Recipe of the month: King’s cake [fr]
This month for Epiphany, our Chef Sébastien Baud presents a classic: the King’s cake!
At its origin, Epiphany is a pagan celebration of the Epiphanes, who were kings and gods from Ancient Greece known to favor humans. Christianity appropriated the celebration, which now honors the Mages’ visit to newborn Jesus. In France, it is celebrated on January 6th. It is also the day of the first miracle of the Marriage at Cana, and most importantly, of the christening of Jesus.
Epiphany stems from the Greek “epiphaneia”, which means “manifestation” or “apparition”. Originally a religious celebration, Epiphany has become a popular family tradition.
The frangipane King’s cake served for Epiphany is a traditional French recipe that was created long before the celebration. The cake was divided is as many servings as there were guests around the table, plus an additional one, called “God’s share” and given to a person in need.
The charm found inside the cake reportedly dates back to the Romans. In early January, the Romans celebrated the Saturnalia, during which they elected a King of the Feast using a black or white fava bean. Today, fava beans have become charms made of porcelain that are collected by many enthusiasts.
In the North of France, King’s cake is traditionally made with puff pastry baked in the oven until it turns golden, and served with jams. It can be contain various preparations including frangipane, fruit, cream, chocolate, or applesauce. In the South of France, King’s cake is a crown-shaped, orange blossom water flavored brioche, filled with candied fruit. It is much preferred to the puff pastry-based cake, which is given the derogatory qualifier of “Parisian”. Shortbread versions of King’s cake can be found in the West of France.
For the pastry cream
1 vanilla bean
For the almond cream
3 egg yolks
125g almond flour
100g granulated sugar
125g creamed butter (cream the butter by kneading it between two sheets of Saran wrap)
For the frangipane
Combine the pastry cream and the almond cream, adding a capful of Rum
2 rolls of pure butter puff pastry
2 egg yolks
1. Pastry cream
a. Beat the eggs with the sugar until the mixture turns white. Add the flour. Split the vanilla bean in two. Collect the seeds and put them in a pan along with the milk. Heat the milk, and pour it over the egg/sugar/flour mixture. After mixing, put the whole preparation back in the saucepan. Let it thicken over low heat.
b. Cover the preparation with plastic wrap pressed right up against the surface of the cream, and let cool for an hour.
2. Almond cream
a. Mix the creamed butter and sugar until the mixture turns white.
b. Add the egg yolks one by one, and then the almond flour.
a. Combine the pastry cream and the almond cream, and add a capful of Rum.
b. Put the frangipane in a pastry bag.
Assembling the cake:
1. Roll down one of the puff pastry sheets. Using the pastry bag, and starting in the center, spread the frangipane following a spiral pattern. Stop 2cm away from the edges. Hid the charm in the preparation.
2. Apply a thin coat of egg yolk on the edges of the puff pastry. Roll down the second puff pastry sheet, and cover the first one with it, securing the edges. Draw ridges using the point of a knife.
3. Store the cake in the refrigerator for one hour. Preheat the oven to 200°C (390°F). Bake the cake for 10 minutes, and lower the oven temperature to 180°C (360°C). Cook for an additional 30 minutes. Temperatures and cooking times may need to be adjusted to your oven.
With these words by Jean d’Ormesson, a man of letters and member of the Académie Française who recently passed away, I wish you all a « bon appétit », and look forward to being with you very soon!
«We never know anything about the world but what we have tasted, touched, and smelled»