January 9, 2013
Sunday marked the beginning of Carnival season as well as the official a-OK to stuff your face with king cake. While it seems like the seasonal parameters of king cakes are dissolving (I saw Christmas king cakes on display in New Orleans grocery stores a few weeks before December 25), I am firmly in the camp that believes king cake shouldn't touch your lips before Twelfth Night. I haven't had a chance to make my first king cake of the season yet, but I did finally try the French version last night. New York's French Institute Alliance Française held a party for the traditional Epiphany cake Galette des Rois and enlisted Financier Patisserie to bake two massive ones for the celebration. It's tradition that the youngest person in the room gets under the table to call out names for each slice, so no one cheats when it comes to finding the porcelain figurine baked into the almond-flavored pastry. The person who gets the charm becomes king or queen for the day, and no one last night mentioned an obligation to have to purchase the next king cake (something always joked about around the New Orleans-style treat). The flaky pastry got me thinking about baking one at home. We have a Galette des Rois recipe. Unlike New Orleans-style cakes, the charm doesn't have to be placed into the cake after baking. Executive pastry chef Eric Badoucha told me that they place the charm into the almond paste layer. But only do this if you're using a porcelain charm or a dried bean. If you're looking for tips on baking a New Orleans-style cake, be sure to read my king-cake making tips. I find plastic babies for these cakes in the baby-shower section of party-supply stores. For those, you definitely want to insert the charm after the cake is out of the oven and cooled. And if don't feel like baking, you can always order a cake online. Financier is selling their galettes for pickup in New York City. Randazzo's, Haydel's, and Gambino's are good New Orleans-style cake options.
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