Catholic Recipe: Galette des Rois
Also Called: Cake of the Kings
Le Jour des Rois, the Day of the Kings, or Epiphany, is the great festival of childhood in France, as well as in most European and Latin American countries. Christmas is the season of Holy Birth. But the twelfth day following means a wonderful party with a cake for the Kings, games, and laughter.
According to popular legend, the three Kings follow the star each year to Bethlehem, where they offer gifts at the Christ Child's feet. On their journey eastward, Their majesties always pass through France, as well as many other lands. On the eve of January 6, youngsters fill their shoes with hay for the hungry camels. When morning comes the hay has vanished, and in its place are bonbons, cakes, and toys. These tokens the Kings leave for children.
Customs and beliefs concerning Three Kings' Day vary widely from place to place. Even the galette des Rois, or cake of the Kings, is made differently in different provinces. But on one point everyone agrees: each cake must contain a bean, a small token, or sometimes a miniature china doll.
Usually the galette des Rois is round and flat. It may be honey-spice or sponge inside. It may be decorated with pastry, fruits, or sugared frills.
There is always one more piece than the number of guests. The extra portion, la part a Dieu-God's share-is for the first poor person who knocks at the door. For le Jour des Rois means sharing as well as receiving. None who ask for food or alms depart empty-handed on this day, and all over France the festival is observed with folk ceremonies and gifts to the parish poor.
For your galette des Rois select a fragrant spice cake. Substitute a prepared mix for the recipe given, if you prefer. Bake the cake in a large round tin. Shortly before serving, smooth sweetened whipped cream over the entire cake. Swirl additional cream over the top, to give a fluffy, billowy look. Then cut candied pineapple slices in half and stand the pieces around the edge, curved side uppermost, to suggest a crown. "Jewel" the base of the crown with green and red candied cherries, or with multicolored round candies. Last of all, press blanched almond halves into the cream-covered sides of the cake. A cake like this is sumptuous to look at, quick and easy to decorate.
Sift flour once, then add soda, baking powder, and spices, and sift together three times. Cream butter, then add sugar and cream until mixture is light and fluffy. Beat egg and add to creamed mixture, combining thoroughly. Then add flour mixture alternately with milk. Beat well after each addition. Bake in greased and floured round 10-inch tin for 50 minutes in moderate oven (350º F.).Recipe Source: Feast-Day Cakes from Many Lands by Dorothy Gladys Spicer, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1960