French King Cake Delight: A Taste of Epiphany Tradition

A list of French desserts

The French king cake, known as the “Galette des Rois” in French, is a delightful pastry that holds deep cultural and religious significance in France.

Easy French king cake recipe

Inspired by the time of year, I’ve made a gluten-free Epiphany Cake to bring good luck and good fortune for the next years of sharing recipes and gathering families around the supper table. This cake is now one of the most famous French desserts.

My experience of Epiphany cake comes from France, and they are labor-intensive, creations. So, I decided to make a French-style king cake. In the north, a traditional Galette des Rois recipe is made from puff pastry filled with frangipane, but I have spent much more time in the south, where the Galette cake, or Couronne, as it is sometimes called, is made from brioche and decorated liberally with glace fruits, a specialty of the region. 

French holiday king cake, such as New Year or Christmas
Easy galette des rois recipe from the North

But, brioche needs a lot of advance planning to make, takes quite a while and, when I’ve tried to make it gluten-free before, has been a rather disappointing affair. So instead, I took inspiration from the flavors of southern France – oranges and almonds – and made a pudding-like cake, topped with the closest to glace fruits I could find over here: some candied orange peel, glace cherries, and some little jelly sweets. It’s a sugar-fest, but then, this is a party, and you only need a tiny bit of this French king cake. 

Recipe for French king cake
Southern French pastry galette

It’s a moist, squidgy French epiphany cake best served with cream or Greek yogurt as a dessert, with a fragrant orange flavor. Just watch out for the bean baked into one slice – it’s a tradition that whoever gets the bean is the King or Queen for the day!

If you want to enter properly into the tradition, then slice up the French galette king cake and send the youngest person in the room under the table. They then announce who gets the first slice, and so it continues until everyone has a slice. I’m not entirely sure why they have to be under the table, but it adds plenty of hilarity to the proceedings! Here is the recipe for traditional French king cake:

Gluten-Free French King Cake

A gluten-free take on a traditional southern French Couronne des Rois
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine French
Servings 8
Calories 360 kcal


  • 130 g light brown sugar
  • 130 g butter
  • 120 g ground almonds
  • 75 g self-raising gluten-free flour blend
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 clementines
  • 1 tbsp orange marmalade for topping
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar for glaze.
  • 6-7 glace cherries and pieces of candied orange peel and several jelly sweets to decorate.


  • Preheat the oven to 180oC. Grease and line a small, deep round cake tin.
  • Beat together the butter and sugar until light and creamy.
  • Beat the eggs lightly in a separate bowl then mix in a bit at a time with the butter and sugar. Add a pinch of flour to prevent the mixture curdling.
  • Fold in the rest of the flour, the ground almonds and the baking powder.
  • Finely grate in the zest of all three clementines; squeeze in the juice of one.
  • Lightly stir into the mixture.
  • Transfer to the tin and bake for about 45 minutes, or until a cake skewer comes out clean.
  • Meanwhile, make the glaze by squeezing the juice of the remaining clementines into a bowl and stir in the caster sugar.
  • When the cake is done, leave to cool slightly in the tin, then turn out onto a wire rack. Prick all over with a fork and while still warm, drizzle over the glaze.
  • When cool, heat the marmalade briefly and spread over the top of the cake.
  • Decorate with the candied orange peel, glace cherries, and jellies, or any combination of glace fruits.
  • Serve with a little cream or Greek yogurt.
Keyword cake, desserts, traditional

What is King cake?

The king cake, also known as Epiphany cake or the three kings cake, is a symbolic and delicious dessert enjoyed in many cultures around the world to celebrate the Christian feast of Epiphany. This celebration, occurring on January 6th, marks the visit of the Three Wise Men or Magi to the newborn Jesus, symbolizing the revelation of Jesus as the Son of God to the world. The Epiphany Cake holds significant cultural and culinary importance, embodying the essence of this sacred event.

Depending on the country, the Epiphany cake recipe will have a different appearance and be made of different ingredients. But it often features a round or oval shape, symbolizing unity and eternity. King cake in French is called Galette des Rois.

History Epiphany Cake - the Spanish version
Traditional Spanish king cake recipe

One of the most distinctive features of the king cake is the hidden “fève” or charm. Historically, the fève was an actual bean, but nowadays it’s usually a small figurine made of porcelain or plastic, representing the baby Jesus or the Wise Men. The person who finds this trinket in their slice is considered blessed or lucky and might be designated as a “king” or “queen” for the day.

The king cake of Portugal
The holiday king cake of Portugal

The Epiphany Cake is typically enjoyed in festive settings (like Christmas or New year), where family and friends gather to share the special treat. In some cultures, like France and Spain, the celebration of Epiphany is not limited to the cake. Parades, processions, and other communal festivities are often organized to commemorate the visit of the Wise Men. In some places, individuals dress up as the Wise Men and travel from house to house, reenacting the journey and bearing gifts.

About the author

Hi, I'm Kate, the creator of Happy Baking Days. I'm a food lover, recipe creator, and kitchen explorer. I have amateur baking knowledge gained from years spent in the kitchen with my grandma and mum, where I graduated slowly from dusting work surfaces with flour and licking the spatula to the finer arts of pastry and meringue. Now in my own kitchen, I put all those years of training into practice, experimenting with recipes and ingredients from around the world. Join me as I share my culinary journey and favorite recipes that make cooking a delightful experience.

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