From the Sisters’ Kitchen: King Cake for the Epiphany

by Anna Dourgarian on January 2, 2020

Every year, the Visitation Sisters of Minneapolis celebrate the Epiphany with a Gateau des Rois (a King Cake, or Twelfth Night Cake). It is an old French tradition, true to their roots of the first Visitation monastery in Annecy, France. A small token like a porcelain figurine or bean is hidden in the cake, and the finder is dubbed “king” — or, in the Sisters’ case, the “Bean Queen”!

Sister Suzanne kindly shared her recipe with me, and I tried making my own King Cake. It has led me on a culinary adventure. I challenge you to make your own King Cake! Share a photo with the Sisters on Facebook.

Note: there are a wide variety of King Cake recipes available online due to its vast history (it is possibly 700 years old). Sister Suzanne’s recipe, a puff pastry with an almond paste middle layer, is actually a Galette des Rois from northern France or Koningentaart from Flemish / Dutch traditions, as opposed to the Gateau des Rois, a brioche with candied fruit, from southern France that is commonly used in New Orleans to celebrate Mardi Gras.

A King Cake ready for baking, with marzipan, almonds, and cherries between layers of puff pastry. Which lucky person will get the piece with the kidney bean?!

Here is Sister Suzanne’s recipe:
 
Ingredients:

8 oz puff pastry
4 oz marzipan (or almond paste)
1/2 cup slivered almonds/pecans and dried cherries
1/2 cup confectioners (powdered) sugar
Juice of one lemon

 
Method:

1. Divide the pastry in two and roll out both pieces into rounds.
2. Roll out the marzipan into a round of the same size. Put the marzipan on top of one of the pastry rounds.
3. Sprinkle the marzipan with nuts and cherries. Place the other pastry round on top and seal the edges.
4. Allow to rest for 30 minutes.
5. Bake at 450°F for 25 minutes until well-risen and golden brown.
6. Allow the cake to cool. Make icing by mixing the sugar and enough lemon juice to achieve spreading consistency. Ice the cake.
7. Decorate with three crowns, a king, or a star! For example, you can make a stencil from wax paper and dust it with sugar.

 
Notes from my attempt:

1. The cake is easy to assemble, but it depends on a lot of specialty ingredients. I bought slivered almonds and dried cherries in bulk from Cub Foods as well as pre-made puff pastry sheets from the frozen aisle. I bought marzipan from Lunds and Byerlys (baking aisle). I used a kidney bean for my token because of its size. The total was about $15.
2. To seal the edges of the bottom and top layers of dough, I made the marzipan layer a little smaller, leaving an outer margin for the dough layers to touch. They can be stuck together with water.
3. I put my cake outside in the cold as it rested before baking to harden the butter.
4. My puff pastry ballooned and burned in the oven! The cake was still delicious, but it was not beautiful.

1) I should have cut holes into (“scored”) the top pastry layer to release steam.
2) Also, I should have pulled the cake out of the oven as soon as it began puffing and turning golden. 25 minutes was too long at 450°F; next time, I will try 20 minutes at 400°F and keep my eye on it.

5. In my absent-mindedness, I ate my bean! I am considering investing in a traditional porcelain token to avoid this problem in the future.

 
Good luck with your cake! Please share your results on Facebook! I’m excited to hear how it goes for you.

Happy Epiphany!
 

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