Celebrating A French Tradition: Galette Des Rois

January 2015

Rare, rare, rare is the occasion on which you will come to my dining room to eat a dessert I have not baked. However, when it comes to the French Galette Des Rois (King Cake) tradition, I defer to trusted Frenchies, and in the case of Pittsburgh, I defer to La Gourmandine. This cake is a seasonal specialty, so I wanted to share my enthusiasm and adopted tradition with friends.

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I first learned of the Galette Des Rois when I was studying abroad in Aix-en-Provence. Good luck sprawled before me, a golden crown glimmered atop my head, and I claimed my prize! This good fortune happened to coincide with my birthday, so the crown seemed all the more destined, but after the first bite, the true destiny seemed to be the cake. It was love! Beautifully scored puff pastry flakes reveal a moist almond center. It’s the almond croissant of cakes, and I love almond croissants so much, I’d trade family members for them, if the circumstances demanded it.

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Tradition holds that this highly anticipated cake is “to draw the kings” to the Epiphany. A figurine, la fève is hidden in the cake and the person who finds the trinket in his or her slice becomes king for the day and will have to offer the next cake. Originally, la fève was literally a bean (fève), but it was replaced in 1870 by a variety of figurines out of porcelain.

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To ensure the fève, and more importantly, the crownis received at random, it’s tradition to have the youngest person hide under the table and distribute the cake slices indiscriminately. The Urban Farmer was the youngest member of our dessert gathering. Luckily for this cradle-robber, he’s also a good sport, and he indulged my cake games.

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La Gourmandine does not bake their trinkets in the cake to prevent unsuspecting patrons from choking, so step one was for all of us to leave the room while he sliced the cake and hid the toy. Then he crawled under the table, and together with Rachel’s assistance, he assigned the cake slices. Do you spy his descent in the photo above?

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And the big winner was… Dane! The crown fit so naturally atop her head, she forgot it was there as the conversation ensued. Fortunately, my jealousy subsided with my first bite.

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With satiated sweet teeth, a BIG bottle of bubbly and Bess’ signature popcorn, we continued to enjoy the snowy January evening and each other’s company. Meanwhile, little Julep protested under the table. As the true youngest, she clearly had been jipped of her rightful role. She comforted herself by snagging fallen flakes of buttery crust.

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Though epiphany has passed, you might still be able to snag a Galette Des Rois at your trusted French bakery. If not, treat yourself to an almond croissant or two, mark your calendars for next year, and adopt this tradition for yourself! By this time next year, Julep will surely be wearing a golden crown, and hopefully you will too!


Bon Appétit!

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. viaja2

    En España, en las mismas fechas el pastel que se come es el Roscón de Reyes, y también lleva la corona, la fave (el haba) y una figurita de porcelana.
    Supongo que ya lo conoces, pero si no es así, me encantaría que lo probases seguro que quedarías encantada. (En mi blog tengo un par de post sobre el tema)

    1. withthegrains

      Ooooh! Tengo que probarlo! Voy a buscar tu blog. 🙂

      1. viaja2

        Estupendo, sí necesitas alguna indicación me lo dices. Seguro que si lo pruebas a cocinarlo te quedará increíble de bueno.

  2. CynFranks

    Since Detroit has a French heritage, although it seems to have been erased, I wonder if I can find a good Galette Des Rois somewhere. Sounds like a quest for the Rube Cook.

    1. withthegrains

      I regretted posting this so late, since most French bakeries sell for the month of January, but they also like to milk the profits, so you might be in luck. Fingers crossed! 😉

      1. CynFranks

        I can’t name one French bakery in Detroit. It will be interesting. Glad you posted. It is great ritual.

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