The tradition of the king’s cake in France!

So now we are in 2020 and the new year starts with all those usual new year’s resolution. And we get on with an old tradition of the King’s cake or Galette des Rois which we have taken as a French family very fond of.

We have multiple passports and lived in several countries so we carry on the tradition of many as well which we find family uplifting. One going on now in my beloved Spain with preparations is the wonderful story of the 3 Wise Kings who on Epiphany day usually falling on January 6 , we give gifts to our children as the kings gave to the enfant Jesus in Bethlehem. However, we give now one gift hehehe and on December 25th. The January 6 tradition is kept ceremoniously .

Let me tell you here about the Galette des Rois (king’s cake) we are just having again this afternoon!  The Galette des rois is a galette traditionally made and consumed in most of France, on the occasion of the Epiphany, Christian feast which celebrates the visit of the three wise men to the baby Jesus, celebrated on January 6 of each year .

This cake is also sometimes called Parisienne in the regions of the south of France where one consumes not the Galette but the cake of the kings. In most of France, the galette des rois is originally a pancake made from puff pastry, simply browned in the oven and eaten with jams; it can also be stuffed with various preparations: frangipane, fruit, creams, chocolate, frangipane mixed with applesauce, for example. In the extreme south of France, the use for the Epiphany is to prepare the cake of kings, a large sweet bread, in the shape of a crown, with a more or less airy dough and scented with flower water. orange. The person who discovers the bean has the right to wear a fancy crown and then chooses his queen or king.

A bit of history I like

The Galette des rois has its origins in Saturnalia (Roman festivals located between the end of December and the beginning of January), during which the Romans designated a slave as “king for a day” . During the banquet (at the beginning or at the end of the Saturnalia, according to the different eras of ancient Rome) within each great family, the Romans used the bean of a cake as if to draw lots for the “Saturnalicius princeps” (Prince of Saturnalia or of disorder) . The “king of a day” had the power to grant all his wishes during the day (like giving orders to his master) before being put to death, or more likely to return to his servile life. This made it possible to tighten domestic affections.

The sharing of the cake is also associated with the celebration of the Magi during the Epiphany, for Christians. Many French kings followed the tradition more or less and Louis XIV always retained the use of the cake of kings, even at a time when his court was subject to a rigorous label.

When the French revolution came, the very name “cake of kings” was a danger. a decree of the Commune having changed, in the session of December 31, 1791, the day of the kings in “day of the sans-culottes” (,sans-culotte, which is opposed to that of the Aristocrats as in opposite meaning) the cake had no longer its raison d’être. This disappearance was, however, only momentary because the sans-culottes having renamed the Epiphany to “feast of the Good Neighbor and the Galette of equality”.

A survey was carried out in France in 2014 (unfortunately cannot find the sources) 97% of French people taste this holiday cake, but 85% according to another source. They eat for: 70% a puff pastry and frangipane cake, mainly in the 3/4 north of France (us too); 11% a more or less dense dough cake flavored with orange blossom water, mainly in the far south; 9% consume more than five (we do about 3) ; and 68% cheat to give the bean to the youngest.(fierce competition at home no giveaways! )

At the seat of the French Republic (Palais de l’Elysée), a giant cake is delivered each year to the President of the French Republic (aka France) since 1975. But according to the same principle as the galette de l’égalité or equality cake of the revolutionary period, the cake offered each year to the president does not have beans, in memory of the heritage of the French revolution and respect for the principles of the French Republic.

And how about what to drink with it? Well we do with the below and also comparable bottles over the years. Hope it help you choose yours if in France these days.

Whether you prefer the delicious frangipane version or the candied fruit brioche, or even the apple or raspberry ones, you can’t savor it without choosing the right wine to accompany it … So here are two nice choices amongst the many!

Its gourmet translation nevertheless followed the border which separates the country of origin: “Galette des rois or king’s pancake in the north,” ” cake of kings in the south”. The first, now made of golden puff pastry in the oven and generally filled with frangipane cream, is best enjoyed above the Loire, while the second, a simple circular brioche with candied fruit, is shared in sunny regions.   As for the broad bean, a long religious porcelain figurine, today it covers all themes and covers all materials, arousing the passion of collectors , fabophiles (bean figurines followers)   some of whom have long abandoned short pants.

In either case, the wine will obviously be white, and sweet enough to match the sweetness of the dessert. With the pancake, the “fat” of the preparation will play a determining role, to which the sparkle of a Champagne will usefully oppose; for its part, the frangipane cream calls for a young, lively, fresh wine. I would therefore without hesitation choose a demi-sec (semi dry) Champagne, preferably the one produced by Taittinger which seems to me to be perfectly balanced. Made from exactly the same blend as the famous Brut Réserve from the same house (40% chardonnay, 60% pinot, noir and meunier), it is more generously dosed with sugar (35 g / l), which will create a harmonious whole with the dish. With candied fruit brioche, it is precisely sugar that dominates, both in the preparation itself and in the ingredients that accompany it (candied fruit). This time, I can see a mutated Muscat, whose fermentation was brutally stopped by the addition of pure alcohol. Rich in residual unprocessed sugars , it will accompany the dessert without countering it. This time I will choose a great Beaumes-de-Venise classic: the Domaine des Bernardins. Its richness in sugar and its fruity will allow it to hold head gently, while its intensity and its length in mouth will accompany those of the cake. A classic with us!

Official sources for the drinks here:

Offiical Taittinger demi sec Champagne

Official Domaine des Bernadins on Muscat des Beaumes de Venicede Venice

And there you now you are set to enjoy of one France nicest tradition, the Galette des Rois. And this is the time to do it if you are in France. Hope you enjoy it and follow it as we do.

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!


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