The King of Cakes

Galette des Rois:

There is something about religious tradition which gladdens the soul and in French culture, the festival of Epiphany when the Three Wise Kings, who visited the Christ Child, is celebrated with a special cake on January 7 each year.

The cake is called  La Galette des Rois and it is celebrated in the same manner of Christmas – with a gathering of the family and inside the cake a bean is inserted and whoever finds it, is king for the day – or Queen. For contemporary French children, mothers insert a small ceramic toy which cannot be swallowed, but the old tradition was to insert a dried fava bean, and to this day whatever is found is still called “la feve’’

The first time I ate a piece of La Galette des Rois, I was in  Brittany, France at the home of our friends, Gerard and Martine Rolland.  They were the happily married couple I wrote about in my book From France With Love and we were staying there as their guests, as we did each year we visited France.

It was a joyous occasion, especially for me, when I found the bean and wore the crown – a gold circle encrusted with coloured glass. ( No party hat as we were remembering the rich wise men who brought precious gold, incense and myrrh to baby Jesus).

The tradition for the Queen (moi) included my picking the King by putting the bean in his glass. Gerard added his own flavour by saying in his household, the queen is kissed by all her subjects – a very pleasant end to a great lunch celebration.

The day is a sweet memory because it was the last time we spent around the dinner table with Gerard. He died of cancer two months later.

So, each year we carry out this tradition, and usually the grand-children are eager-eyed around the table.  It is remarkably simple to make using puff pastry sheets, thawed in the refrigerator.

Cut the pastry sheets into two circles the size of  a dinner plate… then place the puff pastry on a baking sheet.  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Make the frangipane cream for the filling and this recipe makes enough for 2 galettes (often needed to allow a reasonable slice for each guest.)

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