Montreal

Eat like a king: Quebec pastry shops stock up for Fête des rois

Fête des rois is the last of the holiday celebrations, and is characterized by the king’s cake, which often has a small plastic bean, baby or crown baked inside of it.

Celebration characterized by king’s cake, which traditionally has a trinket baked inside of it

Fête des rois celebrations are characterized by the king's cake, which often has a small plastic baby or crown baked inside of it. (Radio-Canada)

A delicious holiday cake is being served across the province today, but hungry Quebecers should be careful not to bite too hard when they get their piece.  

January 6 marks the Epiphany, or Fête des rois. It's the last of the holiday celebrations, and is characterized by a king's cake, which often has a small plastic bean, baby or a crown baked inside of it.

The person who gets the piece of cake with the trinket then becomes the "king" or "queen" for the day. The tradition originated in France, and is celebrated in many French-speaking parts of the world, including Quebec, Acadian New Brunswick, Switzerland, Belgium and Lebanon.

Despite the decline of the Catholic Church in Quebec, the tradition remains popular. Tens of thousands of king's cakes are expected to be sold in the province on Sunday.

The version of the cake that is popular in Quebec is inspired by its French colonists. 

Pastry chef Marc Checchio, who works at Pâtisserie Marius et Fanny in Laval, said the version of the cake popular in Quebec has its origins in the north of France. (Radio-Canada)

"In the south of France, the influence comes from Brioche and candied fruits," said pastry chef Marc Checchio, who works at Pâtisserie Marius et Fanny in Laval.

"But if we go to the north of France, which is what came to Quebec, it's more of a frangipane with almond cream."

At Marius et Fanny, which has three locations in the Montreal area, bakers have been working since Saturday night to ensure they have enough cakes to meet the high demand.The bakery expects to sell more than 2,000 king's cakes today alone. 

Traditionally, Fête des rois is a Catholic event — sometimes called the Three Kings' Festival — which celebrates the three wise men of the biblical nativity scene.  

They became central to Christian imagination and iconography in the 4th century. In Medieval and Renaissance Europe, monarchs would celebrate the Epiphany by recounting the adventures of the wise men, usually in the castle courtyard or in a cathedral.

January 6 marks the Epiphany, or Fête des rois, the last of the Advent celebrations. (Radio-Canada)

Based on a report by Radio-Canada