French figures: The cake makes that makes you royalty for a day

French figures: The cake makes that makes you royalty for a day
Photo: AFP
French cakes are all pretty good, but only one confers actual (temporary) royalty on those who scoff it.

A festival wouldn't really be a festival without some kind of special cake, but the one traditionally served on January 6th in France is very special indeed.

January 6th marks the Christian festival of epiphany, when the three kings arrived to give their gifts to the baby Jesus. In more secular times it also marks the end of the delightful holiday period of eating, drinking and lazing about and the beginning of January diets, exercise and general good intentions.

While epiphany is a huge deal in Spain with parades and town festivals, in France it's a quieter affair – and not a public holiday. But it does have one special tradition – Galette des rois.

By tradition the president is not allowed to become the Epiphany king (because he already has quite enough power) so a different version of the cake is served at the Elysée Palace. Photo: AFP

This is a frangipane and pastry cake traditionally served on January 6th – usually with cider or champagne.

In homage to its royal tradition and name, the cake usually comes with a gold paper crown.

Hidden within the cake is a fève – traditionally a bean but these days more usually a ceramic or plastic charm.

The person who finds the fève in their slice gets to wear the crown and become the king or queen of the festival and is also apparently guaranteed good luck for the year ahead.

In some families, the cutting of the cake is a complex ritual that involves the youngest person present sitting under the table.

This article is part of The Local France's 2020 virtual advent calendar – every day until Christmas we will be presenting you with a person or object that has a particular significance to life in France. 

 

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