Learn how to make this traditional French Galette des Rois enjoyed throughout January. Layers of crisp puff pastry surround a fragrant almond cream, resulting in a heavenly textural contrast. It's simple to make and utterly delicious- so much so you'll want to make it all year round.
This Galette des Rois pastry is a traditional sweet treat enjoyed throughout France during January. It combines two of my favourite things: pastry (I love all types!!) and almond cream. I combine the two in my Pear Tart and Plum Frangipane Tart.
I use my tried-and-true Frangipane recipe with a slight tweak to suit this cake and share with you a couple of tips I found during recipe testing to achieve a crisp golden pastry top for this French speciality.
You may be under the impression that this cake is tricky to make, but as always, within my posts, I share step-by-step images so that you can see, through a visual tutorial, just how simple it really is.
❓ What is Galette des Rois ?
For centuries in France, the Galettes de Rois was typically baked for Epiphany (6th January) but is now commonly eaten from December to the end of January.
Galette des Rois literally translates as King Cake and was baked to celebrate the arrival of the three wise men (Kings) into Bethlehem. It also marks the end of the festive season. Don't be confused with the King Cake of the South of France, though, which is a yeasted bread studded with jewel-like fruit.
This King Cake comprises 2 sheets of puff pastry (pâte feuilletée) filled with an almond cream (crème d'amandes) filling. The pastry bakes to golden, buttery, crisp perfection, perfectly suited to the rich, nutty almond filling within.
Inside each galette, a porcelain charm or trinket called a fève is hidden in the almond cream before baking (you can see mine in the photo above). The lucky person who's served the slice containing the charm is crowned the King or Queen and wins the right to wear the paper crown that accompanies each galette. In the absence of a fève, a whole almond, dried bean, or candied fruit can be used in lieu of these charms.
🌟 Why You'll Love This Recipe
- Uses basic ingredients. Use store-bought puff pastry for ease and store cupboard basics for the frangipane.
- Simple to make. The frangipane cream comes together in a matter of minutes and assembling the two components is quick to do. The chilling of the tart is the most time-consuming bit (but not hard!!)
- Tastes divine. The puff pastry is buttery, crisp and flakey with a crisp texture which tastes incredible alongside the sweet almond filling lightly fragranced with orange zest.
- Customise to your heart's content. I'll give you some great ideas on personalising your Galettes des Rois with simple substitutions and additions.
🧾 Ingredients Needed
The list of ingredients to make this French Epiphany Cake recipe is relatively short. I have made notes below on some of the ingredients, which is worth reading.
- Puff Pastry - If you have the time and inclination, then by all means, make your own Homemade Puff Pastry. Without a doubt, it will taste better. But if, like me, you decide to go down the store-bought route, then make sure it's all-butter puff pastry. You can buy in block form or two sheets of pre-rolled pastry. Make sure it's chilled at all times.
- Butter - Use unsalted butter so that you can control the level of saltiness within. It needs to be a room temperature as it'll be creamed with the sugar.
- Sugar - Caster or granulated sugar will work. You could use light brown sugar, but the molasses within will change the flavour of the almond cream.
- Eggs - In my original almond cream recipe, I use two whole eggs which suits tarts that include fruit, as they impart moisture and the extra egg white aids with structure. However, in our recipe today, as the filling is used on its own, we use 1 whole large egg and 1 large egg yolk.
- Ground almonds - Or almond meal. Don't mistake it for almond flour, which is a lot finer in texture and will dry out your almond cream. Ground almonds are coarser and provide texture and moisture to the filling.
- Orange Zest - Typically not included in a traditional French King Cake Recipe, but I like to add it for a subtle citrus hit.
- Alcohol - Traditional Galette des Rois add alcohol to the filling. It's not a lot and is subtle in taste as the alcohol cooks out during baking. I used cognac but you can use rum, whisky or preferred liquer. But if you prefer to omit it, then you can replace it with one tablespoon of orange blossom water (I love this ingredient!). It can easily be found in specialist grocery stores or Amazon.
The joy of this dessert is that you can veer away from the simplicity of the Traditional Galette and add different conserves along with the almond cream or use various ground nuts.
