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No. 105-106: Fabophiles and the Galette des Rois

Along with every other French-themed blogger posting today on Epiphany, the Twelfth day of Christmas (marking the Magi’s visit to the Christ Child), I too have a story to tell about the Galette des Rois (the Kings Cake).

Galette des Rois

As you may already know, each year on January 6, the French gather to share this special cake made with flaky puff pastry and dense frangipane, a sweet almond filling. They cut the Galette des Rois so that each person sitting at the table plus one extra guest receives a piece. (In the olden days, the extra slice was given to the first needy person to pass by your home.)

La fève, literally a broad bean, but these days a tiny porcelain or plastic charm, is hidden inside the cake. The lucky diner who finds it, (beware of cracking a tooth!), gets to be king of the feast or king for the day and sports a handsome paper crown.

Only a mild fan of the cake itself, I was interested in taking a broader look at the types of charms found inside these cake. In my three Epiphanies in France, I have only come across cheap plastic baby Jesus’s and mini, chipped royalty. It seemed to me that there had to be more.

And more there is. En fait, there is a pretty decent-sized blogosphere dedicated to “favophilie/fabophilie”.

In case you haven’t heard, a fabophile (or favophile) collects the beans and charms from the Galette des Rois. They call themselves “Fabos”.

photograph: isabelle-lottaz

photograph: isabelle-lottaz

The keenest Fabos seek out whole “series” of charms and, of course, those rare and hard to find models. From what I understand, there are three types of fèves: figurines, custom “beans”, and standard “beans”.

The figurines originally started out representing holy figures, the Christ Child, and royalty. Now it seems that anything goes—from religious icons to cartoon characters to celebrities.

Custom beans are the most valuable as they are limited additions, often brand marked, and sometimes quite expensive. For these beans the sky’s the limit—depicting cutesy animals to kitchen utensils to great works of art.

The standard beans are mass manufactured and sold to any-old-buyer (such as your local boulanger). These ordinary fèves are sold by the box and often repurposed by us homespun chefs who put them in our own cakes.

In addition to the three categories of fèves, there is another thing to look for if you’re thinking of becoming a Fabo: the finish, your choice: matte or glossy.

So if you are really gung-ho about collecting, you could in fact amass two sets of everything, shiny AND dull.

Truth be told, and actually quite scarily, had I grown up in France, it’s likely I would be a very serious fabophile, knee deep in tiny porcelain treasures and a good 10 kilos heavier from slogging through the Galette des Rois in search of my prize.

mes fèves so far this year...

mes fèves so far this year…

If you want to make your own fancy one at home, hop over to David Lebovitz’s blog for a fabulous but time intensive recipe. If you want the quick and easy version check back in a few days for Galette des Rois à la Rachel.


boulanger: baker

en fait: in fact

fabophile / favophile: a person who collects fèves; Febo for short.

favophilie / fabophilie: the act of collecting fèves

frangipane: a thick almond filling

Galette des Rois: the Kings Cake, eaten on Epiphany and throughout January; in the U.S. it is also eating during the lead up to Mardi Gras.

une fève: the tiny porcelain/plastic prize found inside the Galatte des Rois; also a broad bean or fava bean.



8 Comments Post a comment
  1. Great one. Quite an interesting take on the story. We went more traditional and talked only about the cake itself. I quite like that cake though it is very rich. (Suzanne)

    January 6, 2014
    • We actually had a very yummy cake last night, betters than others I’ve had. I’m having the last piece this morning with coffee. I found your post interesting, I’d never heard of an individual serving Galette des Rois. I’d be all over that…if they only had a fève in them.

      January 7, 2014
      • I think the individual serving is new as you normally should eat that cake with friends or family. It was probably a gimmick of our bakery to sell more of those cakes. Obviously being a single portion, it didn’t have a bean in it as if you eat it on your own you are obviously going to be the king!!!

        January 7, 2014
  2. Todd #

    Nancy I found jesus today….he was inside the cake


    January 7, 2014
    • Oh, Todd…so perfect! You could try that line out with your new friend. Thanks for the laugh. x

      January 7, 2014
      • Todd #

        I try I just can’t get it out of my blood. I really like your blog. miss you guys

        January 8, 2014
      • Thanks Toddo. Miss you too.

        January 8, 2014

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