The sixth of January kicks off the season of the French king cake! I tried the galette de rois during my first visit to the South of France in 2012 and I wait patiently every year to re-discover it. It’s SO delicious! It’s basically a flaky puff pastry (similar to croissant dough) and filled with a thick layer of frangipane (almond paste). Inside, there is a tiny porcelain king or whole almond and whoever discovers the little king in their slice, is honored as the King of the day.
Holding true to tradition, on January 6th, families all over France eat a King Cake. Historically, it celebrated the twelfth night of Christmas when the three biblical kings united for the religious Epiphany. Now, everyone eats it, and if religious, they do so in order to make a welcoming environment for the kings. But as I know it, it is a time to get together with family to eat delicious cake.
Luckily, galette de rois can be found at all the boulangeries and grocery stores in France during the month of January. Different regions have different traditions and flavors. I’ve seen the typical frangipane and now I’ve seen it flavored with chocolate, pear, or apple. There are also other popular styles in the form of brioche with pearled sugar or candied fruit on top. I prefer the classic frangipane style, like the recipe posted below.
If you are not much of a baker, you can even find this cake in the US! When I was living in France, I sent my mom to a french bakery in Palo Alto (where she spent a small fortune on one) that was typical french style. But Americans make the cake too, especially in places like New Orleans, where there is a lot of french influence. The American’s King cakes are more like braided brioche bread with icing. Or just a giant cinnamon roll type dessert…yum. It’s most common in the US to eat it on Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday), before preparing for Ash Wednesday and the fasting during Lent.
So, eat it while you can, or bake it and eat it whenever you want! 🙂