CAKE! (Now That I Have Your Attention)…

Happy February! Let us eat cake.

“It’s funny how much bigger Bruce Willis is than Ronnie James,” said Callaghan as he watched our cats play together. “They remind me of the Galette des Rois.”

Galette des Rois. Cats. I’m always intrigued by Callaghan’s mental leaps.

“Galette des Rois” translates to English literally as “Kings’ Cake.” In the States, we usually just call them “King Cakes.” They hit Louisiana bakery shelves on 6 January (the beginning of Epiphany) and roar on up to the Mardi Gras carnival celebration in the middle of February (the culmination of Epiphany, the last three days of which are known as the big Mardi Gras street bash after which hardly any of the carnival-goers remembers what happened because of the epic scale of the debauchery that took place). King Cakes are as heavily associated with the New Orleans Mardi Gras as beer, boobs and beads. They are not, as far as I know, associated with cats. Nor do they resemble cats, even remotely.

For one thing, cats are not ring-shaped twists of yeasty dough, and they are not sweetened with icing and dyed purple, green and yellow.

I guess some of the French patisseries in New Orleans also offer the solid round puff-pastry French version of the King Cake, but the traditional New Orleans garish rings are what come to mind when I think of King Cakes… so much so that when Callaghan first pointed out the Galette des Rois to me here in France, I didn’t even realize I was looking at the same thing.

“Like the ones we saw at Lili Croustille the other day?” Callaghan continued as he spoke of the cats. “I was looking at the Galette des Rois, you know, at the 8- and 6-part ones. Bruce Willis is the 8-part one.” I figured that by “part” he meant “serving.”

We’d actually bought one those cakes, an event I won’t likely forget because I’m human, and humans have a tendency to remember embarrassing moments for all eternity. Because when we got home from Lili Croustille and I went to cut that cake, I couldn’t do it.

I inserted a sharp knife blade into the buttery, flaky crust and hit resistance right away. I pressed harder, but the knife didn’t progress. I started sawing the knife back and forth, quickly checking over my shoulder first to make sure Callaghan didn’t see me struggling to slice the delicate dessert. No luck. Finally, feeling completely ridiculous, I added downward pressure to my sawing action. And then I gave up.

I’m sure Callaghan thought I was hopeless, but he gamely came over and looked down at the cake where it rested all innocent-like on its little round cardboard thing. The cake looked smug. It was grinning up at me. Yes, it was.

“What’s wrong?” Callaghan asked as he studied the cake.

“It doesn’t cut,” I said, accusingly.

I took hold of the knife again and made another attempt with Callaghan standing there, watching. Once again, the knife stopped half-way through. I kept the blade where it was and moved it slightly to the side and saw a small, hard figurine. A figurine! I made the connection. I guess King Cakes all over the world have a figurine or something equally menacing inside, poised to choke a person or foil her slicing attempts.

Callaghan never did elaborate on his thought process.

King Cake, French style (Galette des Rois)

King Cake, French style (Galette des Rois)

King Cake, New Orleans (Mardi Gras) style

King Cake, New Orleans (Mardi Gras) style

Bruce Willis (right) and Ronnie James (left)

Bruce Willis (right) and Ronnie James (left)

See a resemblance?

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6 thoughts on “CAKE! (Now That I Have Your Attention)…

  1. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! I pictured you trying to cut the cake and can’t stop laughing. Isn’t the cake supposed to have a small figural representation of baby Jesus baked into it? Whoever gets the baby has good luck all year….? There’s Southern American version of cake with a bean baked into, too…

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  2. haha I felt so dumb trying to cut that cake!! Yes, I think that figurine is a baby Jesus, usually, but the one in the cake we got here was like an adult king kind of figure. I like the idea of the bean, too. Our kitties are the best little King Cakes ever, ha!

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  3. technically, it has to do with the wise men, called “rois mages”, so you’d find something to do with “royalty” in the galette, not necessarily baby Jesus. The youngest person in the household is supposed to hide under the table and call out the name of the person who is getting the slice as you serve it, so that the lucky winner of the draw is randomly selected (or in most household, you can give it to whoever you want without the youngest kid knowing that they are going to get the “feve” no matter what).

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  4. Hi Magali! True, I have noticed that the figurines here are like little kings. The New Orleans ones are more often baby Jesus figurines, from what I know. The tradition you describe sounds so cute. =)

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