Posts from March 8th, 2011

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Hail to the King (Cake), Baby

It’s Mardi Gras! This year was the first year of my life wherein I participated in a particular Mardi Gras tradition: a series of King Cake parties. Point of fact: I’d never actually heard of a King Cake party before this year, when a new friend (who just moved here from Austin, TX) decided to start up the tradition.

In a nutshell: You throw a party in the middle of January (it generally coincides with Twelfth Night/Epiphany, though in this case it was later — January 22nd or so). Whoever hosts that party bakes a cake — a King Cake: traditionally a ring-shaped cake similar to brioche, with green-and-purple frosting/sprinkles. Hidden somewhere in the cake is a small figurine, often a Baby Jesus. Whichever guest at the party gets the piece of cake containing the figurine is the “King” for that week and has to throw the next King Cake Party the following weekend. This continues every weekend until Mardi Gras!

I actually probably would not have become a part of this tradition (indeed, I missed the first party entirely) had it not been for the fact that Marvel’s X-Men’s female clone of Wolverine X-23 won the first King Cake Party and got to throw the second one at her place, just up the road from me.

It was a fascinating several weeks. Carrie & I got to meet a tonne of new people, as whoever hosted the party invited not only the people who had been at previous parties, but their own friends as well. We also got to go to some places we’d never been before, and experience fascinating things like wood-fired saunas and hot tubs, and all manner of cooking. Not even the King Cake itself was consistent; many of the participants put their own spin on the tradition by serving the figurine in other types of baked goods — even an Apple pie once.

Carrie & I had to miss the next-to-last King Cake Party, but we delegated our participation, and — guess what? — we won by proxy!

For our King Cake, Carrie decided to go old-school: a northern French Galette des Rois (French for “Cake of Kings”). She used a slightly-modified version of the recipe from Zen Can Cook:

For this recipe you will need:

  • 1 puff pastry sheet
  • 8 tablespoons soft butter
  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar + 2 tablespoons
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
  • 1 egg yolk + 1 tablespoon milk for eggwash
  • Powdered sugar for glazing

* Preheat oven to 425′F. Cut out two 9-inches circles of puff pastry. Prick one of them with a fork. Place on a tray lined with a silpat. Refrigerate.

For the frangipane (almond filling):

  • In the bowl of a food processor combine the butter, 1 cup almonds, 2 eggs, 1/2 cup sugar, pinch of salt and almond extract if using. Process to obtain a smooth paste, add the flour and pulse to incorporate (Carrie & I don’t have a food processor, so we just used a Magic Bullet and made the frangipane in batches).

For the galette des rois:

  1. Spread the almond frangipane in the center of the pricked puff pastry circle leaving a 1-inch border. Brush the border with eggwash and top with the second circle of puff pastry. Seal the edge with your fingers or the back of a spoon. Brush with the eggwash. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  2. Bake at 425′F for 15 minutes then lower the temperature to 350′F and bake for an additional 30 minutes.
  3. Dust with some powdered sugar. Cool. Serve at room temperature.

Photo by yuichi.sakabura:

By all accounts of everyone who was at our party, it was quite delicious. Please, partake… and enjoy.

Categories: Cooking, Holiday, Life.