‘Qu'ils mangent de la brioche’ (’Let them eat cake’) Marie-Antoinette did not say (although according to Jean-Jacques Rousseau, an unnamed ‘great princess’ did when she was informed that the peasants were protesting the lack of bread).
Brioche has a long and somewhat confusing history; like bread, it is yeast based, but it is also rich and sweet with butter, eggs, cream, milk or brandy and often sugar, so like a cake. It should be golden brown on top and soft inside.
It was probably invented as a wedding cake in the Vendée, where they still make the richest brioche of all, the gâche vendéenne.
Pâte briochée (brioche dough) is usually made as buns, or as a braided loaf, or as a base for other desserts.
Some classic brioches include:
Images by Benoît Prieur , PD