Kings’ Pie, or Galette des rois


Today is Epihany, the Christian celebration of the day when three kings came to bring gifts to baby Jesus. Kings’ Pie (Galette des rois) is a lidded pie with almond-based soft filling, traditionally served in France before, during and after Epiphany (celebrated in France on the second Sunday following Christmas, in spite of the official date being 6th January). Even though I don’t celebrate Epiphany, I find it an excellent excuse to make this pie. Kings’ Pie dates back to the XVIIth century and shouldn’t be mixed up with Kings’ Cake (Gâteau des Rois), one of the more ancient French cakes, dating back to the XIIIth century. It is a sweet bun filled with crystallized fruit and has a huge doughnut form with a hole inside. It is now mainly eaten in the South of France and less famous in other regions.

When served on Epiphany day Kings’ Pie is linked with a particularly dangerous custom, involving a paper crown and a bean. Traditionally a dry bean – nowadays usually replaced by a figurine – is placed somewhere in the pie and the one who finds it in his part of the pie is announced as the king of the evening and has the right to wear the crown. This tradition is especially perpetuated in the company of children, but from what I have noticed all the bakers put one (or even two) figurines (still called “fève”, meaning “broad bean”) in the pie. I am only wondering if they have ever done statistics concerning the teeth loss during the Epiphany period… I haven’t put anything in mine of course. Dentist’s services is not the most exciting idea of spending one’s savings.

The most frequently made and bought version of Kings’ Pie has only heavy and thick almond cream inside (the mixture of almonds, eggs and sugar), but the one I prefer is filled with “frangipane” (a mixture of almond cream and pastry cream), giving a lighter and moister result. The latter version is the most delightful, lightest almond cake I know and I prepare it much more often than once a year. My modified (in what regards the ingredients’ amounts) recipe comes the French website The pie is delicious, generously filled with “frangipane” and surprisingly not heavy at all. It is also not very sweet, so if you prefer very sweet cakes, add 30% more sugar to the almond cream.

TIP: If you have leftover puff pastry cuts, you can quickly use them making Last-Minute Crackers

Before I pass to the recipe I would like to draw your attention to this beautiful German Potato Salad  posted by Mr. Three-Cookies (from the Three Cookies blog) and inspired by a recipe from my blog. Thank you, Mr. Three-Cookies, for having tried my recipe!

Preparation: 1 hour

Ingredients (makes one approx. 25 cm diameter tart):

Almond cream:

150 g powdered or ground almonds (there will be a difference in texture, but the taste is equally good in both cases)

10 heaped tablespoons sugar

50 g softened butter

2 eggs

Pastry cream:

350 ml milk
4 heaped tablespoons sugar
2 medium egg yolks
3 heaped tablespoons flour

1 egg yolk (to brush the pie before baking)

2 puff pastry packages (about 230 g each)

Prepare the almond cream mixing the butter with the eggs, adding the almonds and 10 heaped tablespoons sugar and mixing again.

Put aside.

Prepare the pastry cream.

In a small pan bring the milk to a boil. In the meantime, in a bowl, mix the yolk with the flour and sugar.

Add the hot milk gradually to the yolk mixture (tablespoon by tablespoon, otherwise the yolk might “cook”). Finally transfer everything back to the pan and constantly stirring, let it thicken (it will take about 3 minutes).

Put it in a cool place (e.g. balcony) to cool down a bit.

In the meantime preheat the oven to 180°C.

Butter a pie dish and line it with one of the pastry sheets.

With a spoon combine the almond cream and the pastry cream in a bowl.

Put the creams’ mixture over the pastry and cover it with the second sheet.

Seal well the edges, pinching with your fingers.

Brush the surface with the egg yolk and pick it with a fork (otherwise the surface will rise too much).

(You may also attempt making a traditional crisscross pattern with a knifepoint).

Bake for around 40-50 minutes until golden brown, covering with aluminium foil after the first twenty minutes (otherwise the top might burn).

Serve it alone or with red fruit jam.

53 Replies to “Kings’ Pie, or Galette des rois”

  1. Gorgeous pie Sissi! I’ve not heard of this pie before; Kings Cake I have but not a pie. The almond cream sounds so delicious! I’m very excited to try this out!

  2. I’m salivating just looking at the photograph. I think I’ve had something similar before, or it could have even been this (I’m just imagining how it would taste) but can’t remember what it’s called and it’s been oh so long ago. I remembered it being sickly sweet tho so I’m happy you’ve reduced the sugar in this recipe. I’ve never been one for sickly sweet cakes … not a single sweet tooth.

    1. Thank you so much, Ping. I’m very happy because we seem to have both the same taste for moderatley sweet sweets 🙂 Most (not all) of my recipes all low-sugar not because of health/diet reasons, but simply because I hate very sweet cakes or pies.
      The version only with almond cream (almonds, sugar and butter as a filling, without the pastry cream) is usually awfully sweet, so maybe you had this one.

