King Léopold II of Belgium, the Tsar of Russia, President Fallière and the Marquise of Polignac, to name just a few, have all succumbed to what Jean-Louis Vogt, owner of the Café du Palais in Reims, likes to describe as "[...] a sort of magical blend that makes you happy and allows you to see life through rose-tinted spectacles": the pink biscuit of Reims.
The city, famous for its biscuits since the 16th century, became a distinguished name at royal courts starting in 1756, the year that saw the opening of the Nöell-Houzeau factory in Reims, which manufactured biscuits, marzipan cakes and gingerbread for royal meals. The success of Reims-style pastries was such that in 1825, the Derungs house located in Reims obtained 'the patent of manufacturer of the king's biscuit' allowing it to place the seal of Charles X on his biscuits.
In 1845, it was the Fossier house which took up the torch of the Houzeau house. It developed the production of the 'biscuits of Reims', which, with time and notoriety, started to indicate a type of biscuit rather than a biscuit itself, and thus became one of the "first confectioners in Reims to produce biscuits meant to be dipped in wine and which could be preserved", as Seigneurie explained in 1898.
Before the 19th century, no mention had been made of the biscuit's pink colour. It was the luxury grocer Olida, created in 1895, that was the first to make the distinction between dry biscuits (boudoir, champagne...) and the biscuits of Reims, which it commercialised in two colours, white and pink (pink being more expensive!).
Even if pink is an appealing colour, the fact that it wasn't present from the very beginning leaves one to think that the biscuit of Reims is endowed with intrinsic qualities differentiating it from the other more or less similar products. The pink biscuit of Reims was lucky enough to be created in Reims! Although this fact may seem obvious, Reims played a major role in the biscuit's destiny. Indeed, thanks to its particular texture, enabling it to be soaked in liquid without falling apart, it became the ideal companion for the no less famous champagne, with which it was quickly associated and benefited from its image as a prestigious product.
Moreover, even if the recipe is relatively simple (the biscuit is made using fresh eggs, flour, sugar, vanilla and a natural carmine colouring, giving it its pink colouring, which are mixed together, rolled out and then baked twice before being powdered with sugar), making this biscuit requires a lot of talent, experience and know-how in order for it to preserve its pinkish colour and firmness.
To learn even more:
"Le Biscuit rose de Reims" by Lise Besème-Pia published by Editions du Coq à l'Ane (only in French, though).