La galette des Rois | Berliners Bake Cakes with Hôtel Concorde
Galette des Rois is a French-recipe cake that begins appearing in bakeries and on dessert plates a few days before the celebration of Epiphany (January 6) and then remains in gastronomic circulation through the rest of the month. A highly-seasonal pastry with flaky layers, a dense ground-almond powder center and sweetened with fruits like plums or pears, the galette des Rois always contains a small surprise — literally — in the form of a small trinket baked right into the cake. Historically, the trinket was simply a dried fava bean, but the tradition evolved into a gold coin or miniature ceramic doll (or, these days, even a plastic figurine). On the Epiphany, during the ritual eating of the cake, whoever is served the slice that contains the trinket is deemed ‘king’ and ‘coronated’ with a paper crown — a gesture intended to invoke the three kings who visited the Baby Jesus, according to the Christian tradition.
A few days after the New Year, the Concorde posted a Facebook announcement inviting Berliners to visit the hôtel for a chance to bake their very-own galette des Rois, followed by a chance to sample their baked creations in the Le Faubourg Lounge — for a proper afternoon coffee-and-cake. On the Epiphany, guests gathered in the lobby before being escorted into the bustling kitchen of Johannes Köhler, Hôtel Concorde’s Executive Pastry Chef. With over 20 years of pastry experience, Chef Köhler is a certified Konditormeister and responsible for overseeing all of the sugary delicacies generated by the kitchen — including his contributions to the monthly Collection Culinaire.
Guests were given a run-down of the galette des Rois history, issued maroon aprons to spare their nice clothing from the frenzy of flour and powdered sugar, and then offered a step-by-step, live-cooking lesson — in which they created their own cakes under the watchful eye of Chef Köhler. Once everything was situated in the oven, guests were escorted to the Le Faubourg Lounge for coffee and tea. After a half-hour wait, Chef Köhler himself wheeled out a cart piled-high with cakes, atop each of which was a golden paper crown. He also brought out beautiful jars full of Hôtel Concorde’s specialty jam, a special treat for visitors to take home with them. As it turns out, the same woman found not one — but two — figurines in her two slices of cake; meaning she was double-crowned the queen! The rest of us had to respectfully bow down.