King for a day

by mimithorisson


This Sunday most of France will be feasting on the traditional king’s cake, called galette des rois in French.  It is made of golden buttery puff pastry filled with a delicious almond paste filling, and you can find so many versions with cream, fruits or chocolate.  This tradition is to mark the feast of Epiphany, when the three wise men brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the baby Jesus.  For others, it’s simply the end of the Christmas festivities.

The Christmas tree has been looking glorious throughout the holidays, but it had started to fade and couldn’t carry the decorations anymore.   It was time to wrap the ornaments up.  It’s always a symbolic moment for me, as I know that next time I unwrap them a whole year will have gone by.  So many events and surprises to look forward to.

I just love these special occasions linked with festive treats.  Last month, I made a beetroot tart to match my Christmas mood, today I made the king’s cake.  There has been excitement and tension in the air.  Who will find the fève and get the crown?  There is always a hidden fève, traditionally a bean, or a porcelain figurine in the king’s cake, the lucky person who finds it gets to wear the crown.  Thou shalt be the king for a day!  Luckily, we will be having the galette des rois several times in the next few days – so everyone will get to be a king.  How can anyone resist all those golden king’s cakes?  You can’t miss them, as they are everywhere these days.

While living in Paris, we had so much choice for galette des rois.  The fancy ones at Ladurée, the delicious ones at my local patissier Stéphane Secco in the 7th, the exquisite ones at Pierre Hermé.  I always had a soft spot for Ladurée, mainly because of the beautiful figurines they hide in the cakes.  We have built up a quite a little collection of fèves, preciously storing them in a treasure box.  The kids love to take a peek once in a while, gazing at their minuscule cake trophies.  Each one tells a story and fills our lives with wonderful memories.

The king’s cake I baked today was divine.  It is so simple to make, apart from the puff pastry which takes a bit of time, but well worth it.  If you are not in the mood to make your own puff pastry, just buy two puff pastry sheets.

We had a little fun with our dogs today!  They had no cake, but we played a game and the winner took the crown … then tore it.

Have a lovely week-end!



King’s cake (Galette des rois)


250 g/ 2 cups plain flour, sifted

1/2 tsp salt

50 g/1/4 cup butter (cut into cubes, at room temperature)

125 ml water (at room temperature)/ 1/2 cup water

250 g/ 1 cup unsalted butter (at room temperature)

In a large bowl, mix sifted flour with butter, water and salt.  Mix gently until you a get a ball-shaped dough.  Slice a cross on top of the ball, 2 cm/ 0.7 inchdeep.  Wrap in cling film and store in the refrigerator for 30 minutes..

Place butter block on a piece of cling film, cover, and use a rolling-pin to flatten the butter into a 14-15cm/ 5-6 inches square. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

By following these instructions, you should be able to achieve a delicious puff pastry.

1) On a slightly floured and clean surface, place the ball-shaped dough and roll out each side from the cross, as if you were opening the ball like a flower.  Roll into a large square shape, approx. 25-30 cm/ 9-10 inches each sides.

2) Place the flattened butter in the center, and bring each corner of the dough to the center to wrap and cover the butter.

3) Start rolling, being careful not to squeeze out the butter.  Roll to an even rectangle shape.

4) Fold into three equal sides, as if you were folding a towel (both sides bring to center)

5) Turn the folded dough once clockwise and repeat step 3, 4 and 5.

6)Wrap in cling film and leave to rest for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.

7) Repeat steps 3, 4 and 5 four more times.  The idea is to fold the dough and roll into sheets 6 times.  When finished your dough is ready!

For the almond paste filling:

80 g/ 1/3 cup butter

1 tbsp rum (optional)

2 eggs

120 g/ 2/3 cup ground almonds

100 g/ 2/3 cup  granulated sugar

Whisk sugar and eggs together until light and fluffy.  In another bowl, melt butter and mix with ground almonds and rum.  Ad the egg mixture to the almond mixture and mix well.  Set aside.

Assembling the king’s cake:

Roll out the dough on a slightly floured clean surface.  Use a pastry cutter and cut out two circles. (I used a standard plate to cut out the discs).  Place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.  Prick the base pastry with a fork all over.  Place the almond filling one of the circle pastry sheet and leave a rim of 3 cm.  Brush the rim with egg wash.  Insert (and hide!) the  small porcelain figurine in the filling.  Cover with the second circle pastry sheet, and press and seal sheets together using your thumb. You can use a round-tip knife (or the other end of a fork) and press markings all around the rim to create a nice fish.  Using the back of a knife, draw a mandala style figure with leaves, or any of your favourite patterns (criss-crossed lines etc.).  Brush with egg wash and place in the refrigerator for up to an hour.

When ready, brush one final time with egg wash, take a small stick and prick the center of the cake (so that the pastry doesn’t puff up too much).

Bake in a 180°C/ 350°F preheated oven for 25-30 minutes depending on oven strength.

Serve warm.