This particular pastry has a more definitive history than most. It’s all but synonymous with the pastry shop Angelina which is located across from the Louvre in Paris. The establishment was opened by a fellow by the name of Antoine Rumplemeyer, which by strange coincidence is the very name I use whenever I’m traveling incognito.
Rumplemeyer’s family had emigrated to southern France from Austria-Hungary in the late nineteenth century. Finding no Viennese-style coffee houses there, they decided to open their own. They began in Nice, spread to Monte Carlo and ultimately to Paris where Antoine opened Angelina in 1903. That was the year he invented the mont blanc, or, according to some, only updated and took credit for it.
For mont blanc very closely resembles an Italian sweet that goes by the same name, monte bianco, which of course also means “white mountain”. The Italians say their monte bianco dates back to the days of the Medicis. Also composed of meringue, whipped cream and chestnut paste “vermicelli”, they claim it was created almost 300 years before Rumplemeyer’s mont blanc became famous among the French.
I suppose it’s fitting that French and Italians would dispute the ownership of mont blanc for a hundred years, since they’ve disputed the ownership of the real thing — Mont Blanc mountain — for even longer. In art as in life, no?