Friday, January 1, 2010

Epiphany--and a king's cake, or "galette des rois"

Epiphany—from the Greek, “manifestation” or “showing forth.” This is the feast of the manifestation of Christ to the Magi, who symbolically represent the world of the Gentiles—the entire world; this is why the Magi are shown representing the different races, all come to adore Christ. Epiphany is a very ancient feast—older than Christmas itself—dating back to 3rd century Egypt. This year Epiphany is celebrated officially in the US on January 3; the actual date of the feast is January 6.

When my six children were young, each year we put on an Epiphany procession—with the Magi carrying jewelry boxes (emptied for the occasion!), and the Holy Family awaiting their arrival. (I must confess that sometimes the Christ Child wasn’t as quiet and holy as we might have liked.) It was great—and very memorable to them.

A Continual Feast contains several recipes for Epiphany cakes and drink (pp. 165-167) but let me give the recipe for a delicious, traditional French “king’s cake” here. The person who finds the bean in the cake is king for that day (this is a very old custom).

(Note: "Galette des rois" is pronounced gah-lette day rwa)
1 cup finely ground blanched almonds
2 1/3 cups sifted flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
8 tablespoons butter, cut into little pieces
About 6 tablespoons cold water
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten with a little water
A bean or dried pea


Mix the almonds thoroughly with the flour, mix in the salt and sugar. Add the egg yolks, the butter, and water as needed to make a firm dough. Work the paste gently with your fingertips.
Form it into a ball, and let it rest in the refrigerator about about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 425 F. Lightly grease a baking sheet.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the paste out into a galette (a circle about 3/4 inch thick). Insert a ban in the bottom surface of the galette. Cut the edges with a knife to make a perfect circle, with straight sides. With a sharp knife decorate the top with lozenge (diamond) shaped cuts or with arabesques.
Place the galette on the baking sheet. Brush with egg yolk, lightly beaten with a little water.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the galette is golden brown.


  1. What a wonderful blog. Je vous remercie mille fois!

  2. In parts of Croatia,on Epiphany men dressed as the Magi visit houses in villages/smaller towns,singing carols and bringing good wishes and blessing to each household. They are usually given some food and wine as a "reward". That is the conclusion of the Christmas festivities.