Galette des Rois – The Cake of Three Kings

Galette des Rois

If there are a lot of stars on Three Kings’ Day, then there will be a lot of potatoes.

Day is with one step longer on Three Kings’ Day.

If the sky is clear on Three Kings’ Day, wheat harvest will be good.

These are some of Slovak weather folk sayings.

January 6th – Epiphany (Revelation) is a Christian feast – Three Kings’ Day. We add three figures into nativity scenes commemorating the visit of the Magi to the Christ Child. This tradition comes from the Gospel of Matthew – three Magi saw an unusual star in the east, followed it, came to the baby Jesus and brought him gifts: gold, myrrh and incense. Some say the Three Kings came from the region in the present Iran, the other think it was Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen or India, and even many Chinese Christians believe that at least one of the Magi came from China.

Three Kings are coming to worship Jesus baby – St. Elizabeth church in Zvolen (Slovakia)

While January 6th presages the end of Christmas in my country, in some other religions this is an even more important feast than Christmas and because of that children are given gifts only on this day. In France and some other countries, there are parties held and a special cake is baked – Galette des Rois – a cake of puff pastry with a hidden lucky charm – a figurine or a coin.

They also put a paper crown on the cake. The person who finds the trinket in his/her piece of cake will be crowned. Originally, a broad bean was put into the cake, that is why those figurines are called fève. Mostly, it is a small figurine of a king or baby but nowadays comics heroes are also popular.

The cake is divided into as many portions as there are guest at the table – plus one piece more which is called „the share of Jesus or Virgin Mary“ or rather a share intended for the first poor person who would visit the house. The sharing has also its tradition – the youngest family member crawls under the table and shouts the names of the other family members who should be given a piece of the cake. The person who finds the figurine in his/her piece becomes king or queen and is responsible for the next party and cake.

There are many different recipes for the King Cake. If you want to try this tradition we offer you this one:

Galette des Rois

We need:

2 discs of puff pastry – 24 m in diameter

1 yolk and 1 white for glazing

150 g softened butter

2 eggs

70 g caster sugar

2 packets vanilla sugar

150 g finely ground almonds

25 ml rum

grated lemon peel


Mix butter with sugar, add eggs, rum and finally almond with lemon peel. Continue mixing until smooth and combined.

Place one disc of puff pastry on a baking tray with baking paper. Brush 2-3 cm of the edge with egg white. Spread out the mixture on the pastry disc. Place a figurine or coin somewhere into the filling. Place the second disc over the top, make it smooth with your hand to push out air. Press the edges together. Decorate the surface with some pattern using a fork or the back of a knife. Pierce the cake in the middle and on 2-3 more places to avoid the pastry to blow up too much. Glaze the cake with yolk.

Preheat the oven to 200°C and bake for 25 minutes.

Eat carefully! Do not bite or swallow the figurine! 🙂

As we have said the three kings were a part of traditional nativity scenes. Did you know that St Francis of Assisi is credited with creating the first nativity scene (crib)? It was in 1223, he was inspired by his visit to the Holy Land and Jesus‘s birthplace and staged humans and animals in a cave near a small village of Greccio. The new tradition became popular around the world. Today you can find cribs made of different materials: ceramics, paper, wood, gingerbread etc. They are displayed not only in churches but also in homes, shopping centers and also outside at public places.

Look at some interesting examples in our gallery:

Infant Jesus of Prague

Infant Jesus of Prague
Infant Jesus of Prague has an interesting story. According to a legend, the wax-coated wooden statue was made by a Spanish monk who had a vision of the little boy Jesus. The statue arrived at Prague in the 16th century as a wedding present to a Spanish noblewoman. After she had become a widow she donated it to the Discalced Carmelite friars. The statue was lost during the Thirty Years’ War and found again in 1637 by a priest behind the altar in the monastery chapel. The news about its miraculous power spread out very soon and many devotees started to come to Prague. Also today. Among them was even the world-famous Brasilian writer Paolo Coelho. According to his statement, during his vist of Prague in 1982 he had asked the Infant Jesus to help him become famous. Allegedly the statue inspired also Antoine de Saint-Exupéry to create the main character in his most beautiful book The Little Prince.

Manuelito Peru

Manuelito – darling of Peru
People in Peru love Manuelito which is the diminutive of Jesus’ name Immanuel – “God is with us”. They often portray him in real life situations. Here in the picture, Manuelito hurt his foot in thorns and now cries pearls. Infant Jesus of Prague is also very popular in Peru. If you plan to go to Peru do not forget to take a picture of the statue with you!

Mária lactans

Maria lactans
The statue of Virgin Mary from Peru has an abnormal long neck. She is depicted at the most natural situation for women – while breast-feeding. But the blue ball in the baby’s hand is a symbol of his power over the world. The motif of a breast-feeding Mary probably has its origin in the Ancient Egypt. It is also considered a symbol of fertility.

Crib Portugal

Crib from the north of Portugal
If you visit Barcelos located north of Porto, go to the market. You will find tens of such coloured statues made of burnt clay. Artists use local motifs – the stable with Jesus is decorated with shells.

Tanzania Apparition in a ship

Apparition in a ship
This exemplar comes from Tanzania – the Holy Family is fleeing in a ship. Three black kings are coming to worship Jesus baby.

Indian Jesus
Dorothy Trujillo (1932-1999), originally from Jemez Pueblo in New Mexico, became famous with her figures of female storytellers with many small children. She also made pottery nativity scenes.

Betlehem Bizmayer

Jesus Child among highwaymen
Ignác Bizmayer (*1922) is a Slovak ceramics artist whose works are exhibited in the Ľudovít Štúr Museum in Modra. He also combines local motifs with traditional nativity scenes. Joseph with Mary and child are protected by highwaymen whose leader is Jánošík – the Slovak Robin Hood. You can also see a group of musicians and a bonfire.

Betlehem Herman Landsfeld

Jesus Child among ceramists
Herman Landsfeld (1899 – 1986) who was born during Austrian Monarchy in Moravia depicted Jesus Child even more unusually. The baby is in a hut near a tile and ceramists bring decorated tiles to him. Why exactly tiles? Because everybody brings the best he/she has or produces to God the Son.

Text: © Copyright Ingrid, Róbert, Travelpotpourri
Photos: © Copyright Ingrid, Róbert, Travelpotpourri



  1. Daniela Bortelová

    Zlatý koláč so zlatou korunou – veľa šťastia!!!
    A znázornenie Božieho narodenia v rôznych podobách – krásne!


  2. Ingrid (Post author)


  3. Mária

    Už si upiekla tento koláč? Podaril sa?
    Pražské jezuliatko chodím navštíviť vždy, keď som v Prahe.

    1. Ingrid (Post author)

      Áno, ten na fotke – to je môj výtvor a bol mňam! 🙂


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