Click here to advertise on

Catholic Recipe: Gateau des Rois (1)


  • 2 sticks butter or margarine
  • 1 1/4 cups icing (confectioners) sugar
  • 3/4 cup plain flour
  • 3/4 cup ground rice (substitute with flour if unavailable)
  • grated rind of 1 lemon
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 3 egg whites
  •  Butter Icing:
  • 6 tbsp butter or margarine
  • 1 1/2 cups icing (confectioners) sugar
  • juice of half a lemon
  • Details

  • Yield: 1 cake
  • Prep Time: 1 1/2-2 hours
  • Difficulty: • •
  • Cost: $$$$
  • For Ages: 15+
  • Origin: France

Also Called: Twelfth Night Cake

The tradition of a Twelfth Night cake goes back seven hundred years. In England it is mentioned in the royal accounts at the court of Edward II. In France in the thirteenth century the monks of Mont St. Michel are known to have celebrated with a cake known as Gateau des Rois. There are various customs attached to this cake and many recipes for it. However, the main purpose is to choose a king and queen to rule over the party celebrations. This is done by putting a dry bean into the cake. Whoever gets the piece with the bean becomes the king. He then chooses himself a queen. If a lady receives the bean she chooses herself a king. Sometimes a child sits under the table and calls out the name of each person to be served with the next piece of cake. The king and queen are given crowns to wear, all others present choose a ticket from a dish with the name of the character they are to be - such as Sir Gregory Goose, Duchess of Daffodil, Miss Tink-a-Tink, Tom Tough and so on.

In France the Gateau des Rois usually has three kings on top. These can still be bought in French shops. But a cut-out king or even three crowns can be used if you make your own cake. These could be gold for the gift of gold which signifies Jesus' kingship; white for the gift of frankincense which signifies Jesus' holiness; and purple for the gift of myrrh which signifies Jesus' death.


1. Cream together the butter and lemon rind.

2. Beat in the icing sugar.

3. Sift the flour and ground rice together and add one third to the mixture.

4. Add two egg yolks and mix in, then add a further third of the flour and rice mixture. Continue until all the egg yolks, flour and rice are blended.

5. Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold into the other mixture.

6. Turn into two greased 10 in./25.4 cm cake tins and bake at 350 degrees for about one hour or until firm to the touch. Allow to cool.

7. Make up the butter icing by mixing together the three ingredients and beating until smooth. Sandwich the two cakes together and spread a layer of icing on top. Decorate as desired with three crowns, a king or a star.

Recipe Source: Feasting for Festivals by Jan Wilson, Lion Publishing Corporation, Batavia, Illinois, 1990
Subscribe for free
Click here to advertise on

Recent Catholic Commentary

Round Trip to the present moment: a Catholic jazz artist's latest offering April 22
Easter with the Pope April 21
Smaller Church, Bigger Faith, 3: Ecclesiastical Discipline April 17
The Holy Spirit and Evangelization: A Primer April 16
Journey to the Sun: A Strange Biography of Junípero Serra April 16

Top Catholic News

Most Important Stories of the Last 30 Days
Pope Francis: Easter Vigil homily (full text) CWN - April 20
Pope Francis's Easter Message 'Urbi et Orbi' (To the City and the World): full text, link to video CWN - April 20