“la galette des rois” the French king cake is traditionally served on January 6, a Christian holy day called Epiphany, and mostly known as the 3 wise men visit to baby Jesus. In France the tradition of serving this puff pastry and almond cream tart can be traced back to the 14th century.
The French have a bit of reputation for mistreating their royalty but fortunately these days it is more about cutting up cakes than carvings up kings!
La Fête des Rois is still very much a family tradition, but you also celebrate it at work or with your friends all January long.
A ‘fève‘ (originally a bean but now tends to be a plastic trinket) is baked inside the cake and the cake is shared around the table.
The youngest kid at the table will go under the table (or just close his/her eyes) and designate who gets which slice:
The person serving asks:
- C’est pour qui celle-là ?
For who is this one ?
And the kid answers:
- C’est pour Maman, Papa…
It’s For Mom, Dad…
Of course, this is a very practical way for the grownups to make sure one of the kids gets the porcelain figurine…. Or to hide back the little token in case it sticks out of the slice (you don’t know where it is when you cut the cake…)
Whoever receives the fève is then crowned king or queen for the day and has the much coveted opportunity of bossing the rest of the family about! That same person can also choose someone to be their king or queen.
According to tradition, the cake should be cut into as many slices as there are people present, plus 1 extra.
This extra slice is called either, the ‘part du Bon Dieu‘ (God’s slice), the ‘part de la Vierge‘ (the Virgin Mary’s slice) or the ‘part du pauvre‘ (poor man’s slice) and should be offered to the first poor person who pops in!
If you have no French bakery around you, no worries because the recipe is actually quite easy!
- 2 jus-rol puff sheet pastry
- 110g soft unsalted butter
- 190g ground almond
- 130g icing sugar
- 2 big eggs (or 3 small ones)
- 25 g Rum
- 300g crème pâtissière (Thick custard) recipe below or click on the link for the easiest way.
- 1 tsp Almond extract (optionnal)
- 1 egg for the Glaze
Step 1: The crème pâtissière
-250 mL whole milk
-1 Tsp vanilla paste
-25 g custard powder or cornflour
- Put the milk in a saucepan and bring it to simmer.
- In a bowl mix the sugar, egg, custard powder and the vanilla paste.
- Pour the hot milk onto the mixture and stir it.
- Put it back to the hob stir continuously until it thickens.
- Add the Rum
- Let it cool down completely.
Step 2: La frangipane
In a mixer with the paddle attachement mix soft butter, icing sugar, ground almonds, eggs and the almond extract and mix for 1 minute. Add the crème pâtissière.
Step 3: La Galette
Place one circle of dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Spread the filling evenly over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border bare. Press the fève into the filling. Moisten the border with cold water, position the second circle of dough over the filling and press around the border with your fingertips to seal well. Using the back of a table knife, scallop the edges by pushing into the dough (about 1/4- to 1/2-inch deep) every 1/2 inch or so. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Brush with the beaten egg over the top of the galette, avoiding the border (if glaze drips down the rim, the galette won’t rise). With the point of a paring knife, etch a design into the top of the galette, taking care not to pierce the dough. Cut 6 small slits in the top as steam vents.
Bake at 170 degrees in a fan oven for 50 minutes.