Demystifying The Galette Des Rois
January 05, 2015
WHAT CAKE IS THIS?
If you are living in France or currently visiting, you may have noticed “someone” new in the bakery. Who is this mysterious cake taking over the window displays, often sitting next to a tacky paper crown? Well THAT my friends, is the Galette des Rois (the King’s Cake)!
The Occasion: To celebrate the Epiphany, the day in the Christian religion when the Wisemen arrived to visit and bare gifts to the newborn baby Jesus.
The Opportunity: This cake is your chance to become king or queen for a day!
Rules Of Play
RULES OF PLAY
For those who are new to this whole Galette des Rois thing, here’s how the game unfolds:
1) Guests are invited to gather around the Galette des Rois (a round frangipane cake), which has previously been cut to make sure that each guest will have a slice.
2) The youngest person present crawls under the table and will randomly shout out the name of someone in the room and a slice will be given to them. Once everyone is served, it’s time to eat.
3) Not too fast though, as one of the slices has a charm inside! Eventually, someone will find the charm in their piece and this person will be named king (or queen) for the day, crowned with the paper crown that comes with the Galette des Rois.
Parisianist Fun Fact: According to a survey, 68% of people cheat in order to give the charm to a child who is present.
HOW DID THIS WHOLE THING GET STARTED?
The Galette des Rois celebration has more or less been being celebrated for nearly 2000 years! Now this is what I call a long-lasting tradition.
The origins dates back to ancient Rome when a slave was designated to become king for a day by his wealthy roman family. In those days, the charm inside the cake was a broad bean and the person who found it was the one who would designate which slave would become king. In a ceremony of role inversions, celebrated for superstitious purposes, this newly appointed king could give orders to his master for a day. The next day, the elected king would return to his role as a slave or, in very rare circumstances, unfortunately be put to death. Eventually this ancient roman tradition was modified and is now the holiday that we know today, used to celebrate the Epiphany.
MMM... CAKE TIME
The Galette des Rois is generally made out of frangipane, which is the case for most of France except for in the south where it looks more like a giant doughnut shaped fruitcake. Let’s be honest though, who cares about the taste as long as the charm is in there! The broad bean was used in the ancient days as it was the symbol of a coin. It’s only in the 18th century that ceramic charms in the shape of a baby (Jesus) appeared. Today, while some traditional charms are still related to religion and the Holy Child, most charms are fantasy objects in ceramic or plastic.
Parisianist Fun Fact: Some people even collect the charms, with people having collections of over 100 000 charms… and counting!
So we hope you enjoyed learning more about that mysterious cake in the windows of French bakeries. And until next time, best of luck in becoming this year’s king or queen!