If you’re walking around Paris in January you will notice something quite special in the window of nearly every bakery. There are rows of cakes with crowns atop them. This cake is called the Galette des Rois, or Cake of the Kings, and it happens to be one of my favourite French traditions.
The cakes can be dated back to Roman times as part of the winter solstice festivities, but later on the Catholic Church moved the tradition to January to celebrate the three kings, or wise men, which is how it got its regal name. Today the tradition is still alive and well in France.
While the official day for the Galette des Rois is January 6th, the French eat them all throughout the month of January. Each cake is sold with a crown, and has delicious buttery layers of flakey crust. Inside it’s filled with frangipane that can also be found in chocolate and other varieties. But that’s not all. Hidden inside the cake is a small token or prize which the French call the fève. This is where the fun comes in!
When it is time to eat the cake, the tradition is that the host cuts the cake into however many pieces as there are guests, while the youngest of the group hides underneath the table. One by
one, he or she will call out names until each person at the table has their slice. While eating their piece, whoever finds the fève is the winner and crowned the king or queen! You can even throw in a real prize if you want to drum up some competition. Whoever wins is responsible for bringing the cake to the next party.
I love this fun tradition as it's the perfect excuse to keep gathering with friends and family and indulging together even after the official end of the holidays. So last week I went around town to some of my favorite bakeries to photograph their beautiful displays of galettes. Eventually I settled on a chocolate one from Sebastien Gaudard, as this year the famous baker was honoured with the title of the best Galette des Rois of 2016!
While the cake is delicious and not difficult to make, the truth is you can recreate this French tradition even if you can’t find it at your local bakery. All you need is a special little charm or token
to hide inside, a paper crown, and the rules above. It’s a fun thing to do with friends that I thought you might all like to try this January. And in case you’re wondering what to serve it with, how about some champagne?