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Be a King for the Day on January 6th

Updated on April 22, 2013

Celebrate the Epiphany Like A King!

The celebration of the Epiphany, is generally regarded as a religious celebration. However, there are also nonsectarian ways to celebrate this holiday as well.

Let's take a look as one tradition for "All Kings Day" or "Three Kings Day" that originates in France.

Families will traditionally bake a sweet almond cake for All Kings Day. Inside the cake, an almond nut, bean or porcelain figurine is hidden within the batter. Whoever receives the hidden trinket gets to be the king for the day, and everyone else has to do what ever the king says ( within reason of course.) This is a great activities for families, children and adults of all ages!

Photo courtesy  of:  Poupou l'quourouce
Photo courtesy of: Poupou l'quourouce

What is the Epiphany?

According to Biblical tales, the epiphany, which literally means a vision of God, is a religious festival that celebrates the day when the three Magi or Three Wise Men, who are known as Balthasar, Melchior, and Gaspar, (i.e. "we three kings of Orient are....") concluded their long journey and saw the baby Jesus.

In France, the traditional way to celebrate this holiday is with an almond-flavored pastry cake or a brioche-type cake decked with fruit. There are also a number of different religious festivals that are celebrated across the world.

Standardized religious calendars celebrate the Epiphany on January 6th. However, Orthodox religions and people who follow older Julian calendars will often celebrate the holiday in January 13th or 19th or any time in between. In England, the celebration is typically held between January 2nd and the 8th.

Photo Courtesy of: Gorrk
Photo Courtesy of: Gorrk

This traditional recipe for Galette des Rois is part of a larger genre of baked goods known as King Cakes. This recipe features a puff pastry cake filled with almond paste. In France, a gâteau des Rois with Brioche dough is made in some areas. These Kings Cakes are sold in bakeries across the nation and a paper crown is included with each one.

  • Prep time: 35 min
  • Cook time: 25 min
  • Ready in: 1 hour
  • Yields: 6-8


  • Two Sheets of Puff Pastry or Pate Feuilletee
  • 2 Tbsp Flour
  • 5 Tbsp Butter
  • 2/3 Cup Confectioner's Sugar
  • 1/3 Cup Almond Paste
  • 1 Egg
  • 1/4 Tsp Almond Extract
  • Zest from One Lemon
  • One Egg for Egg Wash
  • One Pinch of Salt


  1. Combine room temperature butter with confectioner's sugar and cream until light and fluffy. Add one beaten egg and whisk until combined. Incorporate almond paste, flour, lemon zest and almond extract and set aside.
  2. Remove one sheet of puff pastry and roll into a diameter of 11 inches on a floured surface. Place a pie plate or cake pan over the dough using it as a guide to trace a circle. Complete the same process with the second sheet of puff pastry.
  3. Pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees F, and prepare a baking sheet by buttering it, laying down a SilPat silicone baking sheet or by using a sheet of parchment paper.
  4. Layer the almond-paste mixture onto the puff pastry and gently spread the mixture across the pasty stop 1 to 1.5 inches from the edge. Place you almond, bean or porcelain trinket in the almond mixture and cover the top with the second piece of puff pastry using the back of a chef's knife or your fingers.
  5. Blend the second egg with a pinch of salt and spread across the top of the pastry using a pastry brush. With a sharp knife, make decorative score marks in the top of the cake in the shape of a star.
  6. Place in a pre-heated over for 20-25 minutes or until golden-brown and puffy. Cool on a wire rack, enjoy with your family or friends and see who gets the magic almond!
Cast your vote for Recipe for a Galette des Rois or King's Cake!

Ingredients for a French King's Cake

Are You A King?

Photo Courtesy of: Schopenhauer
Photo Courtesy of: Schopenhauer

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Photo Courtesy of David Monniaux
Photo Courtesy of David Monniaux

The Origin and History of the Galette des Rois

While the Galette des Rois is traditionally served on the Epiphany, the origin of this French celebration dates back well before 1800s when it adapted its current form. This special celebration also incorporates traditions from the Ancient Roman holiday of Saturnalia.

During this pagan holiday that occurred during late December, citizens would give gifts and masters would purportedly wait on their slaves. In Medieval Europe, the epiphany was celebrated with a special Twelfth Night Cake known as the Galette des Rois, which celebrates the Magis' arrical. Within France, many regional variations on this traditional cake sprang up. In southern France, bakers use brioche dough to create a circular fruit-covered cake shaped like a crown. However, by the time Louis XIV took power and Christian Churches gained influence, the festival was banned. Fortunately, the tradition survived and the cake later become a symbol of the French Revolution. Philosophically against kings, these empowered citizens changed the name of the cake to 'Gâteau de l'Ãgalité or the equality cake.

According to pagan traditions, the bean tucked in the cake is said to be a symbol of fertility, ostensibly used to signify spring and the end of winter. Over the years, other traditions were developed too, including one bar variation where the lucky bean holder would buy their friends a round of drinks. One unfortunate scenario regarding the bean was that eaters would often swallow their trinket. Consequently, porcelain ornaments became the commercial standard.

As you can see, this tradition has long roots in France. Celebrate the Epiphany the French way with a delicious Galette des Rois, or learn more about the history of the Galette des Rois from the NTU French Society sponsored by a university in Singapore.

Paper Crowns for Your King of the Day Party! - Fun Celebration Ideas!

If you're lucky enough to get the special bean, here are a few things you can do to act like a king. First of all, you're going to need a king's or queen's crown, and then you'll need a little bit of attitude.

  • Enjoy breakfast in bed
  • Request your favorite meal for lunch
  • Order a romantic dinner for you and your sweetheart
  • Demand a pampering foot massage
  • Have your underlings do chores around the house.
  • And so much more!

Thanks for stopping by. Hope you'll leave a comment, share your insight, and let me know if you liked this lens.

Would you like to be a king for the day? - If you like this idea or have other ways to celebrate the Epiphany, let me know!

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