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Galette des Rois - A Guide to French Pastries

Every month, we'll bring you a brand new French pastry including a little history, and the traditions that surround it!

What is it? 

The Galette des Rois is essentially frangipane encased within puff pastry and decorated by making cuts in the surface of the pastry. It's served in slices and can be eaten both hot and cold. 

What's the story?

We're glad you asked. Every year on the feast of the Epiphany this particular treat takes center stage, as families across France enjoy a final indulgence to mark the end of the festive season. This is a tradition that goes back to the 14th century, so it's only fair that if you're in Paris during January you get in on the act.

It's called Galette des Rois - the Cake of the Kings - in tribute to the three kings that arrived bearing gifts on the Epiphany. Of course, during the French Revolution - when being a King could lose you not just your popularity but your head - the name was changed to Gâteau de l'égalité or the cake of equality. 

The coveted crown awarded to the winner of the féve. Just watch your teeth! ©LaCuisineParis

Enjoying a Galette des Rois is not just about putting the kettle on and blithely cutting yourself a slice to enjoy with a nice cup of Earl Grey. It's a little more involved than that! First, the youngest member of the party must sit under the table. Obviously. Then, they must call out the name of a recipient for each newly sliced piece of cake. Why? You may well ask. 

The trick here is that hidden somewhere within the galette is the féve - the literal translation being a bean - for some lucky recipient to find. If they find it in their slice, they can claim the golden crown which is always provided along with a galette des rois, as in the photograph above. By calling out the names at random the child under the table ensures the randomness of the winner.

Today, it may still be called a féve, but it isn't actually a bean. Why was it ever a bean? I hear you ask. Well, one theory is that the Romans held their winter feasts and hid a bean in one of the dishes - hailing the finder of the féve King of the Feast. Come Christianity, the tradition of the féve became part of the Epiphany galette des rois tradition, and here we are, with children under tables yelling out names and hopeful friends and family members eating carefully to avoid crunching down on a porcelain or plastic figurine - these days, they can be anything at all, and people collect the little charms for years and years! 

Wondering where to buy your Galette des Rois in Paris? We have a map for that! Check it out just here! 

So how can I make it? 

Come and make it with us! We love Galette des Rois so much that every year we devote a class to recreating it - féve and all! Why not join us? You can find the class available to book just via our website!

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