La galette des Rois : history and tradition

January 6 is the day of the Epiphany. It is also the day when the “galette des Rois” is eaten in many countries of the world. It is a French tradition that delights every year the gourmands.

The galette can be a flaky cake filled with frangipane, but also a crown of candied fruit depending on the region of France.

Zoom on the history and traditions of the galette des Rois

The origins of the Kings’ cake – “La galette des rois”

The “galette des Rois” is eaten on the occasion of the Epiphany, January 6th. It can also be eaten on the first Sunday after January 1st, depending on the country and its traditions.

The Epiphany celebrates the visit of the Magi to the Christ Child. Today, it is a Christian holiday. In ancient times, this cake was shared to celebrate the winter solstice and the god Saturn during the Saturnalia (a popular Roman festival).

At that time, the cake was shared between the king and his slaves. The bean was used to elect among the slaves “the king of the day”. He could ask for anything he wanted for one day before returning to his life as a slave.

In order to share the cake fairly, the youngest participant in the feast had to hide under the table to designate the recipients of each share. This tradition still exists today.

Nowadays, the galette des Rois is shared with family, friends and even companies. It is a French tradition well established!

The traditions of the “Galette des Rois”

The galette des Rois is not a simple cake. It is a gourmet ritual filled with traditions. 

La galette des Rois

The galette des Rois and the brioche des rois

Depending on the region of France, the galette des Rois is not the same. In the northern half of the country, the galette is made of puff pastry and a filling of frangipane (almond cream). This galette is called “Parisian galette” by the inhabitants of the south of France.

In the extreme south of the country, the galette des Rois is a Kings’ cake. Scented with orange blossom, it is crown-shaped and filled with candied fruit.

The bean

Tirer les rois” is part of the traditions of the galette des Rois. It is to hide a bean in the cake. The person who receives the piece of galette with the bean becomes the king of the day. Children love this tradition.

The beans can be made of porcelain or plastic. Originally, the Romans put the vegetable bean in the cake, symbol of fertility.

The crown

The person who receives the portion of galette with the bean must wear the crown of kings. The crown of kings is made of cardboard or paper.

Recipes of the “galette des Rois” with frangipane

Les ingrédients de la galette des Rois

Here is a recipe for a frangipane “galette des Rois” that is easy to make.

Ingredients (for 6 people):

  • 2 puff pastries
  • 150 grams of almond powder
  • 90 grams of fine sugar
  • 2 whole eggs + 1 yolk
  • 75 grams of butter
  • 1 bean

Recipe :

1) Roll out a flaky pastry in a pie dish and prick the pastry with a fork.

2) In a bowl, mix the almond powder, sugar, butter and whole eggs to obtain a smooth consistency.

3) Put this mixture on the puff pastry and add the bean.

4) Cover with the second puff pastry and seal the edges.

5) With the tip of a knife, make drawings on the pastry and brush it with the egg yolk.

6) Bake for 30 minutes at 200°C, keeping an eye on it.

You can enjoy this galette des Rois with champagne, cider or tea. Bon appétit!

Thank you for reading my article! I hope you enjoyed discovering the Galette des Rois. Don’t hesitate to ask your questions on the Your online French teacher blog! You want to take French classes, French classes or conversation classes?  Contact me for a quote or for the program of individual or group French classes.

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