While the fanfare of Christmas is over, there’s another, quieter celebration taking place in the French community in Atlanta this month.
It’s the celebration of the Epiphany with the galette des rois, a round spongy cake that means “king’s cake” and hides a trinket inside called a “feve.” In France, the lucky person who gets the slice with the feve is the symbolic “king” or “queen.” They also buy the next galette.
“For the whole month of January, we were eating galette,” says Michelle Oliveres, a French native who is president of Atlanta Accueil, an organization that helps Francophones get settled in Atlanta.
The cakes mark the Epiphany, or the commemoration of the three Wise Men bearing gifts to the baby Jesus, and is typically celebrated around Jan. 6.
But in France, you can find the galettes in nearly every bakery throughout the month. When it comes to the feves, some bakeries have themes, such as Disney, says Helene Toure, executive director of the Alliance Francaise d’Atlanta. The feves can be plastic or ceramic, and many homes have collections of them, she says.
In Atlanta, the bakery Douceur de France draws French expats and Americans alike with its galettes. It sells 400 to 500 galettes from Jan. 1 through the start of Mardi Gras, which is Feb. 17 this year, says owner Luc Beaudet. Sweet Tentations and Collet Fine Pastries also sell the cakes.
Many Atlantans will recognize the French tradition adapted with the King Cake, popular in New Orleans and available in bakeries and grocery stores here. In fact, Douceur de France adds King Cakes to its galette sales as we approach Mardi Gras, Mr. Beaudet says. At the same time, many Americans have fallen in love with galettes after tasting samples he puts out, he says.
Atlanta Accueil recently joined with the Alliance Francaise d’Atlanta to celebrate with a dinner and, of course, galette des rois. About 80 adults came with 14 children – some of them American, some French. The galettes were provided by Douceur de France and Collet Fine Pastries.
“The kids love it. They all want to get the little feve inside,” says Aurelie Weinstein, who originally hails from Grenoble, France and now lives in Smyrna. She brought her 20-month old daughter, Camille, who is too young to comprehend the holiday but still got a piece of galette.
Thibaut Roudergues, 5, and his 3-year-old brother, Baptiste, were anxious to bite into the triangle of galette that held the prize.
“Thibaut is very excited because he wants to find the feve,” says his father, David. “He wants to be the king.”