Thursday, January 6, 2011
King's Cake for the Epiphany
January 6th is the Epiphany, Day of the Kings, or Twelfth Day of Christmas, and commerates the three wise men (aka Magi, or Kings) who followed the star, bearing gifts to the baby Jesus.
In Latin cultures, gifts are traditionally exchanged today, which I think makes more sense than the American tradition of Santa Claus and Christmas.
Spanish children leave their shoes out filled with hay for the Magi's mounts and pack animals, and receive gifts in return.
I always thought this was such a charming holiday, and to celebrate, I baked a King's Cake. Most Americans, especially those from the South, know the King's Cake to be a Mardi Gras tradition, but it's origins are actually in the Epiphany.
The cake varies around the world, but it usually has a bean, a coin, an almond or some sort of trinket (a plastic baby became popular in the latter part of the 20th century) baked into it. The person who finds the token in their slice, either becomes the king of the celebration and/or has to fund the next party, or King's cake.
Some King's cakes have raisins and other dried fruit, others are more like a brioche -- a sort of eggy braided bread. The ones for Mardi Gras, are pretty sticky sweet and topped with frosting dusted with purple, green, and gold sugar.
Since the Three Kings brought gold, frankinsence, and myrrh -- and the two latter gifts are rather mysterious as to their origins or purpose, I think a King's Cake can be equally open to interpretation and ingredients.
Looking in my cupboard and fridge, I decided to make an apple/cinnamon/spice bread/cake with a sour cream frosting. Reason being, I had an apple/cinnamon quick bread mix from the Dollar Store. I added more cinnamon to the mix, as well as raisins, and since I didn't have a plastic baby handy, I added a piece of left over holiday sugar cookie. Now no one is going to break a tooth on the cookie, but it also poses a problem if no one recognizes it as prize in the cake.
I found a simple sour cream frosting recipe, that goes like this --
4 Tbs butter softened, 1/2 cup sour cream, 1/2 tsp vanilla, 1/2 tsp lemon juice, 1/4 tsp salt, and 2 3/4 cups powdered sugar. Whip all that good stuff together, and you have a wonderful crown for your King's Cake. Oh, and speaking of crowns, in England, a paper crown usually comes with your cake. I don't have a tin foil topper, but I do have a wonderful bedazzled crown ornament that I got from the 99 Cent Only Store, which I rested on top of a "Festive Cookie" from a package I bought -- I rubbed some of the red sugar off of said cookies to dust the top of the cake with a little extra pizzaz.
So here it is -- My King's Cake for the Epiphany!