Celebrate January with a colorful tradition from Provence: the Kings Cake – a delicious brioche style cake decorated with candied fruits, served on Epiphany day and throughout January.
For the Epiphany tradition of Kings cake, France is divided into two parts: in the North, we usually enjoy a traditional golden galette (Galette des rois in French) made from puff pastry and filled with an almond cream, while in the southern part of the country, we enjoy the kings cake from Provence with candied fruits. It seems the latter is also served in Spain and in Portugal.
Since I grew up in the North part, I’m a bit more familiar with the golden galette (which is also the most famous one), but the kings cake brioche from Provence is also a good alternative when we’ve had enough of the first one.
The most important after all is to find the hidden bean inside either tradition’s kings cake: when the cake is cut into slices, the youngest person (allegedly the most innocent) slips under the table and blindly decides to whom to serve each slice. Now that the cake has been fairly handed out, the one who gets the bean is crowned king or queen of the day! I have so many good memories as a child: the idea of getting the bean and being the queen of the day was really exciting!
I naturally opted here for the southern tradition and baked the kings cake from Provence, since I am not keen on making my own puff pastry for the northern version of the galette (I would rather leave it to professional bakers instead).
It is much easier to bake this brioche cake (especially if you have a stand mixer at home), a little bit lighter than the golden galette, and you can even enjoy it for breakfast or tea time, with a hot chocolate or coffee.
Don’t forget that in France, the Epiphany tradition of Kings cake lasts throughout January and is the perfect occasion to meet your friends and/or family in a cozy place while it’s cold outside.
- ½ cup milk
- 1¼ cup flour
- 0,5 oz (15g) fresh yeast
- 2¼ flour
- 2 large eggs
- ¼ cup sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 cup butter, softened at room temperature
- 1 tbsp orange flower water
- 1 tbsp rum
- Orange zests
- ½ cup pearl sugar
- 2,5 oz (70g) candied fruits
- 1 yolk
- 1 tbsp milk
- 1 bean (hidden in the cake)
- For the pre-dough: warm the milk (at 86 F). Pour the milk into the bowl of a stand mixer and dissolve the yeast. Add the flour, mix quickly, and let set for about 1 hour, covering the bowl with a tea towel.
- For the dough: pour the remaining flour on top of the pre-dough, then add the salt, sugar, and beaten eggs. Knead the dough in the bowl of a stand mixer (or by hands) for about 5 minutes on low speed, and 5 minutes on medium speed.
- Add the diced butter, softened at room temperature, the orange zest, and the rum. Mix again for 5 minutes, until smooth and elastic. If not, add a little bit of flour.
- Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave for 1 more hour at room temperature, until double in size.
- Preheat the oven to 350 F (180 C). Form a bowl with the dough and flatten it with your hands onto a lightly floured surface into a circle of about 8-10 inch (20-30 cm) in diameter.
- Make a hole in the center of the dough with the help of your finger, then gradually expand the center hole, slightly chalking the edges to prevent the dough from sticking. Do not forget to hide the bean inside the dough, from below the dough, closing the edges around.
- Transfer the dough onto a baking tray covered with parchment paper, then brush with the egg and milk mixture. Sprinkle some candied fruits and pearl sugar.
- Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the kings cake is golden brown. Tips: you can place a glass in the center of the cake while baking, to keep a regular shaped circle.