This very famous classic French almond cake takes its name from the small town of Pithivier (pronounced pa-tiv-e-ay) outside Orléans near Paris. If you are in the neighborhood and have a few days to spare, keep going southwest along the Loire River and, if at all possible, do not end your journey until you get to Tours. It is fabulous country there, and everywhere you go, at any time you want, they will be happy to serve you a slice of Pithiviers with your afternoon coffee or for dessert with caramel or vanilla ice cream.
The puff pastry on top of the cakes is always scored in a fan-shaped pattern with a small, sharp knife before the cakes are baked. They can be refrigerated at this point for a few days, or frozen for much longer, to bake as needed. This makes Pithiviers a practical (and not so commonplace) choice as an addition to a buffet table. If the cakes are to be presented whole, you may want to dress up the tops by glazing them in the following manner. Bake the cakes at 400°F(205°C) for the first 25 minutes (rather than 12 minutes at 450°F/230°C). Quickly sift a thin layer of powdered sugar on top, using a fine mesh sieve. Return the cakes to the oven, lower the oven temperature to 375°F(190°C) (leaving the oven door ajar while you sift the sugar will take care of this), and continue baking approximately 20 minutes longer or until the sugar has melted and beautifully glazed the tops. This cake is best served warm or at least at room temperature and should be enjoyed the same day it is baked. Any leftovers should be heated slightly before serving.