King Cake

Before the week flies by, I wanted to give you a little report about our past weekend. We were so happy to be invited by our neighbor, Madame Lucienne, for a King Cake gathering.

I’m not totally sure about all the traditions surrounding this cake (if you know, please do fill us in), but this is what I understand. Each January, as part of the Epiphany/Three Kings Day/New Years celebrations, friends and neighbors are invited for cake. Baked in the cake is a “bean”, but really the bean is a tiny toy or figure. The cake is sliced and served. Someone at the table discovers the bean, and that person is crowned. Tradition says the bean finder will also have good luck all year. (My kind of tradition!)

Maude was the lucky bean finder at Saturday’s gathering. She found the tiny ceramic King above. Betty was broken-hearted when the crown appeared and she realized it wasn’t for her, so Maude kindly shared. She’s a good sister.

If you visit any bakery in France right now, you’ll see King Cakes for sale with paper crowns on top. So fun!

P.S. — Less fun: my panic-ed moment at the party, when I was chatting with the hostess and realized I was about to throw up. And throw up I did. So embarrassing. I’m still cringing at the memory.

60 thoughts on “King Cake”

  1. Oh, no! So sorry to hear you were sick at the party. That’s the worst, but I’m sure the hostess was understanding.

    Congratulations to Maude not only for being the bean finder but for being such a wonderful big sister. All the best to the Blairs in 2012!

  2. This is a tradition in the southeast leading up to Mardi Gras as well. There, the person who gets the baby also must bring the next cake. Mmmm, I might need to make a King’s Cake soon!

  3. I love that wonderful ‘fete’. The tradition also goes that the youngest in the group hides under the table where the king cake is being cut and delegates who gets which piece. It’s a fun little things to include when children are in the mix :)

  4. King cake is an Epiphany tradition, but it’s also part of Mardi Gras, and finding the bean makes you responsible for bringing the next year’s king cake.

  5. King cakes are big in Louisiana and Texas as well.

    Sorry you were ill. Maybe Maude can share some of her good luck and make you better?!

  6. Its that time of year – celebrations and sickness! My fourth grade girl got sick on her desk at school yesterday. It happens to everyone at least once in their life. Are you pregnant?! I can’t believe I’m the first to ask!

      1. That was also the first thought that crossed my mind. However, being 11 weeks pregnant, it’s on my mind constantly. How fun if you are, Gabrielle!

  7. I’m so sorry you were sick! We’ve all had those horrible moments we wish we could skip over, so I’m sure your hostess empathized. I hope you’re feeling better.

  8. In Spain, the King Cake is called “Roscón de Reyes” and the tradition (celebrated on 6th January, the Epiphany, the morning after the 3 wise kings come laden down with presents for everyone) is to hide two things inside: a “fabe” bean and a little wise king figurine, just like the one Maude and Betty shared. Whoever gets “the king” is crowned for the day and whoever gets the bean has to pay for next year’s cake! Fortunately, twelve months is a long time and bean receivers tend to hope everyone will have forgotten by next “Reyes” ;)

  9. We love our King Cakes in New Orleans. We hide a plastic or ceramic baby inside to represent the baby Jesus. King Cake season starts on the day of the Epiphany and lasts thru Mardi Gras day. Whoever gets the baby, has to buy the next King Cake!! :) ENJOY!

  10. Oh no! Sorry that you got sick at the party! I was in the middle of my last Nursery School Board meeting( I’m the president of the Board) and I had to excuse myself and run down the hallway to throw up. I am still embarrassed!

  11. I love galette des rois! I had a hard time passing any bakery selling the small ones. Maybe I need to make one this weekend for a belated celebration.

  12. I’m sure if anyone can pull off a charming “sick” moment it is certainly you!

    My mom used to make a “king cake” when we were younger – she used a bunt cake – and there would be one quarter inside of it somewhere (wrapped in tin foil). And whoever found it used to be able to pick what part they wanted to play in the pageant we put on afterwards (there were 9 of us kids) where we re-enacted the 3 kings being led around by Gabriel to find Mary, Joseph and Jesus in Bethlehem. There was usually a reader and then the cast of characters grew and shrank depending on how many people were around (my mom and god mother used to get real creative with the extra roles – and made it fun and funny)

  13. Oh no! I’ve only thrown up in public once. On a bus from Galway to Dublin with a stranger to my left, holing my hair. I feel your pain. Hope you’re feeling better.

    I love the King Cake idea. We are not French by any means or have any connection to France, but I would love to try this tradition next year. My kids are always so sad when Christmas is over. They would love this little treat.

    Thanks for sharing. Hope you’re on the mend.

