By now I’m sure you’re fully aware that I am French. But you may not know that my husband also has a slight French connection. The fact that he hails from that old French settlement of Louisiana impacts our relationship in a few ways. Usually not good ways 😉 We seem to always get into silly fights about how he can’t muster a proper sentence in French. We also argue about King Cake…
In America, King Cake is synonymous with Mardi Gras and rules over the month of February but across the ocean, La Galette des Rois is typical of Epiphany and reigns supreme in every French bakery and patisserie throughout the whole month of January. France’s King Cake celebrates the 12th day after the birth of Chris, when the wisemen (which are actually called Rois Mages in French) finally got around to paying their respects. The galette des rois that I grew up with (and have had as a birthday cake every year), is basically made with puff pastry and frangipane, an almond filling. My mom, on the other hand, likes to remind me that when she grew up, in the South of France, le gâteau des Rois was a) only available for a few days around January 6th b) made with a circular brioche base topped with fruits confits. The cake she grew up with was more similar to the Spanish roscón de reyes and it’s clearly this cake that colonists from France and Spain brought over to the Americas and is now glazed with purple, green and gold icing sugar and served in Louisiana for Mardi Gras.
My husband (and my mom) can say whatever they want but there is only one King Cake for moi, and it’s not a brioche cake and it’s not served in February. It’s also not easy to find in Washington. Nonetheless, here are 5 spots where I can hope to find a decent birthday King Cake today:
1) For the past 7 years, I (ok, my husband) have headed to Georgetown for my Galette. At Patisserie Poupon, they are available throughout the month of January and come in a variety of sizes. A small (serving 6 people) will set you back $19.50, a medium (8-10 people) will cost $29.50 and a large (12-13 people) $37.50.
2) Le Pain Quotidien hasn’t been around as long as Patisserie Poupon and yes, it’s a chain, but at least you’re getting a decent galette. It only comes in one size and as I learned when I tried to buy one at 4PM yesterday, it’s popular and frequently sells out (so call ahead or go early!) Priced at $14.95, it is only available until January 9th. Which makes me sad, because that’s a little too early for my birthday party…
3) La Madeleine will be serving a 9 inches galette made for the rest of the week and maybe for a few days next week depending on demand. Hum… tempting! (price: $18)
4) On January 6th, Le Chat Noir is celebrating Epiphany with King Cake, bien sur but also with a play on the treat that’s traditionally hidden in the cake. Le Chat Noir will randomly hide five surprise tokens in the cake. Chose a piece of cake at the end of your meal and get a chance to win. If the token is in your cake, you’ve just won dinner! If it’s not, well, you still won cake!
5) Epiphany cake (or Roscón de Reyes) is a big Spanish tradition as well and DC’s most famous Spaniard invites you to savor his country’s tradition through January 9th. Jaleo will be featuring the Spanish Epiphany Cake which can be ordered for $25 and eaten at dinner or taken to go.
The common element of all these King Cakes is, of course, the traditional hidden “treat.” Whoever finds it in his or her plate, gets to be king or queen for the day. All of the cakes are sold with a little paper crown that you get to wear around all day if you are lucky! In addition, in France, the tradition is typically to have the youngest person in your party hide under the table and call out who gets which slice of cake. It might look weird if you do that at Jaleo or Le Chat Noir … but eh, it’s tradition!!