What is Epiphany?
Epiphany is a Christian celebration with different meanings depending on whether the Church is Western or Eastern. For the Western church it commemorates the three Magi’s (often known as 3 wise men or 3 kings) visit to baby Jesus. For the Eastern churches, it is the day of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River. It is also known as Three Kings’ Day.
It is the 12th day of (after) Christmas and is fixed in the Western church calendar as 6 January. The date on which it is celebrated though moves from year to year and is generally the Sunday between 2 and 9 January.
While no longer a particularly religious holiday in France, the occasion is still celebrated with the galette des rois, a cake which can only be found and eaten throughout the month of January. Many eat it to ring in the new year with friends and family.
What is the galette des rois?
The Galette des Rois is traditionally a cake of puffed pastry (known as pâte feuilleté in France) filled with frangipane (not to be confused with the frangipani flower), which is a creamy almond paste-like mixture. Many patisseries in France, and now in Australia too, make galette des rois with non-traditional fillings as well such as chocolate with pears, or raspberry to name just a few.
There are regional variations of the Galette des Rois to be found in France as well. A brioche style cake with candied fruit is often found in the South of France.
The Galette des Rois also traditionally contains a “fève”, which is a porcelain charm hidden inside the cake. These have become highly collectable items for some and pâtissiers around France stand out not only with their Galette des Rois flavour combinations and artistry but with the fèves their Galettes contain.
The tradition: be a King or Queen for a day!
There is a tradition to the cake, whereby the youngest person hides under the table and tells whoever is cutting the cake who should get which piece. The person who receives the fève in their slice then gets to wear the crown and is King or Queen and gets to choose their partner for the day. If you are the person who receives the piece with the fève, you have been the one who has “tiré les rois” (drawn the King) from the cake.
The tradition of the galette des rois dates back to the 14th Century!
Will you join this tradition this month?
Matilda Marseillaise publishes an annual article telling you which patisseries around Australia are making the Galette des Rois that year. Take a look at her website to see where you can buy one near you.