King (or Queen) for a Day

For many, the holidays are made up of a seriously gourmand series of meals, special menus and treats in December.  Nothing wrong with that, of course.  A grande finale takes place perhaps on New Year’s Eve or Day, when the celebrations come to a close and the new year begins (with or without resolutions).  But one musn’t forget January 6th, Epiphany – and one more treat to savor.

Epiphany, King

If we are in France the first week of January, a whole new series of eating begins – and it’s the same thing each time.  Whether it’s brunch at a friend’s house, goûter at my mother-in-law’s, dinner at someone else’s… there will always be a Galette des Rois (Kings’ Cake) for dessert. This is the classic cake made with puff pastry and a layer of frangipane to be served on and often around this day.  Traditionally it is baked with a hidden fève (bean), tiny porcelain figurine or even plastic charm in the batter, and comes with a gold paper crown.  Here’s why: the youngest child goes underneath the table (this is finally no longer me!) and as an adult cuts a piece of cake, the child yells out the name of someone at the table to receive that slice.  Whoever finds the hidden bean in their piece is crowned king or queen for the day, and gets to choose his or her queen or king too!

I can remember eating almost ten Galettes des Rois one year – we just laugh about it.  Invited to someone else’s house – oh no, another galette!  It’s fun to see how different bakeries and pastry shops stay true to tradition or add their own touch to the cake.  I have delicious memories of galettes from when I lived in Paris and in Clermont-Ferrand, of my mother-in-law’s homemade galette and even one year of a very special Pierre Hermé Ispahan galette served by Dorie Greenspan (pâte feuilletée, crème d’amandes à la rose, letchis et framboises).  Guess who found the fève?!  Moi, and of course I still have my pink crown as a sweet souvenir.  Take a look at this slideshow for this year’s creative takes on the Galette des Rois by Paris’ top pastry masters including Pierre Hermé, as well as Dalloyau, Fauchon, Maison du Chocolat, Lenôtre and more…

Epiphany, King

Back in Zürich for Epiphany, we’ll be celebrating Dreikönigstag (Three Kings Day), as it’s called here.  Instead of a Galette des Rois, it’s a Dreikönigskuchen, the Swiss German version. It’s made of small brioche-like rolls baked together, resembling a flower and easily pulled apart.  A sweet yeast dough is used, often sprinkled with large sugar crystals and/or almond slices, and sometimes made with raisins too.  Light and airy, it is just perfect for breakfast or tea time, not only dessert.  And of course it comes with a gold paper crown too.  You can see them in bakeries and pastry shops around town, like below at Honold, Sprüngli and Buchmann.  You can even order your own, choosing between 6 and 18 Kugeln.

Epiphany, KingEpiphany, KingEpiphany, KingEpiphany, King

You can not only read up on the cake’s history, but also get an original recipe to try making it at home – Jack McNulty of Laughing Lemon makes a version of the Swiss Dreikönigskuchen filled with jam.  And Barbra Austin shows you just how simple a French Galette des Rois faite maison is.  Here are also step by step instructions with photos, en français.  I hope you are crowned king or queen,… but I just hope you don’t find out with a broken tooth!

30 Responses to “King (or Queen) for a Day”

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  2. katy says:

    I love this post! Especially since we had just cut into our Galette des Rois when I noticed your this post! In Luxembourg we have the same type of galette that is found in France. This year I bought an apple one instead of frangipane (which we had last year). Yum. I must say that again, Yum. Consider me an apple convert. My husband was King this year. My oldest was queen last. Only sour note was the “bean” which this year was a porcelain figure from the movie Ice Age. Boo, hiss to commercial “beans!” The Swiss-German version looks wonderful. How could you go wrong with brioche and sugar! Your pictures are delicious. I’m off to watch the slide show you posted.

  3. Andrea says:

    Have you found the best recipe for this yet? Would love to attempt to make it…although I am just recovering from the flop-of-an-attempt-to-make-Stollen. Looks delish! :)

  4. Barbra says:

    I’m going to make the brioche version next year!

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  6. Claudine says:

    love this! I plan on making one for the 6th and was going to do Dorie’s recipe I think. Made one before and have been craving it for months now. Thanks for the great post!

  7. Lani says:

    I have tasted quite a few in France a few years ago but this one in Zurich looks rather delicious. The other day while I was walking home from work I saw on in the window of Pain Quotidien. It looked so good! It has brought back fabulous memories seeing them in the windows in Paris. I want a piece!!! Love the photographs!! So real!!

  8. Julia @ Mélanger says:

    What a great post not only tempting us with the delicious looking and sounding Galette des Rois, but some detail for those of us not familiar with it. That slideshow was amazing. So many great creations. I hope to have one of these next year. Best mark that down on a list! :)

  9. dorie says:

    As usual, a great post! I love the look of the brioche galette. It’s slightly reminiscent of the galettes I saw in Provence, but there they were dusted with rose praline.

  10. Mowie @ Mowielicious.com says:

    Such a lovely post Kerrin, and a very cute tradition too. I’d heard something about it once from my Oma but not the full story, so thanks for sharing the details. Loving the pictures in the bakeries and the slideshow!

