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One more pie to end the season

Many cultures include an Epiphany Pie or cake to mark the day 12 days after Christmas.

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01 Epiphany Pie
A galette des rois baked by Holly Ebel Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021, in Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

As if we hadn't had our fill of sweets over the past weeks, for many there is one indulgence left — an Epiphany pie.

I see you scratching your head wondering what that is. 

For literally millions of people, Jan. 6 signals the end of the holiday, the Epiphany. 

That date has been an important one in the Christian calendar for centuries and significant to the Christmas story, telling that the star led the three Wise Men to the Baby Jesus.

The date usually comes 12 days after Christmas. (The word epiphany comes from the Greek, meaning to "reveal." You've probably used it as in "I had an epiphany after...")


To celebrate that day many cultures bake an Epiphany Pie or cake specifically to mark the day.

It can take many forms, from a sweet yeast bread to an impressive jam tart to an elegant cake.

Many traditions specific to the day are baked into these confections. The two that I am most familiar with are an English Victorian Jam Tart and the French Galette des Rois. Both bring out the competitive spirit in professional and home bakers who try to outdo each other in how theirs are decorated.

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Of these two, the jam tart is especially colorful and a big attraction that day at church suppers. There are even contests to judge which are the prettiest with the most intricate designs.

The tart is baked in a pie or tart pan with a simple basic pie dough. Extra dough is saved to form a star shape in the bottom of the pan. Tradition dictates that there should be 13 spaces in the star — one for the Baby Jesus and the remaining 12 for each of the disciples.

Critical to the look is that 13 different jams go into each of the spaces.

Clearly not everyone — including me — can come up with that many jams so marmalades and lemon curd can step in.

The end result is  beautiful and looks like a stained glass window.


The recipe itself dates back to the beginning of the18th century and is basically an elegant jam tart using multiple fruit jam flavors. 

In France the Galette des Rois celebrates the day and is quite different from the jam tart.

It is also known as the King Cake after a little figurine, called a feve, is tucked and baked inside, similar to the cake celebrated during Mardi Gras. Whoever gets the slice with it becomes the King or Queen for the day, complete with a home-made paper crown, usually made by the children of the house.

The galette is made of layers of puff pastry and filled with a thick almond-flavored custard.

Many years ago the flat cake was divided into as many slices as guests at the table plus one in case a stranger or homeless perso were to stop by. That extra portion is called "La part du bon Dieu," or The Slice of God. 

Both of these special tarts are very simple to make. So, friends, if you feel like baking one more time, give either of these a try. I went the easy route and baked the Galette des Rois a few days ago and it was suberb.


6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
3/4 cup almond flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon rum (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (spoiler alert: I used almond extract)


To make the filling: using a mixer, beat butter and sugar together until creamy and light. Beat in the almond flour and salt. Mix in one whole egg, then the white from the second. Save yolk for egg wash later. Mix in rum if using and the extract. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour (can be made 3 days ahead).

Mix yolk with 1 teaspoon water and refrigerate until needed.

To put together:

2 9-1/2 inch diameter circles puff pastry dough from a 14 to 27 oz. package, cold.
1 whole almond or small charm.

Place one circle of dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Spread the filling evenly over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border bare. Press charm into filling. Moisten border with cold water, position the second circle over the filling and press around the border with your fingertips to seal well. Using back of a table knife scallop the edges by pushing into the dough every 1/2 inch. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 425. Brush a thin layer of the yolk glaze over the top of the galette, avoiding border. With the point of a paring knife etch a design into the top of galette, but be very careful not to pierce the dough or filling will seep out. Cut a few small slits in top as steam vents. Turn heat down to 400 and bake 35-40 minutes, until galette is puffed and deeply golden.

Transfer to rack and cool at least 15 minutes.

Don’t be upset if it deflates. Puff pastry does that. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Pastry dough:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, cold
1 egg yolk

Put flour, sugar and salt in bowl of a food processor. Add butter and pulse until mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and mix until dough gathers itself into a ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill for several hours.

Jam Tart:

6 oz. of assorted jams, preserves, marmalade or lemon curd.

Heat oven to 375. Butter a 9-inch pie or tart pan. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough so it fits the pan, saving 1/5 of dough to make the star shape. Press dough into pan and partially up the sides. To make the 6-point star shape, take leftover dough and roll into a long rectangle. Cut in strips and make the star shape, pinching dough so it makes walls high enough to hold pockets of jam. Bake 25 minutes.

Take out and spoon jams into spaces between strips. (Warming jams first makes it easier to spoon in.) Make sure jam doesn't bleed into the next segment.

Brush pastry with a little milk and bake another 10 minutes until jam is set and tart is lightly browned. Cool until ready to serve.

Post Bulletin food writer Holly Ebel knows what’s cookin’. Send comments or story tips to .

Food for Thought - Holly Ebel column sig

Post Bulletin food writer Holly Ebel knows what’s cookin’. Send comments or story tips to
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