I·ATE Food Term: Cakes fit for a king

January 13, 2018 11:00 am

The 6th of January is an important day for many countries around the world. This is of course the date when the Three Wisemen, or Three Kings, visited the newborn Christ and bestowed upon him some famous offerings. It is known alternatively as either the Epiphany or Three Kings’ Day and is marked by a number of interesting traditions and customs not only in Europe but around the world. However, one of the most enjoyable aspects of this annual celebration remains the food the culinary treats that we get to share with those around us. Among these festive delights, the King Cake reigns supreme and for this reason we have decided to dedicate this week’s I·ATE Food feature to the two best-known examples of cakes fit for kings: Spain’s Roscón de Reyes and France’s Galette des rois.

King cakes banner

Roscón de reyes is a staple of the Three Kings’ Day celebrations in Spain and most Spanish-speaking countries. Literally translating as Kings’ ring, the roscón is a round pastry cake which resembles a doughnut in shape and is decorated with candied fruit. It is often filled with cream in the middle and traditionally contains a surprise for one of the diners. This is because it is customary to hide a figurines and a bean inside the cake. As the superstition goes, whoever gets the figurine of the baby Jesus will have good luck, while the person who receives the bean has to pay for the cake!

Roscon de reyes


The Galette des rois is very similar to its Spanish cousin. Made with puff pastry, it is usually filled with frangipane, a cream made from sweet almonds, butter, eggs and sugar. However, it is possible to find variations in some regions of France or if you look for a more gourmet version. The cake is a big part of the Epiphany celebrations in France and is typically enjoyed when the whole family has gathered together. The cake contains a fève (an item which varies depending on where and by whom the cake is made) and also comes with a paper crown. Whoever gets the fève in their piece of cake is declared the king or queen and gets to wear the crown.

Galette des rois

Are you familiar with either of these delicious cakes? If so, which one do you prefer? Feel free to comment below if there is an equivalent cake in your country that is prepared and eaten on 6th January. Have a nice weekend and tune in next week for another I·ATE instalment!


  • Wikipedia, ‘Rosca de reyes’. Available here [accessed on 12/01/18].
  • Ambafrance.org, ‘The galette des rois, a very French tradition’. Available here [accessed on 12/01/18].

Written by

Liam Kennedy – Schuman Trainee at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament. Graduate of Journalism with a Language (French) at Dublin Institute of Technology. Completed a Masters in Translation Studies at University College Cork.

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