories I read it was said that the Marquis Frangipani, who was living in Paris and part of the court of Louis XIII, developed a glove scent based on bitter almonds. The scent became a popular one and Frangipani became a popular man, his glove scent became fashionable and for a time, in high demand.

The pâtisseries of the day wanted to capture a bit of this popularity and developed a crème made by adding ground almonds to butter, milk and eggs (and sometimes flour), which could be added to many desserts. They named this concoction Crème Frangipane (dropping the “i” and replacing it with an “e”) to connect the popular glove scent of the day to their new dessert filling.

It’s an intriguing story and of course I gobbled it up. I found great pleasure in drawing the beautiful gloves and eating the Plum Frangipane. If you’d like to learn more about scented gloves, the Marquis, the flower and also a yummy Plum Tart recipe, see the links below.

The most complete version of the Story:

A Yummy Plum Tart Recipe

More about Gloves

The Frangipani Plant