Christmas in France France

How to make a galette des rois?

The "galette des rois" marks the end of the festive season. A good puff pastry galette, traditionally filled with frangipane, into which we slip the famous bean that will designate the queen or king to whom we offer the pretty paper crown. It's even older than the famous Three Wise Men who gave it its name, and the recipe is easier than it looks. Maybe you can even make your own galette des rois by following our recipe...


Where does the galette des rois come from?


Already on tables in Roman times.


As far back as 2000 years ago, during the saturnalia at the end of January, the Romans got together to give each other presents (a bit like we do at Christmas) and this was the occasion to enjoy a cake made especially for the occasion (but not at all with puff pastry, which was only invented in the 17th century). In this round cake, a bean, the vegetable, is inserted and the cake is divided into as many slices as there are guests. On this day, the slaves are invited to take part. The youngest member of the assembly is then asked to go somewhere, often under the table, and is asked questions about the future without saying who is being talked about. He or she must then decide who will receive the slices, which he or she cannot see. Then, the person who finds the bean is king for the day, even if he or she is a slave, and can do as he or she pleases (but not too much! One day goes by quickly and after that you have to smoke).


Romans at table: photo chosen by Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples.

Romans at table: photo chosen by Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples.


A tradition continued by Christians


Although the significance of the festival of Saturn (the god of time) was removed, the galette was kept by the Christians and gradually took on the name of "galettes des rois" because it was eaten at the beginning of the year, at the time of the Epiphany, i.e. around 5 January, rather than at the end of January in Roman times. This galette was above all a festive dish for the wealthy, as it already contained a lot of butter, which was rare and expensive, and it was customary at the French court for the woman who fell on the bean to be Queen of France for a day. In any case, the cost of butter and flour explains why our earliest written records speak of galettes at the court of kings. It was later, in the 17th century, that the flaky pastry galette appeared. It was after tasting one and pulling the kings that the young Louis XIV fled Paris during the Fronde on the night of 5 to 6 January 1649.



The French Revolution transformed the galette des rois into the galette de l'égalité.


Needless to say, the galette des rois did not get much press at a time when everything reminiscent of the monarchy was being destroyed, including names (for example, the names of communes that sounded too monarchical or Catholic were changed, so Mont Saint Michel became Mont Libre). At first it was banned. Then attempts were made to link it to a sort of neighbours' festival. In 1794, it became known as the "galette de l'égalité" (equality cake), but it was less fun because there was no bean and no king(yes, that's what equality is all about). However, it continued to be made in families, out of sight, and came back into fashion after the French Revolution.


The galette des rois eaten in 1745. Illustration chosen by Painting by Jean-Baptiste Greuze (1725-1805) - Own work, Public domain,

The galette des rois eaten in 1745. Illustration chosen by Painting by Jean-Baptiste Greuze (1725-1805) - Own work, Public domain,



Nowadays in France


In France, we've kept the tradition of asking the youngest to go under the table and point out who gets the slice of cake they can't see. And we've also kept the fava bean, with the difference that in Roman times it was a vegetable fava bean, whereas today we slip in elaborate fava beans, sometimes made of earthenware, or even collectors' fava beans. Every year, more than 20,000,000 galettes des rois are sold, proof that the tradition is still alive and well. They are often made with frangipane, although in the south of France, instead of a galette des rois, we eat a gâteau des rois with orange blossom (and it's delicious!).



The recipe for the galette des rois


A good galette des rois as we like them. Photo chosen by depositphotos.comA good galette des rois as we like them. Photo chosen by




For an 8-person galette, you will need :


  • 2 layers of puff pastry
  • 2 eggs for the frangipane
  • 1 egg for the gilding
  • 1 teaspoon of milk in a small dish - you'll need a scoop.
  • 1 small amount of water in a small dish with a brush
  • 100 grams of sugar
  • 100 grams of butter
  • 125 grams almond powder



Photo depositphoto


The process


Take the butter out of the fridge at least half an hour before you start the recipe, and remember to bring greaseproof paper, a large bowl, two bowls, a knife, a brush and... A bean!


First you'll prepare the filling.


  1. Take a large bowl and put together the butter, which should be soft, add the caster sugar and almond powder and start mixing.
  2. Add the first egg and continue mixing.
  3. Add a second egg and mix again.
  4. Some people add a little rum at this point, but this is optional.
  5. You have obtained an almond cream with a good texture



Set up


  1. Unroll some greaseproof paper and roll out a sheet of puff pastry on top.
  2. Using a brush dipped in water, go around the edges of the pastry to moisten it. Be careful not to overflow towards the outside, otherwise it won't rise properly.
  3. Spread your almond cream evenly over the puff pastry, but do not go all the way to the edge. Go no further than 2 or 3 centimetres from the edge.
  4. Don't forget to add the fava beans at this point!
  5. Use the second layer of puff pastry to cover everything.
  6. Fold the edges inwards and press with your fingers to close.
  7. Next, make regular cuts along the edges of your galette (roughly every centimetre).
  8. To finish, you take your 3rd egg, break it into a bowl and add a little milk (a teaspoon) and with your brush you brush your galette but be careful that it doesn't run down the sides or over the edges. So just the top.
  9. Put your galette in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.


Finish :


  1. Preheat your oven to 240 degrees (gas mark 8)
  2. Remove the cake from the fridge
  3. Draw with the tip of a knife on the top of your galette: tradition dictates diagonals, but you can also draw ears of corn or a crown.
  4. Place the galette in the oven on a baking tray for 10 minutes at 240°C (gas mark 8, hot oven).
  5. Then lower the oven temperature to 180 °C (gas mark 6) for 20 minutes.


The galette is often best served warm. It is increasingly served with cider.

Alcohol abuse is dangerous for your health, and should be consumed in moderation.

Jérôme Prod'homme

Jérôme Prod'homme

Jérôme is "monsieur de France" the author of this site. 

Jérôme Prod'homme

Jérôme Prod'homme

Jérôme is "monsieur de France" the author of this site.