As I explained in a previous post on this yummy dessert, there is a small figurine or trinket (the fève) baked into the cake – traditionally this item was a bean. The lucky person who gets the slice containing the fève is named king or queen for the day. Or, in our case, the fève remains in the uneaten portion and we get to try again the following day!
In Provence the King Cake is gâteau des Rois, made of brioche and candied fruits, whereas the rest of the country traditionally celebrates with the puff pastry and frangipane that we enjoyed. The recipe calls for almond meal to make the frangipane, but I have used almond flour (not as finely ground and available in many health food stores including Trader Joe's) and also almond butter (Whole Foods has a grind-your-own peanut butter section, that grinds roasted almonds without any additives).
I highly recommend taking the leftover puff pastry dough (the result of trimming the corners to make circles) and making little pīrāgi with Nutella inside. I put mine on the same pan as the king cake, and although a few burst open while baking, they were delicious.
To celebrate Epiphany with your very own king cake, you can either head to your local French bakery or follow this easy recipe, a variation on a recipe given to me by a friend in France that utilizes pre-made puff pastry that you can find in the frozen desserts section at your local grocery store. David Lebovitz just posted a delicious galette des rois recipe on his blog, but if you are looking for something simpler without the orange flower water and zest, try this. Don’t forget to remind your guests there is a fève hidden in the cake!
1 package puff pastry, thawed
½ cup ground almond meal
¼ cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1 fève or fava bean (optional)
1 egg, beaten
2. Combine the almond meal, sugar, 1 egg, butter, vanilla extract and flour to form a smooth paste.
3. Roll out the puff pastry and cut out two large circles. Place one on a non-stick pan, and on it spread the frangipane mixture in an even layer, leaving a one inch border around the edge of the dough.
4. Hide the fève in the almond filling, and then place the second pastry circle on top, smoothing the air out from under. Press down firmly along the outer border to seal the two layers. Make a small hole in the middle of the galette so that the cake does not swell too much when cooking, and using the tip of a knife cut small slits into the top layer around the edge of the cake. Traditional galette des rois have a design etched into the top…
5. Beat the remaining egg, and brush over the top of the cake. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown.
6. Allow the cake to cool for 20 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a cooling rack.