La Galette des Rois

La Galette des Rois or Kings Cake

In France La Galette des Rois was traditionally eaten on 6th January. The day the three wise men arrived to visit the baby Jesus. Nowadays, it’s eaten throughout January to celebrate the start of the New Year.

The cake is delicious, puff pastry filled with frangipane, and it comes with a paper crown. To win the crown and become King or Queen for the day, you have to find the fève. Traditionally a bean, it is now a small charm, hidden in the cake during baking. The youngest person in the group sits under the table and, shouts out the names of people present to decide who gets which piece. 

Twelfth Night in Britain

In Spain, they have a very similar cake La Rosca de Reyes. Also eaten on the 6th January, it has a tiny model of a baby inside, which represents the baby Jesus. The lucky (or unlucky, depending on your point of view) person who finds the baby has to buy next year’s cake and throw a party on Candlemas.

I was curious about why we don’t celebrate Twelfth night in Britain. The only tradition I had heard connected to 6th January was that it was unlucky to leave Christmas decorations up after this date. A bit boring, compared to eating cake! So I did some research* and found Twelfth Night did use to be celebrated in Britain. The cake was a fruit cake with a bean and a pea baked into it. Gentlemen were served a piece from the side containing a bean and ladies the side containing a pea. The finders of the bean and pea became King and Queen for the night and there was much revealing and mischief.

Possibly, a little too much mischief as Queen Victoria banned the celebration of Twelfth Night in the 1870’s – spoilsport! The cake remained popular though. Baked without the bean and pea it was renamed Christmas Cake. One of my very favourite seasonal treats.

*The Jane Austen web site had a lot of information on Twelfth Night and how it’s celebrated in the UK.

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