La Fête des Rois – Why Is there a Bean in My Cake?? January is French king cake time.

This golden, frangipane-filled cake appears in boulangeries and patisseries at the end of December. King cake or la galette des rois, is traditionally eaten with the family on the first Sunday after New Year’s Day, but many enjoy it from December 31 and throughout the whole month of January!

After the new year we won’t have to say adieu to celebrating, however, since the traditional French holiday of La Fête des Rois is juste autour du coin (just around the corner).

Along with Yule logs and Easter eggs, this is another unmissable fixture in the French culinary calendar….Some 40 million cakes were eaten in France in 2019! But this tradition has struggled to find a following abroad. The French bakery Pitchoun, which has two stores in Los Angeles, sold 300 cakes last January.

I love galette des rois! And even though I’m from south of France I prefer frangipane than the brioche one.

La Fête des Rois, The King’s Feast, is held on January 6th to celebrate the Epiphanie (The Revelation). This represents the conclusion of the Christmas festivities and celebrates the arrival of the three kings to Bethlehem to bring gifts to the baby Jesus after his birth on December 25th.

La galette des rois traditional cake, nicknamed the Parisienne, is made using puff pastry and is filled with frangipane — a blend of almond cream and pastry cream. Some bakeries offer different versions such as frangipane-chocolate, pear-chocolate, lemon and candied chestnuts, hazelnuts, apple, and Mirabelle plums. Others also sell king cakes shaped like crowns, which is a Southern French specialty made with hazelnuts and candied fruit. The Basque people successfully exported the brioche dessert to the New World in the 18th century, and today it is enjoyed during Carnival season in Louisiana and the other states in the Gulf of Mexico. In New Orleans, king cake is traditionally sprinkled with sugar dyed in the Mardi Gras colors of gold (power), green (faith), and purple (justice).

Et si tu trouves la fève tu es couronné. le roi ou reine! (And if you find the bean, you are crowned King or Queen!) You will then have the honor of buying next year’s galette des Rois, and of course you will wear la couronne (the crown.)

Another tradition is to save a small piece for an unexpected visitor, or poor person, who passes by. With this, everyone has an equal chance to  tirer les rois (draw the kings) from the cake.

A French Tradition Little Known in the U.S.

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