You too can be a king or queen, at least if you get the bean or plastic trinket hidden in every king’s cake, referred to as galette des rois in French.
The king’s cake is eaten during the period of Epiphany, or the twelfth day of Christmas, on 6 January. It was on the twelfth night that the wise men visited baby Jesus. Since in French and Spanish (and probably other languages I don’t know), the wise men are referred to as “kings”, the day is referred to as “king’s day”.
The tradition of eating a marzipan cake with a “bean”, as they call it in French, inside it dates back to the fourteenth century, according to Anglophone Direct. During the French Revolution, when kings were terribly out of fashion, they continued the tradition, but called it an “equality cake”.
The cake is divided equally among all the parties gathered, and the person who gets the “bean”, which is really just a charm, is crowned king or queen. Cakes are sold with a cardboard, gold-colored crown. If you’re not of the monarchist persuasion, you can denounce the throne and crown someone else.
These days, most people buy their cakes from a reputable baker, but if you want to give it a go, I would suggest trying Citron & Vanille‘s recipe. Her recipes are always original and reliable.