Epiphany is a Christian feast day (January 6th) celebrating the revelation of God as a human being in Jesus Christ.
In France, it’s perhaps primarily a wonderful excuse for everyone – Christian or otherwise – to get together to indulge in a traditionnal cake: La Galette des Rois (The Cake of the Kings).
In northern France (including Paris), La Galette des Rois is a round, flat, and golden cake (pictured above) made with flake pastry and filled with frangipane (an oozing marzipan-related cream), and fruit or chocolate. In the south (including Provence), a crown-shaped brioche cake filled with fruit called Le Gâteau des Rois is eaten.
Both types of cake contain a small charm, usually a porcelain figurine, called a fève (bean in French). The cake is cut by the youngest (and presumably most innocent?) person at the table to ensure that the recipient of the fève is random.
The person who gets the piece of cake with the trinket becomes “King” (or “Queen”) and gets to wear a golden crown provided with the cake. This person often then volunteers to host the next King cake at their home, which is meerly a cunning ruse allowing festivities to be extended through all of January!
Always watching out for excuses to get together around cake and Champagne, the A La Carte Paris team got together last week in our office.
Marc (marketing), Carole (investment & interior design), Alex (founder), Julie (operations director)
Carole (investment & interior design), Alex (founder), Julie (operations director)
Ostensibly because A La Carte is now present in both Paris and Provence (but mainly just because we love cake!), we indulged in BOTH types of cake, from Northern (upper cake in above photo) and Southern France (lower cake in above photo).
Marc (marketing), Alex (founder), Julie (operations director), Suzie (rentals manager), Jacquie (rentals assistant), Annabelle (admin & accounting), Maria (interim accounting, as Annabelle is expecting a baby!)
Carole (investment & interior design), Alex (founder), Julie (operations director), Marc (marketing)
Guess what happened next? Well… Jean-Eric was lucky enough to get BOTH fèves!!
Suzie: “Nooooooooo… That’s sooooooo unfair!” 🙂
You may have met Jean-Eric in your apartment, as he’s in charge of apartment logistics, quality and maintenance. Anyway, when you next see him, you might want to enquire about his teeth, as porcelain isn’t reputed to be very chewy! 😉
King Jean-Eric! Hip hip hooray!!
This tradition of nominating a “King” on the 6th January dates back to antique Rome, when Master and Slave roles were inverted for that one day, during which the Slave would become “King”.
Now, there are no slaves at A La Carte Paris (even in peak season!)… which is how I defended not leaving Jean-Eric my place as CEO for the day!
That said, maybe one year (with an extra glass of Champagne) I might go along with the swap and see what happens!
So when you can, do try a Galette des Rois for yourself. It’s finger-licking-good – literally! 🙂
Finally, should you be interested in making your own Galette des Rois, here is a receipe by Paris pastry expert David Lebovitz.
Have you sampled either the northern Galette des Rois or southern Gateau des Rois? What did you think? Did your teeth survive winning the fève?
And I’m curious: how is Epiphany celebrated in your country and your state?
Do let me know in the comment box below, as custom seems to vary from country to country and even from state to state! Thanks.
For example, in Colorado, Epiphany is marked by the Great Fruitcake Toss. Participants dress as kings, queens and fools, and competitions are held for the farthest fruitcake throw, the most creative projectile device, etc. This is Christian festivity with humorous twist, as from what I understand fruitcake (although the traditional Christmas bread of America) is considered in the United States with a certain degree of derision, and is the source of many jokes – is that right?
I look forward to hearing from you.