The cake has a golden round shape, which is reminiscent of the sun and therefore the worship of Saturnals. Thus, the celebrations go on for a full week, it was standard practice to offer cakes for your relatives and overindulging was allowed.
This tradition became known as ‘Galette des Rois’ (Translated to ‘King’s cake’ in English) in the Middle Ages. Some believe that its name is a reference to the fee payable to your lord during the same period. The fee itself usually came with a cake.
The charm is older than the cake since it also dates back to the Roman Empire. It was indeed standard practice in ancient Rome to draw the king of a feast at random using a black or white token. It is also said that a king was picked through this means among the soldiers of a garrison or in a family during the Saturnals and that he could therefore, for a day, fulfill all his wishes and order whatever pleased him. A legend also tells of another origin for the charm: the legend of Donkey Skin, based on the tale by Charles Perrault. This is by leaving her ring in a cake intended for the prince that Donkey Skin may have inspired this strange custom.
Finally, it is said that the tradition of sending the youngest guest under the table to decide who will get each piece of the cake originates from the same period. Still during the Saturnals, the householder buyessay indeed asked the youngest family member, supposedly the most innocent person, to decide to which guest he has to give the piece he holds in his hand. The child is usually called Phebe (for ‘’Phœbus’’ or ‘’Apollo’’), in reference to an Apollo’s oracle.
Few key figures about the ‘Galette des Rois’ (2017)
Source: Capital n°316 January 2018