A little-known Provençal tradition

Le Colombier, the traditional Pentecost cake

Discover this little-known Provencal gourmet tradition: le Colombier, a traditional Pentecost cake made with roasted almonds and melon.

A little history

Colombier is a cake made in Marseille for Pentecost, the Christian festival celebrating the Holy Spirit on the 50th day after Easter (always a Sunday between 10 May and 13 June). It is also known as the ‘peace cake’ or the ‘good luck cake’.

Legend has it that when Protis and Gyptis got engaged, a big meal was organised for Gyptis to find her a fiancé. She then baked this famous oval cake and hid a dove-shaped bean (hence the name ‘Colombier’) in order to decide between her many suitors. It was Protis, of course, who found the bean, and who, along with Gyptis, was responsible for the creation of Marseille around 600 BC.

The tradition has been perpetuated and the saying still goes that the person who draws the dove must prepare for his or her wedding within the year.

However, there are several versions, and some say that the colombier appeared in the early 1900s in response to a particular problem: transporting the cake to the cabins in the creeks. With limited access, this pastry had to be easy to transport, so it didn’t need to be kept in a cool place.

Where can you buy Colombier of Pentecost?

There are fewer and fewer patisseries making this authentic cake, but there are a few that are keeping the tradition alive and well. This is particularly true of the Montaigne bakery and patisserie, which won the ‘Best Colombier des Bouches-du-Rhône’ award in 2020. La pâtisserie by Sisilia in the 12th arrondissement and La Boutique du Glacier in the 1st arrondissement…

There are also plenty of bakeries and patisseries around Marseille offering this cake at Pentecost, notably in Aubagne at the Boulangerie Levetti, and in Aix-en-Provence…


Did you know?

The real and only colombier is sold with a numbered white band on which is written ‘Qui la colombe aura, dans l’année se mariera'(Whoever the dove gets, within the year will marry). 1€ is donated to the Bouches du Rhône confectioners’ union for each cake sold, to fund their activities throughout the year.

Recipe for the pentecost colombier

Soaked in an alcoholic kirsch syrup, topped and then covered in coloured almonds, there’s only one recipe like it and that’s for Colombier. For those who prefer to get their hands in the dough and make this traditional cake themselves, we give you the (almost) original recipe for Colombier.


The biscuit

  • 50g candied orange peel (orangeat)
  • 120g egg yolks
  • 30g egg
  • 80g almond powder
  • 80g icing sugar
  • 25g candied orange paste
  • 25g Kirsch
  • 40g flour
  • 40g cornflour
  • 180g egg white
  • 20g caster sugar
  • Candied melon (according to taste)

The soaking syrup

  • 50g caster sugar
  • 50g water
  • 10g kirsch

The topping

  • Apricot topping
  • Slivered almonds
  • White almond paste
  • Dark chocolate

Steps in the recipe

1– For the biscuit, mix the almond powder with the icing sugar. Mix with the orange paste, egg and kirsch.
2– Add the yolks and beat with a mixer until the mixture whitens. Sift the flour and cornflour and add to the previous mixture.
3– Beat the egg whites and sugar until stiff, then fold them gently into the first mixture.
4– Prepare the soaking syrup: mix the water and sugar and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and add the kirsch.
5– Preheat the oven to 180° fan oven. Roast the flaked almonds in the oven for about 10 minutes, checking their colour.
6– Place the greased mousse ring on a baking tray lined with a silicone mat. Fill it with 3/4 of the biscuit mixture.
7– Cover the surface with pieces of candied melon, add the dove bean and finish with the rest of the biscuit mixture.
8– Smooth the surface and bake for 35 to 40 minutes.
9– Once out of the oven, lightly soak the biscuit in the kirsch syrup. Leave to cool and remove the ring. Cover the Colombier with apricot glaze and sprinkle with flaked almonds.

Optional: Melt some chocolate and fill a cake cone. Roll out a 5cm wide rectangle of marzipan, place it on the cake and write ‘Colombier’ on it using the cake cone.

You may have a different way of making your Colombier de Pentecôte, and that’s normal! Everyone in Marseille has their own secrets for making this delicious cake…