Whatever changes you make, just remember to cut the top pastry circle 1-2 cm (½ - 1-inch) wider than the bottom. Also leave a 2cm (1-inch) gap around the bottom edge of the pastry when filling so that you can seal it shut.
- Mini Galettes des Rois: Want individual size galettes? Then, simply cut out rounds for the base and tops. Approximately 10cm/4inches in diameter. Just remember the top pastry has to be slightly bigger than the bottom.
- Add apricot jam: A popular addition to your Galettes is to add a layer of apricot jam or conserve to the base before layering on the almond cream.
- Make a Chocolate Pear Galette: Fan thin slices of pear all around the bottom (remember to leave a gap around the perimeter of the pastry). Add chopped dark chocolate or chocolate chips mixed into the almond cream, and once baked, you'll be left with oozing puddles of chocolate. Delish!
- Cinnamon Apple Galette: Lay thin slices of apples around the base and mix through raisins and a tablespoon of ground cinnamon into the almond cream. This is a delightful spiced fruity twist to the traditional tart.
- Hazelnut Galette: Switch out the ground almonds for ground hazelnuts. You could even dollop spoonfuls of Nutella over the hazelnut cream before covering it with pastry. I know my kids would love this version!!
👩🏻🍳 How to Make
This Galette des Rois recipe is split into three simple parts. Preparing the puff pastry, making the almond cream and finally, assembling.
I've provided process shots and instructions peppered with tips below to help you out.
*Be sure to see the recipe card below for the full ingredients list & instructions!*
Prepare the Puff Pastry
TIP: Puff pastry needs to be chilled always. If you feel it's warming up or the kitchen is particularly warm, refrigerate the pastry at every opportunity for the butter inside it to firm up.
STEP 1. Roll out the puff pastry and cut into discs.
If using a block of puff pastry: Cut the block in two. Roll out one piece of pastry on a lightly floured surface to a 25cm/10-inches wide square or circle (Image 1). Place the base of a 23cm/9-inch cake pan and cut around the edge to form a disc (Image 2). This is the base for your Galette des Rois. Transfer to a parchment paper line baking tray.
TIP: When rolling out the puff pastry, if you see it shrinking, roll it out and refrigerate it for ten minutes so the pastry can relax before cutting out the disc.
Roll out the second piece of pastry to the same size. Using the cake pan base as a guide, make this disc slightly larger and cut the circle approx 25cm/10-inches wide (Image 3). Transfer to a parchment paper line baking tray and refrigerate both discs (Image 4) whilst making the almond cream.
TIP: Use an upturned plate, springform pan base, cooking pot lid, and removable tart pan base. Whatever you can, that's round!
If using pre-rolled puff pastry then unroll the pastry and follow the instructions cutting out two discs and then refrigerating them.
Make the Almond Cream
You can make almond cream in a food processor, stand mixer or by hand. I show each option in my How to Make Frangipane guide. For today's purpose, I'll show you how to make it in a stand mixer. (The same process applies when using an electric hand mixer).
STEP 2. Cream butter, sugar and orange zest. Cream the butter, sugar and orange zest until pale and creamy within the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat for 3 minutes to ensure the sugar dissolves fully, and it's pale and creamy (Image 5).
STEP 3. Add in eggs and cognac if using. Add the whole egg, egg yolk and alcohol, and beat together (Image 6). It may look curdled, but it will come together in the next step.
STEP 4. Add the ground almonds and salt. Beat again until smooth and combined (Images 7 & 8). If you use almond flour, then the frangipane will be very smooth. Ground almonds will result in slightly more texture to the cream.
STEP 5. Place in a piping bag (optional). I find it easier to add the almond cream to the pastry (the next step) via a piping bag. Do this easily by placing the bag in a tall glass/jug with the top folded over. Spoon the mixture into the bag and twist it closed (Images 9 & 10).
TIP: If the almond cream mixture is loose, then I suggest refrigerating it for 30 minutes to firm it up slightly. In winter, I don't need to do this, but if baking this in summer, I take extra precaution and throw the almond cream into the fridge!
Assemble the Galette de Rois
STEP 6. Pipe almond cream onto the pastry base. Remove the puff pastry discs from the fridge. Pipe or spoon the almond cream onto the smaller disc, leaving a 2.5cm/1 inch border all the way around (Image 13). Level with a palette knife. Brush the exposed border with egg wash.