  11. Kerrin says:

    katy, oh what perfect timing. Reading this post as you devoured your own Galette des Rois, and with apples, sounds fantastic. You must be a fan of chausson aux pommes, no ? I’m with you, thumbs down for commercial fèves. There are people that have collections of them – antique, authentic and beautiful figurines. I don’t think they’d add the Ice Age one to their collection ! ;)

    Andrea, sorry about the Stollen flop. Good luck the next time around. I shared two links above for recipes – one for the Galette des Rois, the other for the Dreikönigskuchen. Just below the last photos. Give those a try – and let me know how it goes !

    dorie, thanks ! Aha, didn’t know that there were other takes on the Galette des Rois in different regions of France. Rose praline sounds good to me – perhaps more reminiscent of Lyon than Provence though. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Angela says:

    I don’t know how you do this every time! You’re beginning to open my eyes again to the beauty and art and humanity in food and food traditions. I feel like I did as a child where cakes and breads had a bit of magic in them. In LA we mostly talk about what we’re not eating…such a loss.

    So, really, thank you!

  13. Jen Laceda says:

    I just felt my blood sugar shoot up as I was reading your post. it’s too bad for me that my pregnancy blood glucose exam came back and it came back HIGH. My OB ‘suggested’ I cut down on sweets! Oh tell me how I can do this? I love sweets…I know I’ll have a sympathetic ear with you…Happy New Year!!

  14. Nomadic Chick says:

    My lord, that looks delectable. By the way, your photography is amazing. Is it possible to be a foodie, but not at chef? That’s my dilemma. :)

  15. Marlen says:

    Happy New Year! So much for resolutions… Had 2 pieces of Dreikönigskuchen today (and that in addition to the normal meals) – one with sugar crystals (provided by my employer) and the other one with sliced almonds (given out at the place where I had lunch). Freebies – lovely gestures which I always appreciate (especially when it’s food..)
    I have never tried the Galette des Rois – the one with apples sounds delicious – I love anything with apples anyway.
    Great pictures!

  16. Kerrin says:

    Angela, thank YOU for your wonderful comment. And how exciting to have that feeling again, as a child discovering the magic of sweets and desserts. As we’re adults now, those things should still never lose their magic. That’s my approach for sure ! Glad you can keep your eyes open to all of it, even if the mindset is a bit different in LA.

    Jen, my dear Jen, yes you have come to the right place for sympathy! ;) I do find it sad if someone can not indulge their senses – and sweet tooth – as they would like to ! We do all need to limit our sugar intake though – to an extent. Even me. But just think of all the delicacies you will treat yourself to when your child is born !

    Nomadic Chick, thanks ! And oh absolutely yes, you can be a foodie without being a chef. Most food bloggers and readers are. Like me ! :) I’m not a chef at all. Just someone who loves to eat and bake and read about what others are eating and baking. No dilemma at all ! You don’t even have to bake or cook at all to be a foodie… Just passionate about food, that’s enough !

    Marlen, resolutions can begin in February ! :) So which piece of Dreikönigskuchen did you prefer – sugar crystals or almonds? I bet both were delicious !

  17. Chantal says:

    Thanks for clarifying what I saw in the store yesterday! I didn’t get a chance to try them, but I should have!

  18. my spatula says:

    i’m officially pining for a stroll through the streets of zurich again. thank you for taking me there! :)

  19. Matt says:

    If you take a peek at the bottom of the cake you can often spot some unevenness where the baker has shoved the plastic bean up into a particular piece, a sure way to guarantee yourself some royalty for the day…

  20. Stéphanie says:

    J’adore les galettes à la frangipane mais là… c’est l’overdose (encore une à midi car une petite princesse voulait trouver la fève). Par contre la version zurichoise est alléchante!

  21. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella says:

    This was so interesting to read about the NY traditions in each country! Although it has induced some serious cravings on my behalf now…I have yet to a Galette des Rois but hopefully will this year

  22. Deborah says:

    Oh my, this post has made me very hungry!

    New Orleans does a King cake that seems to be similar, which is very good. It too has figurines hidden inside the cake. I will making one for Fat Tuesday even though I live in California. Now I want to try a Galette des Rois.

    Thank you for the beautiful post.

  23. Lael Hazan @educatedpalate says:

    What a fun post! Living in South Florida, we celebrate “Three Kings” day at friends with roscón de reyes. Last year my youngest daughter found the “baby” and still has it.

  24. King Cake- Acadiana’s Thrifty Mom style ? says:

    […] the United States, the King Cakes of New Orleans are probably the most well known. German/Bavarian Dreikonigskeuchen (recipe here) is encased in a gold paper […]

  25. Three Kings – or the attempt to conquer the beast! | recipes365 says:

    […] Tomorrow is January 6, known as Epiphany or in Switzerland the Three Kings’ Day. January 6 is a Christian feast day when we celebrate the revelation of God as a human being in Jesus Christ. In Switzerland this day is celebrated with a Three Kings’ Cake. A bread made from yeast dough containing a hidden symbol of the baby Jesus, like a small plastic king or queen (in the store bought versions) or other things such as a small coin (in my Dad’s version). Whoever gets that slice of cake is said to be specially blessed. The Three Kings’ Cakes you buy in the shops include a paper crown. […]

  26. Katrin says:

    If only I could remember where I read about the statistics on people who swallow by mistake or choke on the little plastic figurine inside one of the rolls :-)

  27. Stéphanie says:

    In Provence it’s a brioche with fruits confits (my English has its own limits!!!) but i’m an addict of the frangipane one :D (even the chocolate galette didn’t convert me)

  28. Sarah says:

    Interesting post, I remember the Kings cake from my childhood- mostly that my brother always got the figurine hidden inside.

  29. Juliana says:

    I love Galette des Rois. My godmother is from France and she always served one around the 6th. To this day, I prefer the puff pastry and frangipane to the brioche style. But that doesn’t mean I won’t eat the brioche! Thanks for the memories.

  30. Galette des Rois: Three Kings Cake | Dairy-Free Switzerland says:

    […] Kugelhopf, King (or Queen) for a Day (January […]

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