La galette des rois (literally the King’s cake) is the cake to celebrate Twelfth Night in France and one of my favourite French seasonal cakes. We eat it generally every weekend of January because it is a good occasion to celebrate with friends and family and one day is not enough to meet everyone! (To my opinion, several galettes are always better than one!)
This tradition has been held for several centuries. The first writings about this cake are dated from the thirteen and fourteenth century but it is only during the middle age that it took the name of the “king’s cake”. La galette des rois is a round cake made of puff pastry filled with frangipane and a charm. Adding a charm to the cake is a tradition that probably came from the Romans who used a black or white charm during celebrations to determine who would be the “king of the feast”. There is a second legend that would attribute the charm to the “Peau d’âne” story (Donkey skin) of Charles Perrault. It refers to the moment when the princess adds her rings into the cake she bakes for the prince.
Today the charm added to the cake takes any kind of shape. It could be a piece of gold, a Shrek or even a piece of puzzle. Unfortunately the charm is now also a marketing excuse for each patisserie to offer a “unique” collection and attract more customers. Some patisseries even offer designer charm collections (we are far from the small animals I had when I was a child!).
There is a second version of the galette des rois called the king’s crown: a round brioche topped with rocks of sugar and dried fruits. This crown is also found in Spain to celebrate the arrival of the Three Kings. It is a good alternative when you cannot eat any more traditional puff pastry/frangipane combo!
La galette des rois
This recipe is from Christophe Michalak, a very trendy and famous pastry chef in France. I like his version because the frangipane is light and tastier than other recipes I tried previously. If you feel like trying something a bit different, you can change the almonds for pistachios in the frangipane for instance.
- 2 sheets of 150 gr puff pastry (I strongly advise you to prepare the puff pastry yourself because I guarantee that the difference in taste and quality is huge)
- 1 egg
- Maple syrup
- For the crème pâtissière (which is a French custard added to an almond cream to create the frangipane):
- 60 gr of Milk
- ½ a vanilla pod
- 30 gr egg yolks
- 25 gr caster sugar
- 10 gr cornflour
- For the almond cream:
- 60 gr salted butter
- 60 gr icing sugar
- 60 gr ground almonds
- 1 egg
- 7 gr cornflour
- Prepare the crème pâtissière. Put the milk with the vanilla pod in a saucepan and bring to the boil. In a mixing bowl mix the egg yolks, the sugar and the cornflour. Pour gradually the hot milk on to the mix. Whisk all the time so the egg yolks won't become scramble eggs. Pour back the mix in the saucepan and heat it in order to thicken the cream. When it is done, put the cream in a bowl, film it and put it in the fridge.
- Prepare the almond cream. Soften the butter in the microwave and work it with a whisk. Add the sifted icing sugar, the ground almonds, the egg and the corn flour. Mix all very well to obtain a smooth cream with no lump.
- Incorporate the cold custard to the almond cream and mix with a whisk. Prepare a piping back with a large case and fill it with the frangipane.
- Now it is time to assemble the cake. Preheat your oven at 210ºC. Take the puff pastry sheets and create two circles of 22 cm. With a fork, sting both circles to help the steam to evaporate during the cooking process.
- With the piping bag create a frangipane spiral in the middle of the first circle. Leave a large space between the frangipane and the edge of the circle (around 3 cm). Add the charm.
- With a brush, dampen the edge of both circles to make the edges stick together. Put the second circle on top of the first one and seal very well the dough with your finger all around the circle.
- Beat an egg and brush it on top of the cake. Put the cake in the fridge for 15 mins.
- After the 15 mins, you can begin the decoration of the cake. First with the back of the knife cut the edges of the cake every centimeter (the cut should be about half a centimeter). Then always with the back of the knife create a very small hole in the middle and draw semicircle all around the cake (like in the picture).
- Put the cake in the oven at 210ºC for about 15 mins and then at 180ºC for 40 mins. If you think the top of the cake is getting dark too quickly, cover with foil.
- When you cake is cooked and still hot, glaze it with the maple syrup (or sugar syrup). Leave it to cool.
Thank you to Fricote Magazine for providing the photograph of the charms. You can purchase this magazine in the UK through Analogue Books.