STEP 7. Add the fève or nut. It's totally optional, but it's so fun for kids to have a hunt for it later on! Add the plastic of ceramic fèves, whole almond or other nut or bean into the cream (Image 12).
Note- If you're worried and want to remember where it is, mark the parchment paper with a pen. (Do this discreetly so you can still keep the location a surprise!)
STEP 8. Cover the cream with the second pastry disc. Lay the second, larger disc over the top, gently pressing it over the mound of cream to remove air bubbles (Image 13).
STEP 9. Seal edges. The technique I'm about to show you not only helps seal all around the edge of the galette (we don't want almond cream oozing out), it also produces a super pretty edge to the pastry that Galette des Rois is famous for.
Scallop the edge with two fingers and use the back of a knife to push the edge in between your two fingers. The best way to understand this particular French technique is to look at my process image above (Image 14).
Brush the egg wash all over the top (but don't let it run down the sides, as this can inhibit the rise of the pastry). Now chill the Galette on the baking tray for at least 30 minutes. This helps give you a super crisp pastry. You can pre-heat the oven to 200C/390F whilst waiting.
STEP 10. Decorate the pastry, then bake. Remove the cake from the fridge. Brush the egg wash all over the top again (Image 15). This double egg wash technique (learnt via Le Cordon Bleu) guarantees a super golden, shiny crisp top to your Galettes des Rois.
Using a sharp pairing knife, score a design on top. I've done it in radiating arcs, as seen in Image 16. But you can score it in a herringbone or leaf design too. Just make sure not to cut all the way through the dough. Cut a small hole in the centre to act as a steam vent (Image 17).
STEP 11. Bake. Bake in the preheated 200C/390F oven for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven to 180C/350F and continue to bake for another 15-20 minutes until the pastry is deep golden (Image 18). Remove from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack.
TIP: If you see the Galette Des Rois in the windows of the Pâtissieres, the pastry has this enticing shiny finish to it.
To achieve this professional finish, boil equal parts sugar and water together until the sugar is dissolved. Allow the syrup to cool. Once the galette is removed from the oven, immediately brush it with the syrup. Then, allow the galette to cool as per instructions. Et Voilà!
🥣 How To Serve
The Galette des Rois is one of those desserts that needs to be eaten on the day. Most puff pastry desserts dictate this. The moisture from the almond cream softens the crisp pastry when left too long.
I recommend leaving the galette to cool until it is still warm but not hot. That way, you can slice the galette cleanly. It's divine eaten as is but also with a scoop of ice cream or a dollop of crème chantilly or a drizzle of cream.
💭 Recipe Pro Tips
- Temperature is so important. If the puff pastry is too warm when it goes into the oven, you'll be left with a greasy mess. If in doubt - refrigerate it!!
- Measure out your ingredients. I'm a huge advocate for weighing your ingredients in grams rather than cups. It's far more accurate and dispels any discrepancies that could cause the recipe to fail.
- Careful of the fèves. It goes without saying that hiding any hard object, whether a whole nut or porcelain charm, in a baked cake, can be a choking hazard. Because this tradition of finding the fève is aimed at kids, please be cautious and use your discretion! Omit the fève if you are worried!!
📋 Recipe FAQs
Absolutely. You can prepare the separate components beforehand. Cut the pastry discs and cover them well with plastic wrap to stop them drying out. Prepare the almond cream and refrigerate both until ready to assemble.
Alternatively, assemble the Galette des Rois and refrigerate until ready to score the pastry and bake.
Whilst they are both made from almonds and used in desserts, they are quite different. Frangipane is a creamy, spreadable filling used in tarts or pastries.
Marzipan, or almond candy dough as it's known in the US, is a denser almond paste that is used to decorate cakes with or used to form into shapes such as fruit.
Authentic galettes are round but when baking at home, you can do whatever you like! If using pre-rolled pastry, then sometimes I make the galette square to avoid wasting the discarded pastry. Tastes the same, just a different shape!
❄️ Storage and Freezer Instructions
To store: The Galette des Rois is best eaten on the same day. Store it in an air-tight container at room temperature and re-crisp the pastry by baking the galette in a 180C/350F oven for 10 minutes.
