King Cake, One of Dominique Ansel’s Favorite Desserts

This is one of the paradoxes for which the French have a certain flair. More than 200 years ago, they guillotined their king and abolished the monarchy. But this hasn’t stopped them from celebrating kings every January by sharing a round, golden cake filled with frangipane: la galette des rois. French pastry chef Dominique Ansel reveals his own recipe for making a crispy, melt-in-the-mouth dessert that has stayed the same since he opened his first store in New York City!
© Brent Herrig

Who would have thought it? The man the press has nicknamed “the dessert daredevil,” “the wizard,” and “the most […] innovative pastry chef in the Western Hemisphere” is a stickler for tradition! In 2013, he combined the French croissant and the American donut to create the renowned Cronut – the world’s first viral pastry! This was followed by the Chocolate Chip Cookie Shot, filled with hot milk infused with Tahitian vanilla, the gingerbread and chocolate pine cone, and the Frozen S’more, an icy take on the popular marshmallow sandwich eaten around camp fires in the United States.

Yet his king cake is as simple as it is traditional, and the recipe has been the same for ten years. “I use an inverted puff pastry made using Isigny butter, which gives the cake both a crispy exterior and a more fondant overall texture,” says Dominique Ansel. The flour is from Les Grands Moulins de Paris and the almonds – essential for the frangipane – are harvested in California. “Certain French classics, such as galettes des rois, canelés from Bordeaux, and croissants, don’t need to be reinvented. It can be tempting to blend products and ideas, but I’m not constantly looking to do things that are out of the ordinary!”

Courtesy of Dominique Ansel Bakery

Before making a name for himself with his hybrid creations, which saw him named the world’s best pastry chef in 2017, the French pâtissier had to climb the culinary ladder. He started out in Beauvais, his native city, where he studied for two vocational qualifications – as a chef and a pastry chef – before accepting a job at Fauchon in Paris, where he successively worked as a commis chef, a line cook, a sous-chef, and the head of international development. He moved to New York City in 2006 after being hired by Lyonnais chef Daniel Boulud, and joined the kitchen team at his restaurant on 65th Street. He stayed there for six years before opening his own bakery in 2011.

“We have been selling galettes des rois since the SoHo store opened,” he says. They are also sold at Workshop, the store devoted to French pastries which he launched last July in the Flatiron District, online, and soon in Las Vegas, where a space is set to open this summer. “It’s one of my favorite desserts during the holiday season. But I have a good excuse: I was born on January 3, around the same time as the Epiphany!”

Discover Dominique Ansel’s galette des rois recipe.

Article published in the January 2022 issue of France-Amérique. Subscribe to the magazine.