La Galette des Rois
French tradition: La galette des rois around France
The Galette des rois (‘king cake’) is a dessert that is traditionally served in French households on 6th January, Epiphany. It is a central part of Christmas cuisine in France, but the ingredients and appearance of this pudding vary greatly across the different regions of the country. In Paris and the north of France, the galette takes the form of a puff pastry tart (a recipe for which can be found HERE) filled with frangipane, while in Provence, the equivalent gâteau des rois is a round brioche cake with a whole in the middle, to make the shape of a wreath or crown. It is decorated with candied fruits and sugar granules, which represent jewels, and can be flavoured with cognac or with orange blossom.
There may be several different recipes for the galette des rois, but they are all united by the traditional idea that the dividing up of the cake will ‘tirer les rois’ (‘draw the kings’) to the Epiphany. In addition, the galettes always contain a single little charm, or fève, that hidden inside. Historically, there really would be a fève (‘broad bean’) inside, but in the 19th century this was replaced by small ornaments or figurines. The person who finds this trinket within their slice will become king or queen for the day, and will have to offer the cake at the following year’s celebration. To ensure a random and fair distribution of the cake shares, it is traditional for the youngest person to place themselves under the table and name the recipient of each piece.
Formerly, the galette would be divided into as many pieces as there were guests, plus one. This final slice was called ‘the share of God’, or ‘the share of the poor’, and would be given to the first poor person who arrived at the door asking for charity.