A cake fit for a king in Paris
A traditional galette des rois from Paris patissier Sébastien Gaudard. (Courtesy of Sébastien Gaudard)
Christmas and New Year’s Eve may be over, but in Paris overindulgence and festivities continue into January as bakeries fill up with sumptuous galettes des rois (cakes of kings).
These flaky pastry tarts filled with frangipane (an almond filling) are eaten throughout France from the first Sunday in January to the end of the month to celebrate Epiphany. Traditionally, each golden-coloured cake has a charm hidden inside, and the lucky person who finds it is declared king or queen for the day and has the privilege -- or perhaps embarrassment -- of wearing the paper crown that comes with the cake. To avoid any cheating, the youngest member of the party hides under the table and tells the person cutting the cake to whom to give each piece. The king or queen has to return the favour by buying the next galette des rois, and so it continues throughout January.
Superlative galettes de rois, from traditional to original, can be found throughout Paris this month. Patissier Sébastien Gaudard, who is known for fusing heritage and innovation in his cakes, has created a classic almond galette des rois spiked with rum, and one laced with chocolate. Hidden in each is a porcelain bean, a throwback to traditional charms used in the past.
Alongside their classic almond galette, upmarket bakery chain Eric Kayser has concocted an exotic version with mango and pineapple and a charm inscribed with a quote relating to baking. Pierre Hermé, famous for his daring macaroon flavours, is equally inventive with his galette des rois: this year’s version has a wintery chestnut and brown muscavado sugar filling.
For something subtly different, head to one of chic contemporary patisserie Hugo et Victor’s three branches for their almond galette perfumed with the orange flavours of bergamot
And for a cross-cultural version, smart Parisian bakery Lenôtre with branches throughout the city has teamed up with UK car maker Aston Martin to create a cake in the shape of a wheel, with a British-inspired marmalade filling and car-themed charms hidden within. Vive le roi!
Kim Laidlaw Adrey is the Paris Localite for BBC Travel. She also writes www.unlockparis.com.