      1. Speaking of the almond cream, your recipe doesn’t say but is there a point where you mix the uncooked mixture with the ground almonds (almond cream) with the cooked mixture (pastry cream) before you add them to the pastry shell or do you layer the almond cream FIRST and then put the pastry cream mixture over the almond cream layer and then finally cover with the 2nd pastry sheet?

        It doesn’t sound like the almond cream would be fluid enough to POUR so would you spoon it out and spread it evenly to cover the pastry base?

        I have to be careful when I give my students instructions because they need everything spelled out for them so there is no confusion and I would like to know what to expect before trying the recipe. 🙂 Thank you for sharing it.

        1. Thank you for pointing out the missing point in the recipe explanation. I’m sorry, I have somehow omitted the moment when I combine the creams.
          I have just modified the post. Thank you again! Let me know if you have any other questions or remarks. I’m always worried my explanations are badly written. Good luck!

        2. Oh, and yes (sorry, I’m distracted running between the kitchen and the computer 😉 ), you prepare both creams separately and then you combine them in a bowl, with a spoon. Please let me know how it turns out if you decide to bake the pie!

  3. Almond cream…mmm…heavenly. I don’t celebrate epiphany either, but agree that I would happily use it as an excuse to whip up this delicious pie! Ah yes, the bean surprise… when I was young, my mom used to hide coins inside a cake around epiphany… memories… Your Kings’ pie looks so satisfying and full of flavour Sissi – wonderful!

    1. Thank you so much, Kelly. I’m prepared to celebrate anything, regardless the religion, if it consists only in eating delicious food 🙂 Oh, so you have a similar tradition in Québec too!

  4. This sounds incredibly delicious, something I have never heard of before.

    I think they should update the tradition, in addition to a paper crown and a bean the winner also gets a voucher for dental treatment:) I think bakers who put two beans are paid to do it by dentists:)

    This does sound dangerous but I guess everyone eats it carefully since they expect to find a bean. I think French restaurants should have a policy – if customers find an olive seed, cherry seed etc in any of their meals, they will receive a paper hat as present, they can’t complain or ask for money back:)

    1. Mr. Three-Cookies, you draw such obvious and intelligent conclusions! Next time I go to the French pastry shop/baker’s I will have a look at the owner’s teeth. If it looks like a Hollywood star’s, then they have a secret agreement with the dentist!
      Thank you for the compliment (although this photo made on a dark day is not the best advertisement…). It is not my recipe, so I can shamelessly confirm it is delicious, but I have always hated it (like Ping) until I made it at home. Pastry shops make an awfully sweet and heavy filling. I wonder if the seeds and hats trick would work in restaurants 😉

  5. This pie looks so beautiful! I have not heard of King’s Pie, though here at the South of US (Texas, Louisiana, etc), we do celebrate Mardi Gras, and when there’s a party, there’s a King Cake with a little plastic baby inside. The person who gets the slice of cake that contains the baby will be the person throwing the party next year, it sounds similar to King’s Pie but without the bean!

    Love Love Love almond, so when I become a better baker, this recipe wil definitely come in handy. Thank you Sissi for sharing!

    1. Thank you so much, Jeno! It sounds very interesting. It this must be something similar to the King’s Cake I talk about in the beginning. I suppose the plastic baby is less dangerous and easier to spot than a small, but hard bean.
      You are a good baker, I’m sure and this pie is not difficult at all.

    1. THank you, Kiki. I also hate diets. I’m still waiting for someone who would prove deep-fried food and cakes are the best diet.

  6. Ah, I always wondered what the purpose of the galette des rois was. I always see them on sale each year and never bothered to look them up – thanks for “learning” me, Sissi 🙂

    I bought one once and almost broke my tooth on a stupid little plastic “king” figurine they’d baked into the pie :@ It’s hilarious because if this was England there’d be lawsuits and restrictions against putting small chokable things into pies… not France though 😀

    I also prefer the ones with frangipane filling – they’re so perfect to eat with a nice cup of coffee and yours looks so good… really impressive!

    1. Thank you so much, Charles. I’m sorry for your experience! Luckily it didn’t break your tooth!
      I think it’s one of the sober and non-fuss things that luckily still exist in certain countries and I suppose there are some other domains in UK where similar things exist. As long as people are aware of something and accept it, it’s ok (apparently all the French expect at least one bean and I have heard people asking how many beans there are in a pie: no the fashion is for two).

