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Three Wise Men and a Cake

Galettes, Galettes Everywhere!

Please no more! - Galettes, Galettes Everywhere!

It’s that time of year again:  Jaunary 6th, the official date of Epiphany - the celebration of the magis (also known as the three wise men).  In France, around this date, also starts the tradition of sharing a round cake with friends and family called “La Galette des Rois” and trying not to break your teeth on the famous ”fève” which is hidden in one of the slices. 

Historically “la fève” was a small edible bean representing fertility, but now it tends to be a tiny porcelain statue1. The lucky person who receives the slice with “la fève” gets to wear a golden paper crown2 and becomes king or queen for the day.  Depending on the ambiance of the party, there can be much applause, sometimes singing, and the king also has the right to go around the table kissing everyone and choose his special queen (although, if it’s a get together with certain in-laws, you may be hoping that someone chokes on the fève instead!).

Frangipane or Brioche?

Frangipane or Brioche?

During the first few weeks of January, all bakeries are filled with hundreds of these cakes and it seems like wherever you go someone always whips out a galette for everyone to share.  There are actually two different varieties of ”La Galette des Rois”:  the most popular type is a puff pastry with a creamy almond filling known as “frangipane”; the other type is a doughnut shaped brioche topped with dried fruit and sugar and usually found only in the southern part of France.  There is no official drink with the galette, but people will sometimes serve tea, hot chocolate, wine or champagne.

Friends and family frequently drop by during this time for an afternoon visit where everyone will gather around the table to partake of the galette.  At the workplace, someone will start off the tradition by providing the first galette for their co-workers.  The lucky person with the “fève” is then expected to bring in the galette for the following day (and so on).  Thankfully, galette-mania eventually subsides around mid-January, at which point your stomach can finally start recovering from the triple whammies of Christmas, New Years and “La Galette des Rois” all within a few weeks of each other.

Below is a traditional children’s song, ”J’aime la galette”, to help get you into the frangipane eating mood…

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  1. frequently painted as a king or a queen, fèves are actually collector’s items.  In fact, there is a museum in Blain, France with a collection of 20,000 of them! - []
  2. much like the crowns you get at Burger King []

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