Table decorated for Mardi Gras party.
Food - Drink
What Makes Galette Des Rois Different From King Cake?
The confusion between New Orleans' king cake and France's galette des rois ("king cake") can be attributed not only to their identical names, but to NOLA's French influence, which may or may not have inspired its own twist on the classic French cake. The history of these treats is complicated, but their differences are easier to understand.
Galette des rois once starred in the pagan Roman holiday Saturnalia, when Romans placed a fève (trinket) into the cake and the person who found it in their slice would be "king of the day." The dessert then became Christianized and was used to celebrate Epiphany, and the fève became a porcelain baby figurine to represent the infant Christ.
Today, the celebratory galette des rois is made of frangipane (almond paste) and a fève, which still represents luck for those who find it, encased in an intricate puff pastry crust decorated with fancy knifework. Meanwhile, New Orleans king cake is synonymous with Mardi Gras, when celebrants eat the fatty foods that plan to give up for Lent.
American king cake is a sweet brioche cake shaped like a huge ring, with fillings like cinnamon, cream cheese, or chocolate and sprinkles in Mardi Gras colors: purple, green, and gold. The fève is also a baby figurine, though made from plastic, and whoever finds it is king for a day — and has to purchase the king cake for Mardi Gras next year.