Why do we eat the king’s cake?

31/12/2020

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Family celebrations are so sweet: receiving gifts, eating chocolates, spending time with loved ones, or becoming King or Queen for a day and falling back into childhood. Lucky will be the one who discovers the bean or the little figurine well hidden in the hollow of a smooth brioche… but why do we eat the twelfth night cake? Little Guest reveals the origins of this tradition, as well as a delicious frangipane recipe to make with your child.

 

Child eating a king cake

 

I – Once upon a time, a king’s cake…

Saturnalia, according to the Romans

In order to thwart Saturn’s towers, the Romans had a tradition of celebrating Saturnalia between the end of December and the beginning of January. For seven days, the idea was to forget the diktats and hierarchical codes. On this occasion, the « King’s Cake » was presented to the feasters: The King of the Day (the one who fell on the bean) had the power to express all his desires. Thus, it happened that a slave would take the place of his master for a day.

The tradition of asking the youngest guest to sit under the table to blindly distribute the slices stems from this feast.

 

Epiphany, according to the Christians

Every year, the 6th of January turns out to be an important day because this day not only celebrates the first appearance of the famous Sherlock Holmes in 1887 or the birth of Joan of Arc in 1412, but also the Epiphany, which dates back to the first centuries.

The term « epiphany » comes from the Greek « epipháneia » meaning « apparition ». According to the Christian religion, the 6th of January marks the first appearance of Jesus in broad daylight, as it is on this date that this religious figure was baptised in the Jordan River and that the Magi (or Wise Men) visited him following a mysterious star (this is the reason why the Christmas tree is traditionally crowned with a star).

 

A traditional, but above all convivial celebration

At Little Guest, we like to share a King’s Cake and crown whoever falls on the little figurine hidden inside, just like that, for the pleasure of being together and enjoying a delicious frangipane! We are pleased to share with you our magical and family-friendly recipe.


 

Did you know?

Different countries have very different traditions!

 

  • In France. Even within the territory of France, the galettes take on different tastes and shapes. While the majority of French people savour a pastry made from puff pastry filled with frangipane or apples, the southerners prefer the « gâteau des rois » (King’s cake), a sourdough bread in the shape of a crown perfumed with orange blossom water.

  • In Switzerland, as well as in Belgium, the tradition is similar to that of France! Our Swiss neighbours are fond of the brioche cake, while our Belgian friends prefer the famous frangipane.
  • In Spain, on the other hand, it is a whole different celebration. As Christmas has never become a major event, it is on Epiphany Day that children receive gifts, which are distributed by the Magi (los Reyes Magos), and not by Santa Claus.
  • In the south of the United States, and mainly in New Orleans, the Kings’ Cake is decorated with the colours of Carnival to commemorate Mardi Gras, a feast that comes later than Epiphany (47 days before Easter, to be exact).
  • In Greece, the King’s Cake is called Vasilopita (which can be translated as St Basil’s Day cake, which is celebrated on January 1st): it is eaten from the first day of the year. Finding the hidden figurine (or the traditional bean) would bring luck for the following year…

     

 

Wherever you are in the world, Little Guest wishes you and your family the best!

 

Pernell Biardeau

Pernell, 24 years old, travel lover, from Angers, France

 

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