Do you know the "galette des rois"? A very French tradition !
The "Galette des Rois" is a cake traditionally shared at Epiphany, on 6 January. It celebrates the arrival of the Three Wise Men in Bethlehem.
It is composed of a puff pastry cake, with a small charm hidden inside. The cake is generally filled with frangipane. Every year, the French pâtissiers offer exclusive creations for the tradition of crowning the one who finds "the fève" as the King/Queen.
First of all, don't make the confusion with "Galette" which is a brown salted pancake that we stuff with ham, cheese and egg and "Galette des Rois" with is a traditional cake celebrating Epiphany, the twelfth day of Christmas, when the wise men visited baby Jesus. Although a normal school and working day, La Fête des Rois is still very much a family tradition.
So what’s a Galette des Rois?
It’s basically a frangipane tart filled with cream made of ground almonds, butter, egg & sugar and a few extra ingredients coming from creativity that will stretch the already bursting waistline for the final time before the after-festive-period diet starts for real!
You can find hundreds of home-made receipes on the web. My 2017 galette was quite successful, stuffed with home-made frangipane made of ground almonds, speculos and apples. Of course, you can easily guess that mine was flavoured with Cognac !
But is the Galette des Rois just a cake? Of course not, you guess here the age-old french tradition
Of course not, you guess. Because the French love their traditions and maybe none more than the Galette des Rois... The tradition of eating the galette would date back to the 14th century.
Sun-shaped cake, it has probably a connection with an old festival related to winter solstice.
According to tradition, we talk about " drawing the kings to the Epiphany". To Draw = "Tirer" in French is a verb which has all to do with "random". Random will design the one-day king/queen... For the funny anecdote to that story : during the French Revolution the name was changed to “Gâteau de l’egalité” (Egality Cake), as it was not the best idea to be a king at that time!
The Galette des Rois is not just about having a cup of tea and something sweet... There’s an age-old protocol that needs to be followed. First thing : the little charm that bakers hide inside the cake. In the past, the fève was a porcelain figurine representing the Nativity and characters from the crib. Nowadays, there is a wide range of different fèves among some exceptional or collector items are much sought-after by collectors.
Generally, the "Galette des rois" is paired with either cider, Crémant or Champagne.
How does it happen?
First of all the youngest child of the table has to hide under the table and tell whoever is cutting the cake who should get which piece. Whoever finds the charm, known as a “féve” in their slice (as long as they don’t swallow it) becomes the king or the queen and names his Queen or her King. Of course, who gets the charm has to wear the golden paper crown and theoretically bosses the rest of the family around all day.
When you reach the age to be able to, the one who gets the crown has to pay the next galette des rois. That is why, in french offices, you can have a frangipane galette every day the whole January through... This is always somebody turn to pay the cake!