To freeze: Make the King Cake up to the point of sealing and scalloping the edges (before brushing with egg wash. Wrap well in plastic wrap and freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw for 15 minutes for brushing with egg wash and scoring the top with a design. Bake as per the recipe.
🇫🇷 More Festive French Recipes
If you tried this Galette des Rois Recipe or any other recipe on my website, please, please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how you go in the 📝 comments below. I love hearing from you!
Galette des Rois Recipe (French King Cake)
- 500 g ready-made puff pastry block, or x2 sheets pre-rolled puff pastry
- 115 g unsalted butter, room temperature
- 100 g granulated sugar
- 1 orange zest
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg, yolk
- 1 tablespoon cognac (optional), or Whiskey, Rum, Frangelico or 1 teaspoon of orange blossom water or vanilla extract
- 100 g almond meal (ground almonds)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg plus 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
Sugar syrup (optional)
- 30 ml water
- 30 g sugar
Prepare the Puff Pastry
- Roll out the puff pastry and cut into discs. Cut the puff pastry block in two. Roll out one piece of pastry on a lightly floured surface to a 25cm/10-inches wide square or circle. Place the base of a 23cm/9-inch cake pan and cut around the edge to form a disc. This is the base for your Galette des Rois. Transfer the disc to a parchment paper lined baking tray.Roll out the second piece of pastry to the same size. Using the cake pan base as a guide, make this disc slightly larger and cut the circle approx 25cm/10 inches wide. Transfer to a parchment paper lined baking tray and refrigerate both discs whilst making the almond cream.
Make the Almond Cream Filling
- Cream butter, sugar and orange zest. Rub the orange zest and sugar together to release the oils. Cream the butter and orange sugar until pale and creamy in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.
- Add in eggs and alcohol if using. Add the whole egg, egg yolk and cognac, and beat them together. It may look curdled, but it will come together in the next step.
- Add the ground almonds and salt. Pour the ground almonds and salt into the bowl and beat again until smooth and combined.
- Place in a piping bag (optional). Spoon the mixture into a piping bag and twist it closed.
- Pipe almond cream onto the pastry base. Remove the puff pastry discs from the fridge. Pipe or spoon the almond cream onto the smaller disc, leaving a 2.5cm/1 inch border all the way around. Level with a palette knife. Whisk egg and water together and brush the exposed border with egg wash.
- Add the fève or nut. It's totally optional, but it's so fun for kids to have a hunt for it later on! Add the plastic of ceramic fève, whole almond or other nut or bean into the cream.
- Cover the cream with the second pastry disc. Lay the second, larger disc over the top, gently pressing it over the mound of cream to remove air.
- Seal edges. Scallop the edge with two fingers and use the back of a knife to push the edge in between your two fingers as you go around (see post for image). Brush the egg wash all over the top (but don't let it run down the sides, as this can inhibit the rise of the pastry). Refrigerate. Now chill the Galette on the baking tray for at least 30 minutes. This helps give you a super crisp pastry. Preheat the oven to 200℃/390℉ whilst waiting.
- Decorate the pastry, then bake. Remove the cake from the fridge. Brush the egg wash all over the top again. Using a sharp pairing knife, score a design on top. I've done it in radiating arcs, starting from the centre and faning out to the edge. But you can score it in a herringbone or leaf design, too. Just make sure you do not cut all the way through the dough. Cut a small hole in the centre to act as a steam vent.
- Bake. Bake in the preheated 200℃/390℉ oven for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven to 180℃/350℉ and continue to bake for another 15-20 minutes until the pastry is deep golden. Remove from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack. This galette is best enjoyed warm or at room temperature.
- Brush with sugar syrup. (Optional extra for a professional finish). Whilst the galette is baking, boil sugar and water together until the sugar is dissolved. Pour into a bowl and allow the syrup to cool. Once the galette is removed from the oven, immediately brush it with the syrup. Set the galette to one side to cool until warm.
All recipes are developed and tested in Metric grams. I strongly recommend that you bake using digital scales for a more accurate result. I have provided a conversion to US customary in the recipe but please note that I haven’t tested using this method.