Sunday, November 25, 2012

Les Coeurs de Sainte-Catherine

"In Northern France it is a custom on St. Catherine's day to give heart-shaped cakes to unmarried women who have reached the age of twenty-five.  The idea is to encourage them in their search for love (and a husband)."  ~ Cooking with the Saints

Back in 2008 I posted about the tradition of Heart Cakes on the Feast of St. Catherine of Alexandria.

Since our oldest daughter was named after this beautiful saint, we have always celebrated her nameday with a heart shaped cake!  This year we just made a simple applesauce cake, in a heart shaped pan, sprinkled with powdered sugar.  However,  any heart shaped cake would work perfectly!

Les Coeurs de Sainte-Catherine 
(St. Catherine Hearts)

  • 1 pkg Spice Cake Mix (I used Namaste Foods Spice Cake Mix
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 fresh apple, grated or chopped (skin left on is okay)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)


Heat oven to 350˚ F. Grease and flour a 12" heart shaped pan.

Combine all ingredients and mix well.

Bake for approximately 40 minutes. Cake is done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool for 5 minutes and remove from pan. Cool completely and then top sprinkle with powdered sugar.

From My Nameday: Come for Dessert: How fortunate are girls named after the glorious virgin-martyrs who battled to maintain their integrity and faith, and in return were divinely protected and rewarded. The virgin-martyrs sacrificed what was naturally good for the sake of God, the supreme Good. Their lives should inspire the faithful, and particularly their namesakes, to pay due homage to God. Nameday prayers on feasts of virgin-martyrs:

Father: Come, O spouse of Christ, receive the crown which has been prepared for you forever by the Lord, for whose love you shed your blood.

All: In your splendor and your beauty, make ready, ride in triumph, and rule.

Father: Let us pray. O God, from whose bounty all good gifts proceed and who in Your virgin-martyr N.... did both give the flower of virginity and the palm of martyrdom, at her intercession unite our souls to You by love so that we may avoid all perils and gain the rewards of eternity. Through Christ, our Lord.

All: Amen. Christ conquers, Christ reigns!

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  1. For those who don't have a heart pan, one can easily make a heart-shape cake with a circle and a square pan. Simply cut the circle cake in half, and place each half along two adjacent sides of the square. Trim the square if needed.

    1. Excellent suggestion! Thank you!

      I finally purchased a heart shaped pan earlier this year, but before that I always made the heart shape from either two round cakes with a wedge cut from one side and added to the bottom (as you can see in my 2008 post) followed by your suggestion of using a square and a round (which works so much better!). The hearts didn't always turn out perfectly, but my daughter always loved them! :)

  2. Hello,
    The French tradition is also to say about unmarried women getting close to their 25th birthday,"elle va coiffer Sainte Catherine". I am not sure whether the translation should be, "she will do St Catherine's hair" or ,"her hair will look like Saint Catherine's". The beautiful book accompanying the cake may carry the answer...By the way, could you please share the name of the author? Thank you for your interesting and apetizing post!

    1. Interesting! My mother-in-law (who's name is also Bea!) speaks French, so I will have to ask her...

      The book pictured, Saint Catherine by Dionysios & Egle-Ekaterine Potamitis, is one that my husband purchased at a Greek Monastery Gift Shop he drove past on his drive home from a wildfire assignment a few months ago!

      It is available on Amazon here, or directly from the publishers. You can also listen to an audio version here: Part One and Part Two!

    2. I did a little searching online and found the following:

      "In the 12th century, St. Catherine was named the patron of unmarried women. So on her feast day, November 25, it was customary to expose her statue in all the churches of Paris. The oldest of the marriageable women would place a starched cap on her head, while all the unmarried female workers would wear paper bonnets in their hair. This gave rise to the French saying, common in France and French Canada, "to do St. Catherine's hair," meaning "to remain an old maid." The same custom was found in Brittany and Normandy where the statue was dressed up in the local style."

  3. And those unmarried women who have reached the age of 26? Is it the official French "Old Maid" status for us? :)

    1. Pretty much! ;)

      If you lived close by we'd bring you a heart cake, to offer a little encouragement! :)

  4. Oh what a wonderful, relevant blog this is!

    I love that you pay attention to our liturgical calendar in this way. Thank you for doing what you do!

    The cake looks tasty!

  5. I'm so glad I found your blog! I will definitely try this! I added a link on my blog post about ways to celebrate the feast of St. Catherine of Siena for this recipe.