Epiphany in France

Updated: Jan 24, 2019

Right after the holidays, January is the month of la "galette des rois" also known as "king Cake". This cake is associated with the celebration of the Epiphany.

When did it all start?

Based on the Christian faith, the epiphany (January 6th) represents the arrival of the three wise kings.

Guided by the star of Bethlehem, they came to celebrate the birth of Jesus and to bring him presents (myrrh, encens and gold). This fact might actually be a topic of discussion because it seems that this feast was already celebrated earlier by the Romans.

Originally, the epiphany was celebrated by the Romans under the name of Epiphany Saturnalia, during the solstice in winter.

It was a day when masters and slaves will inverse roles: the slave who would get the charm "feve" would become the master for one day.

Once the sun was down, the game was over. Now, be ready to hear what happened.....

In the worst case, the servant will be go under death penalty OH NOOO! or if lucky,

he will take its role of servant back as nothing had ever happened. Happy to be born way later!

So, this is why you'll see a round cake with a crown on top sold in all the bakeries of France. The kids love that celebration.

The Tradition

It can vary but in my family, the youngest gets under the table where we cut the "galette" to choose which slice goes to who.

The lucky one who finds the "charm" ( note: to bite very carefully because it can really hurt, and yes! it happened to me!) gets the crown and is declared the "king of the night".

Charm "Feve"

The "feve" inside can be of different material such as plastic or porcelain. The porcelain ones are the prettiest. We used to keep the prettiest little characters from the bible and we will put them under the tree on the following Christmas.

Modern Twist

Some bakers are letting their creativity really go. I mean reaaaaaaalllly go! I let you judge the baker Richard Legay and his creations. I let you see for yourself here! Warning: it is a bit "risque", probably french humor...

What to pair it with...

Do I really need to say? Champagne of course! We toast champagne in France on every occasion anyway ( birthdays, weddings, Christmas, new year, baptism...) and Epiphany is no different. If you like apples, then Cider will be the other second favorite drink to pair the cake with.

For the kids, obviously an alcohol-free version of the apple cider is given to themso everyone can cheers together.

Do you want to try?

Let me share one recipe. If you know a different version, such as vegan version, I would love to hear so feel free to comment.


Almond Filling

1 cup (100g) almond flour

1/2 cup (100g) sugar

pinch salt

zest of 1/2 orange, unsprayed

3 1/2 ounces (100g) unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature

2 large eggs, at room temperature

2 teaspoons rum

1/8 teaspoon almond extract

1 pound (450g) puff pastry, divided in two pieces, chilled

a whole piece of almond or candied fruit to be the charm "fève"


1 egg yolk

1 teaspoon milk

1. To make the almond filling, in a medium bowl, or in the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the almond flour, sugar, salt, and orange zest. Mash in the butter until it’s completely incorporated. Stir in the eggs one at a time, along with the rum and almond extract. (The mixture may not look completely smooth, which is normal.) Cover and chill.

2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. On lightly floured surface, roll one piece of puff pastry into a circle about 9 1/2-inches (23cm) round. Using a pot lid, plate, or bottom of springform pan as a template, trim the dough into neat circle. Place the dough on the baking sheet.

3. Cover it with a sheet of parchment paper or plastic film, then roll the other piece of dough into a circle, trim it, and lay it on top. Chill the dough for thirty minutes.

4. Remove the dough and almond filling from the refrigerator. Slide the second circle of dough and parchment or plastic from pan so that there is only one circle of dough on the parchment lined baking sheet. Spread the almond filling over the center of the dough, leaving a 1-inch (3cm) exposed border. Place an almond or piece of candied fruit to act as the fève (prize) somewhere in the almond filling, if you wish.

5. Brush water generously around the exposed perimeter of the dough then place the other circle of dough on top of the galette and press down to seal the edges very well. (At this point, you may wish to chill the galette since it’ll be a bit easier to finish and decorate, although it’s not necessary. It can be refrigerated overnight at this point, if you wish.)

6. To bake the galette, preheat the oven to 375ºF (180ºC.) Flute the sides of the dough (as shown in the photo) and use a paring knife to create a design on top. Stir together the egg yolk with the milk and brush it evenly over the top – avoid getting the glaze on the sides, which will inhibit the pastry from rising at the edges. Use a paring knife to poke 5 holes in the top, to allow steam escape while baking.

7. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the galette is browned on top and up the sides. (During baking, if the galette puffs up too dramatically in the oven, you may want to poke it once or twice again with a paring knife to release the steam.) Remove from the oven and slide the galette off the baking sheet and onto a cooling rack. The galette will deflate as it cools, which is normal. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Recipe courtesy of www.davidlebovitz.com



© 2019 by The Sisterhood of Traveling Ladies.