Bake A French Christmas Cake, Galette des Rois

You’ve never heard of French Christmas Cake? Typically, this elegant nation has a Christmas culinary tradition all of its own. Galette des Rois is a cake to celebrate Epiphany, and we think this is a tradition we might begin to embrace…

Traditions Surrounding The Galette Des Rois

Celebrated in January on Twelfth Night, the Epiphany marks the time when the three Kings visited the baby Jesus. The French culinary tradition of a Galette des Rois – King’s Cake – springs from this tale. Aside from a blip in the 17th century when the church decided that Epiphany celebrations should be banned, it’s been enjoyed since the Middle Ages.

Just like an English Christmas Pudding, the Galette des Rois has treasure hidden within it. La Feve was originally a bean, but is today more likely to be a charm made of plastic, metal or china, in the shape of anything at all. Unlike the Christmas pudding, there should be only one charm hidden inside the Galette des Rois – because the lucky finder gets a very special reward!

The tradition surrounding the Galette des Rois is very precise and enduring. The family will gather together on Twelfth Night to eat the cake, and the youngest child will crawl underneath the table while the head of the family slices the cake. The child will call out names to indicate who receives the first, second and subsequent pieces – to ensure that La Feve falls to someone randomly!

The person who gets La Feve in their slice of cake is crowned King or Queen for the day, given a paper hat, and asked to choose their Queen or King by giving away the charm.

But what about the cake? The Galette des Rois is, of course, the main attraction at Epiphany. In Parisian bakers, who take orders for family-sized Galettes in the run up to Christmas, it is usually a disc of golden puff Pastry filled with almond frangipane. Naturally, this iconic cake has inspired several spin-offs, and you can today find Galettes flavoured with chocolate, pineapple and even lychee. If you’d like to try making your own version, here’s a recipe for the iconic French Christmas cake!

How To Make A Galette Des Rois

If you want to include a charm (La Feve), put this into the almond butter before spreading.

You Need:
  • 110g (4oz) salted butter
  • 110g (4oz) caster sugar
  • 110g (4oz) ground almonds
  • 2 eggs
  • 2tbsp dark rum
  • 500g (1lb 2oz) butter puff pastry

Cream together the butter, sugar and almonds (if grinding your own, add some of the sugar to keep them from getting oily). Stir in one of the beaten eggs and the rum. Set this mixture into the fridge while you roll out the pastry.

Roll half of pastry out to about 1/2cm thick. Cut a 25-30cm circle, put it onto a baking tray and put into the fridge while you roll the second circle (same size). Now take the pastry and filling from the fridge. Brush the edges of the bottom circle with beaten egg, then spread the almond butter in the middle. Lift the second circle over and press the edges lightly to seal.

Put the galette into the fridge for another hour while the oven heats up to 200ºC. Remove the galette and brush generously with the remaining egg wash, then cut a pattern in the top if you like. Bake for 30-40 minutes then cool before serving.

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