Recipe: The French King Cake

Cook & Food, Lifestyle, Recipe

In France the king cake (galette des rois)  is associated with the festival of Epiphany (January 6) at the end of the Christmas season; in other places, it is associated with the pre-Lenten celebrations of Mardi Gras/Carnival.

French King Cake by Ladurée in Saint-Germain des Prés. Paris

Traditionally the cake is sold in most bakeries during the month of January. Three versions exist: in northern France, Quebec, and Belgium the cake called galette des rois consists of flaky puff pastry layers with a dense center of frangipane or apple. In the west of France a sablé galette is made, a form of sweetcrust pastry. In southern France—Occitania, Roussillon, Provence, Catalan where it is called tortell—the cake called gâteau des rois orroyaume, is a torus-shaped brioche with candied fruits and sugar, similar in its shape and colors to a crown. This later version is also common to Spain and very similar to New-Orleans king cake.

Tradition holds that the cake is “to draw the kings” to the Epiphany. A figurine, la fève, which can represent anything from a car to a cartoon character, is hidden in the cake and the person who finds the trinket in his or her slice becomes king for the day and will have to offer the next cake. Originally, la fève was literally a broad bean (fève), but it was replaced in 1870 by a variety of figurines out of porcelain or—more recently—plastic. These figurines have become popular collectibles and can often be bought separately. Individual bakeries may offer a specialized line of fèves depicting diverse themes from great works of art to classic movie stars and popular cartoon characters.  A paper crown is included with the cake to crown the “king” who finds the fève in their piece of cake. To ensure a random distribution of the cake shares, it is traditional for the youngest person to place him- or herself under the table and name the recipient of the share which is indicated by the person in charge of the service.


Formerly, the cake was divided into as many shares as there were guests, plus one. The latter, called “the share of God,” “share of the Virgin Mary,” or “share of the poor” was intended for the first poor person to arrive at the home.

The French President is not allowed to “draw the kings” on Epiphany because of the etiquette rules. Therefore, a traditional galette without figurine or crown is served at Elysée Palace in January.

Victor & Hugo bakes delicious king cakes as you can see below. This year the prominent baker prepared a special one for and with the help of actress Catherine Deneuve. They named it the Queen Cake.

You can also bake one by yourself. We’re sure it will be delicious too. Here is our recipe: 

• 400g ready-made puff pastry
• 2 rounded tbsp apricot jam
• 100g softened butter
• 100g caster sugar
• 1 lighly beaten egg
• 100g ground almond
• 2 tbsp cognac or dark rum

• Heat the oven to 200C/fanC180/gas 6.
• Divide the ready-made puff pastry in half, roll out each piece and cut into a 25cm round. Put one round on a baking sheet and spread with the apricot jam to within 2cm of the edges.
• Beat together the softened butter and caster sugar until light and fluffy, then beat in the egg. Stir in the ground almonds and cognac or dark rum.
• Spoon the mixture over the jam, spreading it evenly. Brush the edges of the pastry with water, then cover with the second piece, pressing the edges to seal. Mark the top of the pastry from the centre to the edges like the spokes of a wheel or in a zig zag pattern, then brush with beaten egg.
• Bake for 25-30 mins until crisp and golden. Serve warm or cold.

Cet article est disponible en: Français

Jan. 6, 2016

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