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Galette des Rois. The French King Cake. The much-anticipated Epiphany cake appeared with their glint of golden crowns just as the Bûches de Nöel were disappearing from the pâtisserie windows in Paris.
I had thought that after panettone, stollen, fresh croissants, oysters, champagne and the most delicious of Bûche de Nöel that I should probably give my waistline a chance.
But no. Not in France. Not in January. Epiphany is coming and with that another tradition involving pastry! This French tradition has a golden crown perched on top of an equally golden puff pastry, the Galette des Rois.
Epiphany, the Fête des Rois, will be celebrated on January 6, 2022.
1. Galette des Rois: What Is This Golden Cake?
Think puff pastry, butter, sugar and almonds.
In Paris, these golden round cakes graced with intricate designs fill the pâtisserie windows. The traditional Galette des Rois, with flavours that hark back centuries, is a round puff pastry cake filled with a creamy, almond paste called frangipane. Being my first year in Paris I was assured that this frangipane French King Cake was the one I must savour first. Did you notice I said, “First?!”
The King Cake comes in many sizes. In fact, apparently, the Elysées Palace receives an enormous one every year, forty times the size of the one you make or buy for your family!
Try visiting different pâtisseries and see what these ingenious creators have concocted. Fillings of chocolate and chestnut, pecan and fudge all grace the shelves.
In France with its culinary regional distinctions, there is a different Kings’ Cake in the south of France where the tradition is a brioche-style cake with candied fruit.
2. Galette des Rois: What Is This Celebration?
The Galette des Rois tradition is tied to the celebration of Epiphany on January 6th each year. The celebration is in honour of the Three Kings arriving at the manger and meeting baby Jesus.
The King Cake tradition has been going on for 700 years in France. Regardless of your religious background, it is the perfect way to enjoy family and friends in the New Year.
3. Galette des Rois: And The Crown?
Who wouldn’t want to partake in the Galette des Rois tradition?
Tradition has it that la fève or a bean is baked in the cake and whoever receives the piece of cake that contains the bean is le Roi (King) or La Reine (Queen) and wears the crown. The only exception is that the President of the Republic, President Macron, is not able to eat a Kings’ Cake where there is a bean hidden.
In families, the youngest child hides under the table and as the cake is cut tells who should receive the next slice. Once everyone has a piece of cake in front of them the excitement begins. Remember to chew carefully! Who will discover the bean in their serving? Who shall be wearing the crown?! And when the lucky King or Queen puts on the golden paper crown, picking their royal partner — King or Queen- comes next!
4. Galette des Rois: Just A Fève (Bean)?
Over the years, the bakers at the pâtisseries stopped putting the bean in the cake in case somebody choked on it. Instead, families can add their own bean. And these days it is not just a bean anymore but little porcelain or plastic charms that grace the interior of the Galette des Rois.
Many families still bake the cake with la fève in the pastry, just as tradition dictates.
I first heard of the tradition of the French King Cake at my friend Laurence’s house. A little bowl overflowing with charms was in the kitchen and I curiously asked what they were used for. With great excitement, she explained this Galette des Rois tradition.
5. How To Serve This French King Cake
Partaking in my first Galette des Rois tradition, it was suggested to serve the cake cold or heat it up in the oven for 5 minutes and serve it warm.
I was so anxious to try it, I ate it cold. The flaky pastry melted in my mouth and the frangipane was divine.
6. Where To Buy The Galette des Rois Pâtisserie
In Paris, every pâtisserie and boulangerie has the French King Cake. They are also found in grocery stores.
The first I purchased was at Fou de Pâtisserie, which opened its first Tea Room in September 2020. Ouf. Right in the Coronavirus year.
Fou de Pâtisserie started as a magazine on the subject of both sweet and savoury pastry with locations in Paris opening in le Marais, Rue des Martyrs (one of my favourite streets in Paris) and rue Montorgueil. The concept is this. Under one roof are found contributions and creations from pastry chefs. Enter and marvel at all the names you already know or may never have heard of.
At Fou de Pâtisserie, it was recommended that I try the frangipane Galette des Rois by Frédéric Lalos, Paris.
The second and third I tried (clearly I had fallen for this flaky almond delight) were from my favourite neighbourhood hangout, Thierry Marx Boulangerie. “Oui, Madame, il faut le rechauffer.” Yes. Heat it up at 180°C for 5- 10 minutes.
The Galette des Rois soars to a whole new level when warm…
7. Recipe For Galette des Rois – The French King Cake
Apparently making your own King Cake is not too difficult, nor time-consuming. I am tempted. I will keep you posted if I try. This recipe is bound to lead to a delicious result…
8. What About The Other Galettes?
Don’t confuse this special French King Cake with the traditional galette that hails from Brittany. One of my favourite delights is a nutty, buckwheat galette filled with cheese, egg and ham.
Read More: This post will also have you mouth-watering and tells you where to find the best galettes in Paris.
Have you ever delighted in the Galette des Rois tradition? Let me know if you enjoyed it!
Until next time,