In France, this day is celebrated with “La galette des rois” (the kings cake) since the Middle-ages, in honor of the wise men (called Magi Kings in French) coming to see the baby Jesus.
In the north of France, “La galette des rois” is round, golden color and represents the return of the sun after long dark winter nights. In the south of France and in Provence, it is a cake or “brioche” (soft, golden bread with an egg base) in the shape of a crown, referring to the kings. It is typically made with puff pastry cake and filled with frangipane, a cream made from sweet almonds, butter, eggs and sugar.
A small charm “the fève” is hidden in the cake. It could be made out of plastic, but is traditionally made out of porcelain. Traditionally, the cake is cut in equal parts (according to the number of guests), then the youngest of the children present goes under the table and designate how the slices should be distributed. That is to prevent cheating, since the baker of the cake would already know where the “fève” is.
The person who finds the fève is crowned king/queen for the day!
So if anyone wants to join in the celebration and have a “galette des rois” party, here is the recipe for it:
Galette des Rois-King Cake
1 or 2 packages (17.3-ounce) store bought puff pastry sheets, if frozen thaw in refrigerator
Frangipane cream for the filling, enough for 2 galettes:
1 cup soft butter
1 cup ground blanched almonds
4 tablespoons flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 pinch salt
Powdered sugar, for dusting
Egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon water
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. With an electric beater, mix all the ingredients for the frangipane cream just until blended. On a slightly floured cold surface, cut 2 circles the size of dinner plates out of the puff pastry. Put one of them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush one inch around the edge of the circle with egg wash (beaten egg yolk). Spread half of the frangipane cream on the center and place the second circle on top matching the edges of the circles. Press all around the edges to glue them together. Press softly in the center to evenly spread the filling. If making 2 galettes use remaining cream and follow the same method for preparation.
Decorate the galette with a fork, press edges together all around-no pricking. With the point of a knife, make any kind of design being careful not to go all the way through the puff pastry. Brush the surface with egg wash being careful no to get any on the sides.
Bake the galette in the center of a preheated 450 degree oven for 15 minutes then 350 degrees for 30 minutes. For the last 5 minutes, sprinkle with powdered sugar and bake until golden brown. Serve warm with gold paper crown on top.
For the tradition of Epiphany in the privacy of your kitchen cut the galette in as many parts as people in the party. In one of them, insert a little ceramic toy (big enough to prevent swallowing). In the old days, they used a dried fava bean, so to this day it is still called "la fève." Everyone picks 1 piece of galette the one who discovers the toy is made the king of the day and wears the crown. He picks a queen by putting the toy in her glass and everyone raises his or her glass and applauds. Same process in reverse if a lady finds the toy. Tradition says that the next party should be at the king's expense.