Happy Epiphany Day (and if you live in Italy, Buona Festa dell’Epifania). To mark Epiphanie in France) we eat Galette Des Rois. French Kings Cake has a different tradition and taste than the New Orleans Kings Cake you might be familiar with. Here’s what makes serving the French Galette Des Rois both a fun game and ceremony:
French Kings Cake Is Served 30 Million Times in 30 Days
Here’s a secret, in my family we have already finished Galette des Rois cake number 2 today having started the first French Kings Cake on January 2nd. I predict we’ll eat at least 4 more cakes before January 30th, the ‘last traditional day’ to eat these round sun shaped galettes. Add these 6 cakes to the 4 that each of my kids will eat in the school cafeteria, plus a few more at work and for the goûter. You can see how the 30 million adds up, which equates to about a half galette des rois for each person living in France eaten over one month.
What makes King Cakes so fun and popular is the game that goes with the ceremony of cutting the cake. Inside the galette des rois is a cute porceline fève, it can be baked in or hidden in manually before cutting. The tradition is that the youngest person goes under the table and directs the person serving the cake to who the pieces go to. The person who finds the piece with the charm wears the crown for the day and is the king or queen. The only galette without a fève is found in the French presidental palace, where a huge 1.2 meter galette des rois is made on January 6, without a charm because kings are not allowed in L’Elysée.
Frangipane or Brioche: The two types of Kings Cake in France
There are two types of galettes des rois that are made in France. If you live in the north of France you eat primarily frangipane (a type of sweet almond paste served in puff pastry) galette des rois (see the picture at the top). The southerners (like me) enjoy a brioche (a lighter bun type of cake). The one you see here is topped with candied fruit which is optional where we live. During January, grocery stores and bakeries make a large supply of these cakes, and the cost for a typical grocery store cake is about 5 euros, so this is quite reasonable (see how the 300 million add up?).
If you want to make your own French Kings Cake I have included two recipes below, but don’t eat too many of these, they are quite filling. I prefer to play the game who can find the fève charm more than eating the cake. I am not a big fan of sugar, I would have liked the original Kings Cake from centuries past which was a simple bread baked with a hard bean inside.
Galette des Rois: To Enjoy in Moderation
After the Christmas holidays the French keep the cakes coming, at least thru the first week of January. These galettes are rich and are best enjoyed in moderation. Each 100 gram piece of frangipane cake is 500 calories, 40 grams of sugar and 30 grams of fat, like any cake they should be enjoyed in moderation.
If you are coming over to France between December 30-January 30th, enjoy a galette des rois, (or two) trying both frangipagne and brioche. My preference is for the lighter brioche cake, it tastes good with a strong coffee. I include here, for special Kings Cake celebrations David Lebovitz’s recipe for Frangipane Kings Cake. Looks amazing, despite the work to get it into the oven. This recipe for brioche Kings Cake with candied fruit is prepared in Provence and is typical of what I buy in Pau.
New Orleans Kings Cake
I cannot finish this article without at least mentioning Kings Cake from New Orleans. The French brought galette des rois to America in the seventeeth century and now the traditional New Orleans Kings cake is full of colors and beads, has a baby Jesus and is served from Epiphany thru Mardi Gras (longer than in France). I haven’t been to New Orleans (yet!), so I cannot say which I prefer, I will leave that to you to decide. Click here for a description of Kings Cake , New Orleans style !
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