  7. I bought some ground almonds recently cause I’ve been wanting to make Maid of Honor tarts for ages but in the meantime, I’m using it for my truffles, macarons etc. And now this recipe springs up. It looks quite tempting though I am wondering if I might mess things up with the measurement of the ‘heaped tablespoons’. I do have a package of puff pastry in the freezer so we’ll see. 🙂

    Thanks for another inspiring recipe.

    1. Thank you, so much! I’m sometimes fed up with weighing everything (this is the part I hate most in sweet dishes), so whenever I can I give amounts in spoons (which also means that if you put in this filling very heaped or barely heaped spoonfuls the whole pie will be perfect, you might add the amounts next time but only in case you want more/less sugar not because it doesn’t work).

  8. Hi Sissi – another beautiful dessert here. I checked the original recipe photo, but yours are 1000x better! It’s always exciting to come to your blog as I don’t know what you would share next. Main dish, drink, dessert, just various kinds (as opposed to mine). Can’ wait to see next recipe! 😉

    1. Thank you so much, Nami. You are so kind, but I really hate this photo. We have had a gloomy dark weather for several days and since my artifical light photos are even worse, I tried to make something out of what I had as natural light. Anyway, if not the photo I only hope my post has convinced some people the pie is really delicious.

  9. This pie reminds me of the bakewell tart guestposted on my blog by Valerie. It also has frangipane filling. You are so humble, this pie photo looks delicious! First, I have to go buy a tart pan soon! I notice most of your tarts and pies are made with puff pastry, love them but the ones made with butter here are quite expensive.. 🙁
    Oh Sissi, thanks for always making time to drop by my blog. A late Happy new year to you too! was too swarm with stuff to personally wish you

    1. Actually I don’t celebrate Epiphany (apart from baking this pie ;-)), but I have had a very nice time eating it. I think only you, Italians, are lucky to have Befana and sweet gifts!

  10. History, tradition and cooking – the stuff life is made of. Looks so inviting…. but no, I don’t want to add to my recipe collection, no, no, no. Resist the urge Zsuzsa! Resist!

    1. Thank you so much, Zsuzsa. I am happy it looks inviting. It has nothing to do with your elaborate impressive baked delights though. A very simple, but delicious pie!

  11. This pie looks just like the ones at the bakeries, so professional…! I am always quite intimidated to make cakes myself at home, because my chance of failure is around 80% ;), that’s why you rarely see dessert posts in my blog. The almond and pastry creams sound delicious! The pie looks rich and very very yummy :)!

    1. Thank you, CG, for the compliments. As I told Nami I hated this photo and thought it woudln’t look too appetising (I’m awful with artificial light photos and we have hade several gloomy, dark days…). Anyway, this pie is really easy and you make 100x more impressive things on your nlog than such a simple cake!

  12. Three Kings is something we also celebrate, back home. Your pie looks really good, Sissi! I wish you a happy and better Year and I’m looking forward to seeing more of your posts.

    ~ ray ~

  13. never heard of this festival! it’s funny how different cultures celebrate different days even when it’s technically the same religion! was just talking to a greek about how the most impt festival to them isn’t christmas, but easter! the king’s pie look’s fab!

    1. Thank you so much, Shuhan. I’m not a religious person, but a very religious person once told me that technically if you ask for example a catholic priest he will say that Easter is more important for the Church. The fact that Christmas has become more important is probably due to the fact that we receive presents and that there is a Christmas tree, Santa Claus… and of course shops earn more on Christmas than on Easter, so they make a huge marketing action every year.

  14. Dear Sissi,

    I’ve not heard of this pie before but almond cream has such a beautiful aroma and distinctive flavour that makes desserts come alive. I guess it also helps when I’m a fan of puff pastry although I wou;d never make it myself coz thankfully we can get really good quality ready-made pastries from the supermarkets.

    1. Thank you so much, I have also never attempted to make a puff pastry at home. Although I make sometimes shortcrust when I prepare a tart and want to include some spices, almonds etc. in the crust. I usually have to buy puff pastry in France because here only one shop sells puff pastry made with butter and it’s not always available. Puff pastry with margarine tastes awful when one is used to the butter one. (On the other hand I make most of my grocery shopping in France, so it’s not a big problem 😉 )

  15. I really like frangipane, so I’m sure I would like this pie. I’m starting a list of things to make, once I’ve recovered from all of the holiday overindulgence. I noticed that you’ve mentioned using leftover puff pastry for your Last-Minute Crackers — which is a recipe I spotted and would also like to make because they look so simple to make! Sounds like it could be a very efficient recipe!

    1. Thank you so much, Barb. Last-Minute Crackers are the quickets and easiest way to use leftover puff pastry, so do try them!

  16. Sissi, this looks fantastic. I like how it’s not too sweet–I have a sweet tooth for sure, but I don’t love cloying stuff. bookmarked for next year (maybe it deserves a test run in between?)

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