  14. Greeks put in a coin and whoever finds it has good luck? I don’t remember what they get and I don’t even remember the name of the holiday if it was for New Year’s, Easter or Christmas? I’ll need to ask my Mom and get back to you. I love that little King figure! hugs, Ann

  15. I was first introduced to King’s cake during my time in St. Louis, MO. There is was part of Mardi Gras tradition. Always very fun! (Even if I have never been the lucky recipient of the bean.) Not so fun…being sick. : ( Hopefully it was either a) a short lived illness or b) sign of another darling Blair to come. : )

  16. The worst! Your story reminds me of a time when I was the president of our women’s organization at church. I went to visit a woman that I had never met, and whom I wanted to invite to join us. She was very gracious, but right in the middle of the visit I had an experience like yours. I tried for a few seconds to pray it away and will it down, but sure enough I ended up running for her bathroom without explanation. Afterwards she was so kind, & I was SO embarrassed. In my mortification we both just started laughing and I made her promise she’d become my lifelong friend so I wouldn’t be so devastated at the knowledge I’d thrown-up in the home of a total stranger. If it helps, we did become friends and we still laugh about it. Illness aside, I’m glad your family got to experience this tradition! I was so excited to read you might be extending your stay. I remember looking at your charming Christmas photos and wondering how in the world you were going to be able to leave such a place! I’ve enjoyed the peeks into your grand adventure!

  17. I hope you are feeling better! I had this happen at a ski hill at ski rental return time, when I was alone, skiing, with a 3,4 & 5 year old! I will never forget the event or literally crawling home! …Loving your posting today and thinking of you through your always inspiring site! In Stockholm, we’re counting down to “Tjugondeaknut” — (this is the “20-day-after-Christmas” holiday where parties are held to take down the tree. It’s true! I am going to post about it this weekend) but, first fit in a southern Gateau de rois with the kids this weekend! We were in southern France for the holidays are are all still withdrawing from the pastries.
    Once you’re better — lucky you!

  18. This sounds similar to the tradition in Mexico. Typically one (or more) “babies” (small plastic dolls) are hidden in the Rosca de Reyes, Three Kings Bread, on the 6th of January, when the kings also bring presents for the kids. The babies represent baby Jesus. Whoever gets the baby has to throw a party with tamales and a corn drink called atole. Some people also dress up or paint the little dolls, and take them to church to be “baptized” before the party.

  19. I was so going for the last slice after reading this but my husband beat me to it. He is chewing it loudly as I type to annoy me. Apparently it’s fair because I finished the last butter tart and the last hazelnut/apricot jam cookies my mother brought. Oh well, it wasn’t fresh anyway! :)

    We LOVE the tradition of the King’s cake here too!! My mother is French and we try to keep the tradition as often as possible. We live in Canada but most of my childhood was spent in Germany and I remember that for fun my mother would find nice fabrics from her sewing projects or fancy scarfs and transform my brother and I into lavish kings. We would even have our own crowns made of cardboard and foil wrapping. It was so much fun! I can’t remember who would be the 3rd King but I remember secretly pretending to be a Princess ;) We would later have the cake after a nice meal and I remember my brother often being upset if he wasn’t getting the crown. He would turn beet red. It’s always a hard lesson to learn for younger children. Betty had a normal reaction and I recently saw my 4.5 yrs old girl go through the same thing when my husband won the crown. She went from being impressed to see him crowned to be extremely disappointed that he won before she could. Here is a nice way to save it though. Once the lucky King is crowned he is allowed to choose his Queen! :) It almost made her feel better. In the end she took over the throne.

    We’re in Gatineau Québec, it’s not that common around us so we keep it with the family (we did invite our oldest daughter’s boyfriend for it though). I would love to share it with friends one day. We enjoy it with bubbly or cider and it’s the perfect way to end the Holidays after one last special meal. You can find French or fancy pastry shops that will sale this treat to the many Europeans that keep the tradition. One bite and it’s easy to fall for it!! So good!! Glad you got to experience it.

    Sorry about your embarrassing moment. It happens. Pregnant?? ;)

    1. Such a cool tradition! And so sorry you had your “less fun” moment. If it is a stomach bug – SO SORRY – that is the worst!!! And if it is not I am wondering what Bérangère is wondering!!!

  20. We had our first galette de roi this year – or I should say the dog had the first one ALL of it but not the feve fortunately! We tried again the next day and it was fun and delicious. My kids had been taught by their French teacher that the youngest child should hide under the table and say who should get which slice. We bought our galettes in our local boulangerie and our feves were mini street signs from our village. A nice souvenir of our time here! I hope you have success extending your visa, I am enjoying comparing our life in France experiences!

