Recipe: Celebrate the feast of Epiphany with three king cakes

We Three Kings...galette des rois are traditionally sold in France to mark the feast of Epiphany on January 6

We Three Kings: Galette des Rois are traditionally sold in France to mark the feast of Epiphany on January 6 - the arrival of the Magi to see Jesus. - Credit: Kerstin Rodgers

Every January in France, patisseries and bakers sell Galette des Rois, an elegant almond-filled puff-pastry pie, which contains a charm, or "fève", and comes with a golden crown.

If you are lucky enough to get the figurine in your slice, you get to wear the cardboard crown and be named King for the day. The Feast of Epiphany, the arrival of the Wise Men, is traditionally celebrated on January 6th or twelfth night. When I lived in Paris, throughout the month of January, whenever you popped over to visit someone, you took a galette.

Down in the south of France, patisseries sell a gaudy candied fruit version of yeasted King Cake which bears similarities to the Mexican Rosca Des Reyes and the New Orleans carnival cake. Until the 18th century, we used to follow this tradition in the UK but it was overtaken in popularity by Christmas cake. 

The best Galette des Rois I’ve ever eaten is at the Connaught in London, created by Helene Darroze’s head patissier. It was light, flaky, buttery, and the frangipane was flavoured with lemon and tonka bean. Tonka bean is a bit like cocoa while possessing the bitter allure of almond. It’s a very interesting ingredient but, bizarrely, banned in the USA.

I’ve made three galettes: bergamot flavoured, tonka bean and chocolate flavoured, and one with pistachio rather than almond paste. The recipe doesn’t take long to make, especially if you are using ready-made puff pastry. 

The pastry method is identical in all three recipes, but to differentiate the galettes, I carved different shapes on top. 

A trio of Galette des Rois

A trio of Galette des Rois - Credit: Kerstin Rodgers

For the pastry:

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You can make your own puff pastry which is of course always the tastier choice but time-consuming. Many of us will adopt the easy option of ready-made puff pastry. 

2 packs ready-made all-butter puff pastry on a roll, or a block
1 yolk, to brush pastry

If using pastry on a roll then place a plate on top which fits inside the parameters of the roll, and cut around. Make two circles.
You can make the galette flat as below or use a tart tin. If using a block, divide the puff pastry into two and roll out to 5mm depth on a lightly floured surface. Make two circles about 15 cm each in diameter.

Lay one circle on a silicone mat on a baking tray and fill with the almond cream leaving a 3 cm border around the edge. Place the figurine or bean in the filling. Then lay the other circle on top, sealing the edges with a fork. You could then carve designs into the top, taking care not to pierce the pastry. Make a little slit in the middle to let steam escape then brush the top with the egg yolk.

Chill for half an hour or so in the fridge. Bake at 200C/400F until golden brown. Serve warm or cold.

You can buy ready roll puff pastry or make your own

You can buy ready roll puff pastry or make your own - Credit: Kerstin Rodgers

Bergamot Galette des Rois (Serves 8)

140 g caster sugar
125 g salted butter, softened
100 g ground almonds
2 eggs, medium, lightly whisked
2 bergamot citrus, zested, 
2 packs ready-made all-butter puff pastry on a roll, or a block
1 yolk, to brush pastry

Preheat the oven to 200c. 
Blend the butter with the sugar then add the almonds. Make sure it’s well mixed. Add in the 2 eggs one at a time, then add the bergamot zest. Follow the pastry recipe from this point.

Pistachio Galette des Rois (Serves 8)

Pistachio Galette des Rois

Pistachio Galette des Rois - Credit: Kerstin Rodgers

140 g caster sugar
125 g salted butter, softened
100 g ground pistachios
2 eggs, medium
1/2 tsp vanilla extract or paste

Preheat the oven to 200c.
Blend the butter with the sugar then add the pistachios. Make sure it’s well mixed. Add in the 2 eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla extract. Follow the pastry recipe from this point.

Chocolate and tonka bean Galette des Rois (Serves 8)

140 g caster sugar
125 g salted butter, softened
100 g ground almonds
50 g chocolate/cocoa powder
2 eggs, medium
1 tonka bean, grated


Preheat your oven to 200c.
Blend the butter with the sugar then add the almonds and cocoa/chocolate powder. Make sure it’s well mixed. Add in the 2 eggs one at a time, then add the tonka bean. Follow the pastry method from this point.

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