French Epiphany Cake Recipe (Galette des rois)

French Epiphany Cake Recipe

Today is January 6th Epiphany, marking the visit of the Magi to the Christ child. People all over the world people are celebrating Epiphany by baking cakes and celebrating the holiday with friends and family members. In thousands of lucky homes a delicious warm French Epiphany Cake or galette des rois (kings’s tart) will be served.

While living in New Orleans, to celebrate Epiphany or the beginning of the Carnival, I traditionally bought or baked a Mardi Gras King Cake, but today I decided to bake a galette des rois.

I should be taking down the Christmas decorations but baking is so much more fun 🙂

French Epiphany Cake
French Epiphany Cake

The French Epiphany cake galette des rois is a light dessert made of puff-pastry filled with a creamy frangipane (almond paste). The cake is relatively easy to make requiring about one hour of time from start to finish.

Epiphany Cake Traditions

The Epiphany Cake is served to celebrate the feast of Epiphany or Twelfth night marking the end of Christmas when the Magi brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the Christ Child Jesus. There is a tradition dating back to the middle ages that after the cake is served, the last piece (“piece for poor” or “piece for the virgin”) is reserved for the first needy person knocking at your door. It’s not likely to happen, so I follow the second tradition.

In every French Epiphany or Mardi Gras cake there’s a little surprise hidden inside. In France it’s a fava bean (fève) or trinket (santon). In New Orleans a baby Jesus figurine is hidden in the colorful cake to symbolize rebirth or renewal. The person who gets the piece with the trinket is declared king or queen, gets to wear the crown, and should buy the next cake.

Mardi Gras King Cake trinket, Wiki photo by Nono64
Mardi Gras King Cake trinket, Wiki photo by Nono64

I wore the crown last year, so this year I’m baking a French Epiphany cake to see who will become king or queen in my home today.

French Epiphany Cake Recipe (Galette des rois)

Ingredients

  • 500 grams (1 lb 2 ounces) ready-made puff pastry
  • 100 grams (4 ounces) finely ground almonds
  • 75 grams (3 ounces) sugar
  • 50 grams (2 ounces) softened butter
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 1 teaspoon French Cognac (optional)
  • 1 bean (fève), almond, or santon (figurine)

Directions

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 210 Celsius (410 Fahrenheit).
  2. Divide the pasty in two parts. Roll out each to a circle about 23 cm (9 inches) wide or size of your pie pan.
  3. By hand or using a stand mixer, mix the almonds, sugar, butter, one egg, and Cognac until a smooth paste is formed.
  4. Place the first circle on the non-stick pie dish and spread the paste evenly across but not too close to the edges.
  5. Place a fève or figurine on top of the paste near the outer edge.
  6. Carefully place the second disk on top and seal the two edges with a fork.
  7. Brush the top with the egg yolk and decorate by making a swirl pattern using a knife.
  8. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden.

Before serving a warm slice of French Epiphany Cake Recipe (Galette des rois), warn your guests of the trinket to avoid an unnecessary visit to the dentist.

Bon appetit!