Why from Bordeaux, a port city on Southwestern France located on a bend on the Garonne river, about fifty miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean. Legend has it that cannelés were created there. Or perhaps I should say that legends have it, since there are at least two major origin myths about the cannelé. The first regards spill-off from flour boats. As the story goes, cannelés were invented as a food for poor children, made from the flour that leaked out of sacks when the cargo was being off-loaded. I’m not sure if those would have done the kiddies any favors, honestly. I think they’d have been better off with the porridge at the local orphanage. Please sir, I want another dock refuse cake. Hmm.
The other story is a bit more believable, and posits that cannelés were created by nuns at the local Annonciades convent, just prior to the French Revolution. So it’s said, local wine makers donated egg yolks to the sisters there for baking, having used the whites to clarify their wines. This has some ring of truth, since egg white “fining” is a common clarifying technique, used to this day in France as well as in the States, New Zealand and other wine-producing countries. The trouble is that there’s no physical evidence at all that the Annonciades nuns ever baked anything resembling a modern cannelé.
In fact there’s precious little that ever resembled a modern cannelé until the modern cannelé suddenly appeared in the 1920’s. The closest thing was a regional specialty called a “canole” that was popular in the mid-1700’s. It was a yolk-heavy bread that was originally created in the nearby city of Limoges, and which apparently spread like wildfire around Southwestern France. However the fad died out in about 1800, and canoles were never heard from again. Until of course they reappeared in Bordeaux over 100 years later in a different form, with a different shape and with a slightly different name. The same thing? Probably not. My guess is that the reintroduction of the cannelé was a product of an enterprising baker who also happened to be a darn good marketer.