From Flanders comes the merveilleux, a pastry made of a pair of meringues filled and covered with vanilla whipped cream and chocolate flakes.
They are named after the fashionable artistocratic ladies, the Merveilleux (‘marvellous ones’) who during the Directory (1795–1799) began wearing flimsy white gowns modelled after the ancient Greeks and Romans and enormous hats to celebrate the end of the Terror with parties and frivolity. Hortense de Beauharnais, daughter of the Empress Josephine, was one of the most famous; she later married Louis Bonaparte and became the mother of Napoleon III.
The male versions, with their bicorn hats, long hair, giant neck scarves and a lot of perfume were dandies called the Incroyables (‘Incredibles’). They have their own pastry too, made with meringues, spéculoos, and whipped cream coated with shaved white chocolate.
Elsewhere in France you might see similar desserts with pastry cream instead of whipped cream called arlequin or boule choco or boule meringuée au chocolat.
There are other flavours as well; Frédéric Vaucamps in Lille is famous for them.
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