Baking a Galette des Rois: I can do this!

When was the last time you tried something new? And how did you feel about it? Do you challenge yourself and do you see failure as an opportunity to learn? For my upcoming book, I’ve been recently writing about growth mindset1, which is about whether you believe that your success depends on the time and effort you put in. Last weekend I could see it at work when I decided to make a Galette des Rois (King Cake), a French type of patisserie that is particularly made for Epiphany.

Growth mindset

Growth mindset is about one’s response to difficulties and setbacks. This term has been popularized in the last decade or so because a growth mindset helps people deal with difficult situations and has been shown to influence academic performance1. Growth mindset is often contrasted with a fixed mindset, where one more easily gives up because one does not believe one can learn how to do a particular task, and is afraid to fail. In reality, it is more a continuum between growth and fixed mindset, and you can be at a different point in different situations. It is also important to realise that growth mindset is not a magic trick that will allow you to do things perfectly that you weren’t able to do before. But research does show that it can help people to continue to improve1.

Can I do this???

While I enjoy the occasional bake and my pineapple cheesecake has become rather famous among friends and family, I also look in awe as participants in any bake-off make the most fantastic creations. So, when I received this cookbook for Galettes des Rois from a Dutch friend who lives in France, I was quite daunted to leaf through it and see the complicated recipes with many steps involving many different techniques. And it was in French – and that is a long time ago for me. But still, I thought it could be fun to try it out.

Taking the time

Since I could see this was a major undertaking, I thought I’d better be well prepared and make sure I had the time. So, I studied the French text in the weeks before, so I understood what I actually had to do (I learned many new terms, such as détrempe and frémissement). I also decided to make the puff pastry on a separate day and keep it in the freezer – I never had done that either, and it seemed like that already would take quite a bit of time. And then on the day itself it still took me 5 hours to complete all the steps involved. And not all of it went like it should – I was supposed to use the syrup created from the apples frying in butter and sugar to make the crème d’amandes, but that didn’t work out and I had to make it again with sugar instead. But I did get some extra caramel out of it, which my guests really enjoyed!

Can you recognize growth mindset?

How about you? Do you recognize growth mindset in your own life as well? Or maybe you can think of a situation where you tended more towards a fixed mindset. An example can be when you are learning a new language, and trying to speak it in the local shops. Do you persevere when they have difficulty understanding you, or do you switch to English?


1 Yeager, D. S., & Dweck, C. S. (2020). What can be learned from growth mindset controversies? American Psychologist, 75(9), 1269-1284.