Before wrapping up the holidays, there is one final occasion the French take to eat and rejoice: the Fête des Rois, or “Feast of the Kings.” Set on January 6, the day of the Epiphany (honoring the arrival of the Three Wise Men in Bethlehem), this celebration involves eating a Galette des rois, or king cake—two circles of buttery puff pastry filled with sweet, creamy frangipane—in which a trinket, called a fève, has been hidden. If your slice has the fève, you are crowned as honorary queen or king for the day.
Just like the Bûche de Noël in December, galettes des Rois pop up in virtually every bakery in France when January rolls around. They’re always sold with gold paper crowns, to be offered to the fève-finding king or queen. This is a beloved French tradition, and many take the chance to eat multiple galettes throughout the month of January if they can.
Because Galettes des Rois can be found in literally every bakery in France, only a few French people make their own at home. But since in the US/Canada, they are much harder to find, making you own at home is the way to go.
Two kinds of Galettes des Rois.
Before diving into this recipe, it should be noted there are in fact two kinds of galettes des rois in France. The first one, often found in the south of France, is a yeasted, brioche-like cake shaped like a crown and usually topped with colorful candied fruit (see the recipe here!).
The second, found in the north of France, is the one made from puff pastry filled with frangipane, a simple almond cream. This is the most popular version of the galette des rois, and the one you’re most likely to stumble upon in Parisian bakeries.
The serving ritual
With Galette comes the tradition of “drawing the king and the queen”. A trinket (called “la fève”) is hidden in the galette (before baking it, usually inserted inside the frangipane filling). The galette is then cut up and served, and the person who finds the figurine in their slice, becomes honorary king or queen for the day.
A big part of why galettes des rois are so popular is that everyone wishes to find la fève in their slice. So to keep the game fair, when serving a galette, tradition dictates that the youngest guest hide under the table and call out guests’ names, who are then served their slices. No cheating allowed!
About the “Fèves”
As playful as this might sound, these little “fèves” are, for some French, highly collectibles gems. You will see them in most antique markets and stores in France. They come in many shapes (from religious icons, celebrities to cartoon characters) and prices (some porcelaine vintage fèves can be pretty pricey.) It has become common for bakeries to come up with their own line of figurines each year.
Nowadays, most bakeries’ galettes include a plastic trinket, while just a few still include the traditional hand-painted porcelain fèves representing a nativity character.
- For convenience, use frozen, ready-to-bake puff pastry sheets that can be found in the freezer section of any grocery store. I often use Tenderflake ready-to-bake puff pastry sheets (that I then cut out into two 9” circles). It s important to keep your puff pastry sheets well-chilled. Take them out of the fridge and work with them quickly to create the galettes. Puff pastry tends to get pretty sticky and uneasy when it warms up.
- The frangipane filling can be made ahead and will keep for up to three days refrigerated. Simply adding almond extract to the frangipane will give it its classic taste, but the beauty of making your own galette is that you can tweak it as you want. Try adding 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder to the filling or a layer of sliced apples or pears on top. Another spin is to use ground pistachios or hazelnuts, instead of almonds.
- If you can’t find a fève to bake into your galette, you can use a whole almond.
- As with a croissant or any other puff pastry, a galette des rois is best enjoyed the day it’s made, either warm or cooled to room temperature.
I hope you’ll love this Galette des Rois (French King Cake) recipe as much as I do! If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment.
You may also like:
- King’s Brioche
- Classic French Spiced Bread (Pain d’Épices)
- Spiced Cookies with Candied Citrus Peels and Almonds (Leckerli)
- Raspberry Jam Swiss Roll
- Almond Chocolate Twice-Baked Cookies from Provence (Croquants)
- Raspberry Jam-Filled Sablé Sandwiches (Lunettes de Romans)
- Classic Chocolate Bûche de Noël
For the Frangipane Filling:
1 1/2 cup (150g) almond meal
1/2 cup (100g) sugar
1/2 tsp salt
zest of 1/2 orange (organic)
3 1/2 ounces (100g) unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
2 puff pastry sheets (450g ; 225g each)
A fève (or a whole almond, if you can’t find one)
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon milk
For the Frangipane filling:
In a medium bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer), combine the almond meal, sugar, salt, and orange zest. Add the butter and cream together all the ingredients, with a spatula or in the stand mixer, until the butter is fully incorporated. Stir in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the almond extract. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill for at least 15 minutes (for the filling to firm up slightly) or up to 3 days before using.
To build the Galette des Rois:
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Step 1 - Thaw the puff pastry sheets according to package instructions. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the sheets into circles 9 1/2 inches in diameter; if using square sheets, use a plate or a cake pan to cut out circles of dough. Place circles on the plate and chill for at least 30 minutes.Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.
Step 2 - Remove the puff pastry circles and frangipane filling from the fridge at the same time. Lay the first pastry circle on the parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Spread the almond filling in the middle, leaving a 1 inch border.
Step 3 - Stick the fève (or a whole almond) somewhere in the filling. Brush the border generously with water and quickly cover the galette with the other circle of puff pastry. Press down all around the border to seal the edges—make sure they are sealed well, or the filling will escape during baking.
Step 3 - Flute the sides of the galette, using a knife and your fingers.
Step 4 -In a small bowl, mix together the egg yolk and the milk, and brush the whole galette generously with the glaze.
Step 5 - Use a small knife to score a design on top of the galette. This can be the same traditional design as pictured below, or any design of your choosing. Poke a small hole in the middle of the top layer, to let steam escape while baking.
Step 6 -Bake for 30 minutes, until the galette is golden. Right out of the oven, the galette will be puffy, but will deflate when cooling down. Transfer to a cooling rack.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
As with most puff pastries, a galette des rois is best enjoyed the day it’s made, either warm or cooled to room temperature.
Did you make this recipe?
This article was first published on January 4th, 2018 and then updated on December 29th, 2020.