Known in Louisiana as King Cake, and drenched in the purple-green-and-gold of Mardi Gras, the original French Galette des Rois is a bit different. A reserved flaky puff-pastry crust hides what's truly special about this tart (other than frangipane, a mélange of pastry and almond cream)—a tiny figurine called the fève, which bestows royal rights on whoever finds it!
A taste of France
Galettes des rois come in as many flavors as there are patisseries in France. The classic is frangipane and puff pastry, but variations with apples, nuts, berries, flowers and dozens of other flavors are also available, as well as shapes ranging from actual crowns to a pair of lips!
Like most traditions in France, these galettes pair heritage with gastronomy. The tradition of of the fève tucked away in a cake supposedly dates back to France's days as a Roman colony, when winter solstice was celebrated by preparing a cake with a dried bean inside (the literal meaning of fève). Whichever lucky slave found it became "king" for a day. The tradition took on Christian overtones to celebrate the Epiphany on Jan 6, and the bean morphed into porcelain representations of cultural figures (often represented in plastic today). The royal ascendence continues, however, and whoever finds the fève in their mouthful temporarily becomes king or queen!