You say Galette des Rois, I say Pithivier

Reader Ed writes:

The King’s Cake that you just made and posted pictures of, complete with swirling decorative cuts – is what I grew up calling a Pithivier. The only differences are – no bean, and we brush the top of the pastry with beaten egg yolk BEFORE scoring the pastry. The egg yolk glaze (two layers) makes the cake a very dark brown and the score marks are noticably lighter in color. We use a pairing knife, turns on it’s side, so the score is a bit wider as well.

So, is the classic King Cake just a Pithivier, renamed or re-purposed for use at the holiday?

That certainly seems to be the case. This pastry (a puff pastry pie filled with frangipane) goes by the name Pithivier in more than a few cookbooks. Pithviers (with an “s”) is a town in northern France where it’s said this small miracle was invented. Galette des Rois is known as a northern French specialty, so that all seems to jibe rather well. As to why some people call it galette des Rois and others call it Pithivier I have no idea. Maybe it’s just the time of year you eat it. Perhaps a French reader would care to shed a little light on this?

4 thoughts on “You say Galette des Rois, I say Pithivier”

  1. There is a major diffeerence between a galette des rois and a Pithiviers: the difference is in the filling. In a galette des rois, it’s frangipane, a type of custard made of butter, eggs, sugar and almond flour. In a Pithiviers, it’s an almond cream, the same preparation used in pear tarts “Bourdaloue”. They are both ancient, dating back to the 17th century, when puff pastry was discovered, although the Pithiviers predates the galette des rois. So, they are close, but not the same.

    1. Thanks, Bruno! Very interesting. I shall have to make this again I see!


      – Joe

  2. In a Pithivier recipe we’ve used for awhile, it doesn’t call for the addition of pastry cream. Will this addition make it taste totally different or just better. We wouldn’t want totally different since its become a sort of tradition. Thanks.

    1. It’s not a radical difference, Gina. I highly recommend sampling it!


      – Joe

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