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King cake

When I moved to Belgium it was the first time when I found out about the "Gallete des Rois" tradition. I found it as a nice tradition to celebrate every year on the 6th of January. If in the beginning I was just tasting it when brought by friends or colleagues, since I have kids I had to bake it as well :).
But what is exactly this cake? Well it is a very simple one, 2 layers of puff pastry with some almond cream between them. The cake comes also with 2 extra things: a crown (usually a gold paper one) and a small piese of porcelain that is hidden inside the cake.
The story with this cake is the following : the cake should be cut in as many slices as there are people around it. One of the kids, usually the youngest one, goes under the table and indicate to the person who distribute the slices to whom to give it. Everyone receive a piece and eat his/her slice carefully.  The little small porcelain of course is found in one of the slices, and the one who finds it in its slice becomes the King or the Queen and wears the crown for the rest of the day.
It took me a while to understand the secret of this cake. It is not about the taste of the cake, it is not about the way it looks, it is not about the game of luck but it is about bringing the family together around a fun tradition. It is also about feeling as important as a queen or a king for the day. Especially as a child.
My daughter asks me for this cake every year. This year I made the cake, she got the biggest part of it and of course she was rewarded with the little porcelain piece called "fève". But I was totally surprised when she asked for another cake. I thought she wanted to be the queen again but in fact she told me to skip the part in hiding the "feve" inside. I understood then that she liked the taste of the cake as much she was enjoying the game.
This is how I ended up doing a second king cake almost at the end of January.

As for the cake, it is not at all a big deal to make it unless you go for the adventure to make the puff pastry yourself. With the first trials I wanted to do everything by myself but it took way too long to make the pastry and at the time of enjoying the tradition I was too tired. Lately, I find it easier to buy the puff pastry, make the filling myself and quickly assembling it.

Ingredients:
  • 2 eggs
  • 100g butter (melted)
  • 100g sugar
  • 200g almond powder
  • 1 tablespoon almond essence
  • 2 puff pastries (~230g each)
  • 1 egg (yolk and white separated)

Directions:
  1. Mix the almond powder, sugar, 2 eggs, almond essence and butter.
  2. Lay one of the puff pastry on a baking paper on a tray.
  3. Add in the middle the above composition, leaving 2-3cm free on the border.
  4. Add the "feve" somewhere in the composition. Do not miss this step !
  5. Brush the empty border with egg white.
  6. Put on top the second puff pastry.
  7. Take a fork and press the borders to stick together. This step is very important otherwise the filling will get out of the cake in the oven.
  8. Brush the top with the yolk.
  9. Make small lines with a blade to decorate the cake. Be careful to not cut the top pastry completely.
  10. Bake the cake in the preheated oven at 180ºC for 30-45 minutes, depending on how much brown you would like the top.
  11. Let it cool completely and gather the family for the tradition.


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