i wasn’t going to write about this until sunday, which is epiphany – but it’s hard to ignore all of the galettes du roi (king cakes) in the bakeries right now. though i’m not really into religious holidays, i do love to eat (so we got a little galette). the galette du roi is something the french can do really, really well.
epiphany, or the feast of the kings is celebrated in france on the first sunday (after the first saturday) in january. the typical galette du roi is made of buttery, flakey fine pastry layers filled with frangipane, an almond cream paste. this is the cake found in the upper half of the hexagon (aka france). in the south, you’ll also find one filled with a fruit paste and another that is closer to a large donut-shaped brioche crowned with fruited “jewels” (representing the jewels on a king’s crown). baked right inside the cake is a tiny ceramic figurine called a fève (literally meaning a bean, which is what they put in galettes long ago). the person who finds the fève is declared the king (le roi) or the queen (la reine) and gets to wear the paper crown that comes with the galette.
on a symbolic level, the cake can represent fertile ground, the fève is like a seed that grows and brings fruitful harvests for the year to come, overall, bringing good fortune for all, during the entire year. the religious representation is more dedicated to the birth and baptism of jesus, the visit of the wisemen to bethlehem and the introduction of god to mankind.
it’s interesting to note that the tradition of “king cakes” was brought to the united states by the french colonists, and even today, king cakes (with a trinket inside) are eaten to celebrate “twelfth night” or epiphany (all the way through mardi gras) in southwest louisiana, particularly in new orleans, but also in parts of alabama.
If you’re in nice, france, please get your galette du roi (frangipane version) from tabarini: 220, ave de la californie, 06200 nice france – tel: (0)4 93 83 80 58. they’re SOOOOO GOOOOOD there! my SO and i once ate a GIANT galette in one sitting; yes, they’re that good — but no human should ever consume that amount of buttery pastry. we’re pigs, what can i say?
i’ll try to post a photo of the king/or queen this sunday, epiphany and the fève. (if i remember!)