Galettes de Rois — a goûter of a French tradition in January

A goûter, or a taste, of kings’ cake is a tradition in France during January. Traditionally this cake, known as a Galettes des Rois, marks the celebration of Three Kings Day / Epiphany / Twelth Night. Fortunately it is celebrated for the entire month of January, so the good news is that you can still join the fun. Not limited to just French countries, variations of the Galette des Rois are also known in Portugal as a bolo rei,  in Spain & Latin America as a roscón or rosca de reyes. And in New Orleans as a kingscake during Mardi Gras.

Since I love to extract the best from cultures (especially in the name of cake), I have happily brought this one into our home to cheer up the cold, grey, wintery months.

Generally made with an almond-y marzipan flavouring, you could either find a Galettes recipe online, (which I have done in the past). Or take a short-cut which I did this year! However you do it, it is fun! You get to eat cake, wear crowns, and find charms.

We trusted the experts this year and ordered our lovely Galettes des Rois, made in the Southwestern French style with a briochée base. It has the delicate flavour of orange blossom. The top is covered in casson sugar and flaked almonds. It was delivered straight to our front door (how I love city life at these moments!) by a gorgeous new mobile bakery in London, called Jacques et Lilie. Named after the baker’s grandparents who owned a pâtisserie.

We prepared the table, invited some friends and made it a mini back-to-school party. Thankfully I took photos beforehand as there was a lot of excitement for the cake! (read: carnage)

Traditionally, you first warm the cake up slightly, which brings out more flavour in the sugar and almonds. Then, the youngest child goes underneath the table while the cake is sliced. They call out the name of the person to receive each slice so the server can’t be accused of playing favourites! The entire cake should be divided so each guest receives a slice.

The charm or fève, once a fava bean, now a porcelain figurine, is hidden inside the cake. The person who discovers the fève in their slice is declared le roi (the king) or la reine (the queen) and gets to wear the golden paper couronne (crown) that comes with cake.

There was surprising enthusiasm about the winning of the fève. My eldest daughter told me later at bedtime that maybe she will win it next year. Here is to tradition, and hoping!

If you do make your Galette des Rois at home, you can find porcelain fève online. But how ever you do celebrate this January, make it with cake! 🙂



PS Other regal traditions I love include making and wearing of these crowns.


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