  21. This is from (Randazzo’s Bakery – WONDERFUL cakes)…

    The History of the King Cake
    TheMardi Gras or Carnival season officially begins on January 6th or Twelfth Night – also known to Christians as the “epiphany.” Epiphany comes from a Greek word that means “to show.” Bethlehem is where infant Jesus first showed himself to the world. As a symbol of this holy day, a tiny plastic baby is placed inside each King Cake. the King Cake tradition is thought to have been brought to New Orleans from France in 1870.

    A King Cake is an oval-shaped bakery delicacy – a cross between a coffee cake and a french pastry that is rich in history as it is in flavor: It’s decorated in royal colors or Purple which signifies Justice, Green for Faith, and Gold for Power: These colors were chosen to represent a jeweled crown honoring the wise men who brought gifts to the Christ Child on the Feast of Epiphany. In the past such things as coins, beans, pecans, or peas were hidden inside each King Cake. Today a tiny plastic baby is the common prize. At a party, the King Cake is sliced and served. Each person looks to see if their piece contains the baby. if so, then that person is named “King for a day” and bound by custom to host the next party and provide the King Cake.

  22. Betty definitely got the luck – to have such a kind older sister!

    And, well, throwing up is very Mardi Gras. Design Mom – always on theme!
    Seriously, I hope you are feeling better soon and the sickness was fleeting.

  23. Switzerland does the same thing! We enjoyed the same tradition here, in the French speaking part of Switzerland. My son got a shepherd and was crowned. The cake is actually very delicious.

  24. That’s interesting. In Spain the tradition is slightly different. There is actually a hard, dried broad bean as well as a small figure of one of the 3 kings in the cake. Whoever finds the bean has to pay for the cake. Whoever finds the king is crowned.

    At least that’s how I remember it from growing up in Spain! I’ll have to check with my mum next time we Skype…

    Btw, love your blog.
    x Alice

  25. They observe this tradition at my children’s school! Their principal is french and began it as soon as she started there. Each class has a king and queen for the day on Epiphany. Then the next day a king and queen is chosen from the entire school. They’re allowed to run in the halls, eat lunch with their class anywhere they like, and generally have a very good time. A bag full of treats is sent home with them at the end of the day. Best. Tradition. Ever.

  26. We have the tradition in switzrtland too,but I think our cake is not like the french galette.and I never saw such a cute figure here,just plastic kings. My mom once put s coin for everyone in[6Kids] so all were Happy.we get to chose the next day’s menu and program. My 4y.boy tried too keep cool this year when his older sister found the was so cute…30 seconds later he was in tears and she shared the crown ;-) .

  27. Was the final bit a tease for your readers – are you by any chance expecting a new bundle of joy sometime in the next 9-ish months??!

  28. You’re pregnant, aren’t you??

    In Louisiana, king cakes are are all over the place right now. In fact, I almost convinced my neighbor to bring one over last night!


  29. We’ve celebrated with King Cake a couple of times here in NY, but only when we happen upon a store with cakes to remind us!
    I’m so sorry you threw up at the party. I have to admit that I’ve had the thought that you might be expecting (a recent post prompted the thought?). I’m hoping that is the reason you threw up and not that you were ill. :)
    Hope you’re feeling better.

  30. Ah, le Galette des Rois me manquent. I ate more than a few during my days as a French and Belge missionaire. Merci pour m’avoir en pensee!

  31. I hope la galette des rois wasn’t the one to make you sick… because you might eat a lot of galette in January in France!! It’s the tradition for the person who gets la feve to buy another galette at the next get together, which might be next week, or the next day! Galettes des rois are the No. 1 money maker confection for French bakers; the most expensive item being la feve which are usually collectibles, some of them being actual gold! You will find galettes from Xmas ’til Mardi gras in the bakeries but people usually make their own cake after a few purchased one.

    The tradition wants that the younger person in the room hides under the table and chooses who gets which slice. Upon discovering la feve in your piece of cake, you become le roi ou la reine; you then choose your king or your queen (opposite sex usually). And you have to buy or make the cake in the next few days.

    Frangipane galette (mixture of almonds, butter and sugar) are big, mainly in the North of France. Round crown-like brioche are more in favour in the South.
    Both ways, you can’t escape it! :-)

  32. Glad to see I’m not the only one who read “throw up” and thought pregnant? Sounds like a fun party. Hope you’re feeling better!

  33. Ack! Mortifying, but wow what a tale to tell for years to come. ;)

    Hope you are feeling better . . . unless this is the sort of thing that clears up after nine months. ???

  34. All the comments stating, “You’re pregnant, aren’t you?” are cracking me up. Hopefully they made you laugh, too. So sorry about your mortifying moment!
    I love King Cake. We have it in TX and LA for Mardi Gras. It is usually a plastic baby…

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