Monday, January 6, 2014

Galette des rois - king cake!

Priecīgu zvaigznes dienu! We celebrated with a galette des rois, or “king cake” yesterday, as our guests are departing today for the cold and snowy north. Traditionally made to celebrate the Feast of Epiphany, the cake is popular in France during the holidays and was added to the list of family traditions during our time overseas. Some might associate galette des rois with New Orleans, where it was introduced by French and Spanish colonists and is enjoyed during Carnival, however in France it is served only several days before and after Epiphany.

As I explained in a previous post on this yummy dessert, there is a small figurine or trinket (the fève) baked into the cake – traditionally this item was a bean. The lucky person who gets the slice containing the fève is named king or queen for the day. Or, in our case, the fève remains in the uneaten portion and we get to try again the following day!

To prevent favoritism, the youngest member of the family sits under the table and calls out which person gets each slice, so that the person serving the cake cannot pass the slice with the fève knowingly to a certain person.

In Provence the King Cake is gâteau des Rois, made of brioche and candied fruits, whereas the rest of the country traditionally celebrates with the puff pastry and frangipane that we enjoyed. The recipe calls for almond meal to make the frangipane, but I have used almond flour (not as finely ground and available in many health food stores including Trader Joe's) and also almond butter (Whole Foods has a grind-your-own peanut butter section, that grinds roasted almonds without any additives).

I highly recommend taking the leftover puff pastry dough (the result of trimming the corners to make circles) and making little pīrāgi with Nutella inside. I put mine on the same pan as the king cake, and although a few burst open while baking, they were delicious.

To celebrate Epiphany with your very own king cake, you can either head to your local French bakery or follow this easy recipe, a variation on a recipe given to me by a friend in France that utilizes pre-made puff pastry that you can find in the frozen desserts section at your local grocery store. David Lebovitz just posted a delicious galette des rois recipe on his blog, but if you are looking for something simpler without the orange flower water and zest, try this. Don’t forget to remind your guests there is a fève hidden in the cake!

La galette des rois (king cake)

1 package puff pastry, thawed
½ cup ground almond meal
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 egg
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1 fève or fava bean (optional)
1 egg, beaten

1. Preheat oven to 425˚ F

2. Combine the almond meal, sugar, 1 egg, butter, vanilla extract and flour to form a smooth paste.

3. Roll out the puff pastry and cut out two large circles. Place one on a non-stick pan, and on it spread the frangipane mixture in an even layer, leaving a one inch border around the edge of the dough.

4. Hide the fève in the almond filling, and then place the second pastry circle on top, smoothing the air out from under. Press down firmly along the outer border to seal the two layers. Make a small hole in the middle of the galette so that the cake does not swell too much when cooking, and using the tip of a knife cut small slits into the top layer around the edge of the cake. Traditional galette des rois have a design etched into the top…

5. Beat the remaining egg, and brush over the top of the cake. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown.

6. Allow the cake to cool for 20 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a cooling rack.

Serve with coffee and a crown!


  1. Looks delicious! I think it is called 'Twelfth Night' in England, and it is bad luck to keep your Christmas decorations up after that day. HOpe you had a great weekend!

  2. A nice cup of coffee and a piece of that cake or the little pierogi would hit the spot in the morning for sure.

  3. I have just bought the ingredients to make my Galette Des Rois which we'll enjoy at the weekend. I can't decide whether to borrow one the the fèves the boys have collected or put a real dried bean in. Did you know that in the past the person who got the fève was supposed to buy everyone in the room a drink so people took to swallowing it rather than paying out and that was why the ceramic fèves came into being?! #AllAbourFrance

    1. 😁😂😂 I didn't know that!

  4. I love this tradition in France, in fact I love all traditions centred around food and the French are so good at this!! - La Galette des Rois is everywhere in the boulangeries now... Caro - Taste of Savoie!

  5. It's great that you continue this tradition, but then with such a delicious product who wouldn't? Reading this I feel the urge to eat more galette....I think I might have to make yet another! Thanks for linking up to #AllAboutFrance

  6. Love this tradition :) tell me, en français qu'est-ce qu'on dit (la question traditionnelle) qui pose la personne qui sert des morceaux aux invités, à celui en dessous de la table?
    merci! :)

    1. Celui en dessous de la table choisit qui reçoit chaque pièce. Habituellement, l'hôte sert.


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