Galette des Rois, King Cake, Twelfth Cake … there are different names and different recipes for this always irresistible concoction depending on the country of origin. Some are like brioche, some are a fruit cake but this is a French version, with buttery puff pastry enclosing a frangipane filling.
The galette des rois honours the Biblical Magi, or Three Kings, and is eaten on Twelfth Day, or Epiphany. In the French tradition you bake a fève into it – originally a fava bean, now a china or even plastic trinket. These tiny figures often refer back to the Nativity but you can get football players and even Asterix and friends. Whoever gets the trinket becomes king or queen for the day.
In the Spanish tradition you get both charm and bean and the sucker who gets the bean provides next year’s cake. No guesses as to who that was when I was visiting a Spanish family one Christmas. They kindly waived my obligation and by the following year, of course, I was back in Britain, although I still feel slightly guilty for not having placed an advance order with a local bakery.
Anyway, back to France. This galette des rois comes from Fiona McKenzie and originally appeared on a blog she ran with her friend Judi. The blog is, sadly, defunct, and Fiona has generously allowed me to share her recipe here.
Fiona (she lives in France) adds a small amount of eau de vie de prune or brandy to the frangipane and says you can also add slices or apple or even small chunks of chocolate. All-butter puff, though, is essential.
This year as there are only two of us I made a smaller version but I give the recipe here as she originally wrote it and I first made it (see main pic). It’s not difficult and it really is delicious. Highly recommended.
Galette des Rois
2 packets of all-butter puff pastry
125g butter, cut into small cubes
125g ground almonds
125g caster sugar
1 soup spoon plain white flour
1 egg, beaten
3 drops bitter almond essence
1 dessertspoon of brandy or similar
I extra egg yolk, to glaze
1 dried haricot bean or a silver/porcelain charm
Heat the oven to 220C/200 fan/425FG/Gas Mark 7.
Put the butter, ground almonds, caster sugar and spoonful of flour into a food processor and blend until you have a thick mixture.
In a small bow, beat one egg and add the three drops of almond essence and the dessert spoon of booze, then stir before adding to the frangipane mix. Blend all the ingredients one more time.
Roll out your two separate portions of pastry into two large circles about 25 cm in diameter and 5 mm thickness. Cover a large metal baking tray with greaseproof paper, place the first layer of pastry on it and cover it with a layer of frangipane, leaving about 1.5 cm clear all round the edges. Hide the fève or charm in the frangipane. Brush all round the remaining edge of the pastry with the beaten yolk of the second egg.
Take the remaining pastry circle and lay it on top. Fold and crimp the edges to seal in the frangipane mix. With a very sharp knife mark a fine trellis of decorative lines all over the surface – there are lots of local variations as to the pattern. (Linda says: do make sure you seal the edges well – you don’t want that frangipane to leak. Yes, been there, done that.)
Insert the knife a few times to provide slits for the moisture to escape while baking. Finally, brush the entire surface with the remaining egg yolk and place it in the centre of the pre-heated oven for 20 minutes.
Keep an eye on it towards the end – it should be very golden but not brown. Serve with vanilla ice cream if you’re feeling gourmand or a dribble of pouring cream if you’re being gourmet. And watch out for that fève.