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Galette des Rois: A sweet French tradition for Epiphany (with a recipe)

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Last Updated on January 13, 2024

France’s Sweetest Christmas Tradition

As soon as the Galette des Rois is placed on tables around France the excitement builds. Who will slide under the table and who will wear the crown? The goal of the game, of course, is to find the fève (or bean, the hidden trinket) and become the King or Queen of Epiphany. But what is a Galette des Rois? And where did these funny French traditions come from?
As the Christmas season concludes, the French embrace one final tradition tied to the Christmas season: Epiphany, a Christian holiday on January 6th which marks the manifestation of Jesus’ divinity to the Magi (commonly called the Three Wise Men). The Magi, having learned of the birth of Jesus, come to pay homage to him and bring him the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.



In France, Epiphany is not a formal holiday so it is customary to begin the festivities on the first Sunday in January. To celebrate “the Day of Kings,” patisseries all over France bring out their annual tradition of the Galette des Rois, or the “King’s Cake.” This pastry, boasting golden layers and an almond cream filling, or frangipane, holds deep cultural and historical roots.
In fact, the history of the Galette des Rois traces back to ancient Rome. The festival of Saturnalia included a custom in which a bean was hidden in a cake, and the person who found it became the “king” of the festivities. It wasn’t until the 19th century though that the Galette des Rois became a more formalized tradition in France, and the crowning of a “king” or “queen” gained popularity.


In the modern French tradition, the Galette des Rois contains either a bean or a small trinket called the fève (named after the fava bean historically hidden in the cake). The youngest child often sits under the table and, as the slices are distributed, they decide who receives each piece without being able to see them. The person who finds the fève in their portion of the galette is then crowned for the day.
While the Galette des Rois varies by region in terms of shape, decorative elements, and ingredients, it is traditionally a frangipane cake made from pastry layers. Some regions incorporate additional ingredients into the filling, such as candied fruits or spices, giving the galette a distinct local flavor. In the South, candied fruits sit atop the cake and represent crown jewels.

While history lessons are fun, I’m sure you’re even more curious how this Galette des Rois tastes! After sharing so much about this delicious dessert, it only seems fair to give you a recipe for your very own Epiphany celebration, non ?



Ingredients I For 4 people

– 1 egg yolk (beaten, for egg wash)
– 2 rolls of pure butter puff pastry (store bought is fine!)
Frangipane Filling:
– 125 g semi-salted butter
– 60 g powdered sugar
– 60 g of brown sugar
– 1 sachet of vanilla sugar ( or a tsp of vanilla extract)
– 125 g ground almonds
– 2 eggs
– 1 tablespoon of rum (optional)
– (Optional) a fève— a small ceramic figurine, or any oven-proof trinket of your choosing
1. Preheat the oven to 170°C. Butter a baking sheet or line with parchment paper.
2. Prepare the frangipane: Soften the butter in the microwave (do not completely melt). In a bowl, beat the butter, sugar, vanilla sugar (or vanilla extract), eggs and rum (optional) together. Add the almond powder and mix thoroughly.
3. Place the first puff pastry on the baking sheet. Spread the frangipane across it. Don’t forget to insert your fève!
4. Top with a second layer of puff pastry. Press lightly to seal the edges.
5. Brush the top of the pastry with the beaten egg yolk. If desired, you can use a fork or knife to draw patterns and designs into the dough.
6. Bake for 25-35 minutes until golden brown.

Today, the Galette des Rois remains a cherished French tradition. Enjoyed during the Epiphany season, it’s a delightful way to come together, share a tasty treat, and honor centuries of cultural history. I hope this beloved pastry brings a little warmth and French tradition into your home as we ring in this new year!
For additional French culture and lifestyle, travel tips and Paris news, read our blog here! If you’re traveling to Paris this year and need assistance planning your trip, you can view our services here. We look forward to connecting with you!




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