A delicious combination of puff pastry and almond cream, the Galette des Rois (“King Cake”) occupies a special place in French hearts, and bellies.
Christmas is one of those feasts that likes to linger in the palate, much like an excellent wine does. And so while all the major festivities are done and dusted for another year, there is still one thing to look forward to: Epiphany and the Galettes des Rois with which the French, and others, love to celebrate this moment in the Christian calendar. A delicious combination of puff pastry and almond cream, the Galette des Rois (“King Cake”) occupies a special place in French hearts, and bellies. And, of course, you’ll find our favourite ones freshly prepared by our baking team at Khéma. And don’t forget: whoever gets the slice with the ‘bean’ is crowned King (or Queen) for the rest of the day.
Epiphany is a feast day that marks the end of the “12 Days of Christmas” which are in fact a whole series of Christian feast days intended to celebrate saints who are recognised as “Companions of Christ” because their lives bore unique witness to Jesus Christ. But while the religious significance has faded, January 6th still remains a day of celebration among family and friends for many in France. And celebrating it without a Galette des Rois would be like celebrating Christmas without a Christmas Day meal.
Epiphany though is not about the saints, but about the Three Wise Men (Magi) who came to find Jesus following his birth in Bethlehem. Over time, these Wise Men were recast as ‘kings’, and thus the origins for a ‘king cake’ were laid.
But the origins for this special cake and the traditions that surround it go back even further than Christianity and can be traced back to Roman times when and the festival of Saturnalia when, for a single day of the year, slaves became masters and masters became slaves (a temporary inversion of the social order that no doubt helped to subdue stirrings for a more permanent edition). In the Roman tradition, a king or queen for the day was determined by hiding a bean inside a cake.
For non-French speakers who nonetheless enjoy French food and culture, the word ‘galette’ can be a bit of a confusing one as it refers to a wide variety of things including a flat pastry, savoury buckwheat crepes, shortbread biscuits (especially those made famous in Pont Aven in Brittany), and a preparation of thinly sliced potatoes browned on both sides in a frying pan. And there are many more iterations too. It helps to think of it as a word that means good things are going to come.
And that’s definitely true of a Galette des Rois. Especially the ones you’ll find at Khéma all through this January.