It is the eve of Epiphany, the time to enjoy the King Cake or La Galette des Rois, as we call it in Quebec. This delicious sweet tempting treat may have a number of names and versions in Western European countries, but what makes it special is what you find in it: a little trinket which will make you a King (or a Queen) for a Day! If you are the lucky one to get the piece of cake with the trinket, of course.
|Banquet de Charles V le Sage, Jean Fouquet [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The King Cake takes its name from the biblical Three Magi (Three Kings), who arrived on the Epiphany (12th night from Christmas) on January 6th to honour the Christ Child with their gifts.
|www.thebiblerevival.com via Wikimedia Commons
The most popular trinket is the kidney bean (symbol of life). This year I wanted to use the lucky sea bean as a trinket for a difference, but we don’t want any chipped or broken teeth here, so I changed my mind. Not that I had a baby-Jesus figurine to spare either, but then, again, who wants to trip on a piece of plastic in their cake? Finally, I decided to put an almond in the cake to keep it safe, but still significant. After all, the major part of a filling of this cake is an almond paste, so one small almond in it will not change the cake formula or hurt anybody’s teeth. Plus, almond as a seed has almost same significance as a kidney bean, it is the symbol of life.
The Quebec version of this cake is similar to Northern France: round or rectangular puff pastry cake filled with frangipane, a dense almond filling. As it is not easy to find the almond paste in Montreal (or when you do, you can be little shocked by the price tag), so I bought a huge bag of unsalted slivered almonds at Costco and started doing it myself. It takes just a few easy steps and can be done in advance any time.
Here is an almond paste recipe for this cake (you can modify the proportion accordingly in any of your next recipe requiring almond paste): chop 1/2 cup of slivered unsalted almonds in powder in the food processor. Add 1/2 powder sugar and 1/4 cup water until it forms a ball in the processor. You can keep it in the fridge for weeks or until you are ready to bake this or any other recipe with almond paste.
Now, back to the King Cake. Roll the puff pastry, spoon the almond filling leaving the edges free, then seal the edges, eggwash the cake and criscross the top.
After 15 minutes of baking, remove to dust with a powder sugar and return to the oven for another 15 minutes.
And the Winner is…
KING CAKE OR LA GALETTE DE ROIS
Makes 8 to16 servings
1/4 cup almond paste
1/4 cup white sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon all-purpose flour
1 pinch salt
1 (17.25 oz) package frozen puff pastry
1 dry kidney bean or almond
1 egg, beaten
Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees F. Butter baking sheet or line with parchment paper.
In the food processor, mix almond paste and half of the sugar, add butter and remaining sugar, blend in the egg, vanilla extract, flour and salt.
Roll our one sheet of the puff pastry into square on the parchment paper you placed on baking sheet. Pour the almond filling onto the center of the pastry leaving 1 1/2-inch margin around the edge. Place the trinket of your choice (bean or almond) in the filling. Fold the edges of the pastry up to keep the filling inside.
Place the second sheet of pastry on top and press down the edges to seal. Brush the top of the cake with the beaten egg. Make a crisscross pattern in the egg wash and then prick several slits in the top to vent steam while baking.
Bake for 15 minutes, remove and dust with powder sugar, return to the oven and cook for additional 15 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. When cooled, place a golden paper crown on top of the cake to crown the one who will find the almond (or bean, or any other trinket of your choice).
And don’t forget to tell everyone they are about to find a trinket! Good luck to the King or Queen for the Day and have fun finding the feve!
|La Fête des Rois ou Le Roi boit, Gabriël Metsu [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
PS: To say Hello to our Cajun cousins in New Orleans, here is how they are celebrating Mardi Gras with their own version of the King Cake: