Adopting traditions

Today, 12 days after Christmas, we celebrate Epiphany – or Three Kings Day, or the Twelfth Day – the day baby Jesus was presented to the three wise men. It is a public holiday in many countries. 

Photo: Unni Holtedahl

Photo: Unni Holtedahl

As expats, we have adopted the tradition of the galette des rois – King cake – a French tradition dating back to the 14th century. The cake was divided in as many pieces as there were people around the table, plus one piece – part du Bon Dieu (the Good Lord’s piece) – which would be given to the first poor person to knock on the door.

It is really easy to make your own galette des rois, especially if you buy ready-made puff pastry. As you might have seen in the boulangeries, the fillings are becoming more and more creative, but we’ll stick to the traditional frangipane one:

Galette des rois


  • 2 puff pastries (pâte feuilletée)
  • 140 g powdered almonds
  • 100 g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 75 g softened butter
  • a few drops of bitter almond extract if you prefer a stronger almond taste
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 bean (fève) 


  • Preheat the oven to 200ºC / 180ºC fan
  • Line a tart tin with 1 puff-pastry and prick it with a fork
  • Mix almonds, sugar, the 2 eggs and the butter
  • Spread the mix evenly on the puff pastry and hide the bean
  • Cover it with the 2nd puff pastry, brush the edges with water and seal them
  • Mark the top pastry with patterns and brush it with the egg yolk
  • Bake for 20 – 30 min until crisp and golden.
  • Serve warm or cold with a (home made) paper crown on top.

If you have children, have one of them sit under the table and decide who’s getting each piece. Or you may want to get under the table yourself. The finder of the bean gets the crown and becomes king for a day, getting to choose his queen. And in this day and age, the queen also gets to choose her king, or even other variations.

Bonne fête! 

By Unni Holtedahl, 6 January 2014

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