When you win the fève in your slice, you will be treated like a king for the day, or you can just take time to savor the flaky goodness of this sweet French treat.
Galette du Roi is an iconic French treat that is enjoyed through the month of January. When in Paris the boulangerie (or bakery) pâtisserie (pastry shop), or supermarché (supermarket) windows are full of these tasty cakes. Since the 14th century, beginning on the Epiphany (January 6th) or the 12th Day of Christmas for any carolers out there, the cake is traditionally served to all members of the household. Made of round flaky layers of pastry, not unlike a croissant, and filled with a creamy almond paste, these cakes are baked to perfection with a golden crust. The cakes are sold with a golden paper crown and within the fluffy layers and sweet almond paste is hidden the fève. Originally the galette du roi contained a dried bean, and the youngest person in the room wass told to sit under the table and name who receives each slice so that there is no way they can see who gets the bean. Historians say that whomever receives the bean in their slice of cake is “king for the day”.
The bean today has morphed into a small ceramic figurine, and quite collectable to those who enjoy this tradition – there are even vendors at the Paris flea markets who specialize in these small figurines. I found one in my slice when I was in Paris in January 2019 that is a small lavender macaron and it is very precious to me because of the people I was fortunate enough to share a cake with that year! I certainly felt like a king that day.
Most French bakeries offer these delectable cakes during the month of January. In Paris and now NYC you can find them at Angelina’s (most famous for their hot chocolate) where the cake comes covered in a sugary gold dust. You can order them for delivery or visit the bakery in person if they are within your commute. I will be purchasing mine this year at the local spot, Douceur de France, with locations in Roswell and Marietta, Ga.
In New Orleans and the southern U.S. the tradition of selling a colorful “king cake” is promoted by bakeries with a similar celebratory theme. There is usually a plastic baby attached to the packaging as the fève. King cakes are instantly recognizable by the icing in bright colors of green yellow and purple. The king cake is more of a sweet danish consistency and can be found with varied fillings when compared to the flaky crust and almond paste of the galette, but it is still quite delicious.
Whether you enjoy a galette du roi or a king cake, any way you choose to celebrate the month of January with something sweet reminding you of Paris is just fine. Be sure to wear your beret and toast a bonjour bonne annèe with champagne when you do.