King Cake (Dreikonigskuchen)

Happy Epiphany! Besides rereading the beautiful story of the wise men, a fun thing to do for Epiphany is to make a King cake. King cake can be eaten on Epiphany or anytime until Lent begins.  Some people have them for Shrove or Fat Tuesday, which is February 16 in 2021. You have plenty of time to try out this recipe and have a party or gift one to someone!

I usually make American style King cakes to celebrate Epiphany. But this year I decided to make an easier one called Dreikonigskuchen, which is from Germany. It is actually a bread and not a cake as we usually think of cake.  This one has raisins and lemon rind, but I think you could substitute orange or tangerine rind if you have some lurking around from Christmas. Also, in the photos, I have added the raisins before kneading, as the original recipe said, but I think it would be much better to add them after kneading for a better presentation. You can do whichever you prefer.  

Mix the ingredients
Dough after kneading in the mixer
Let rise
Divide into portions
Hide the almond!

Ingredients:

½ cup (70g) raisins, placed in a bowl with warm water covering to plump them
1 cup (250mL) milk, warmed to 80F
¼ cup plus 1 Tablespooon (50g plus 14g) sugar, divided
1 Tablespoon or 1 packet active dry yeast 
4 Tablespoons (55g) butter, softened
1 egg, at room temperature
Zest of one large lemon 
4 cups (500g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon (4g) salt
1 almond for the king (optional)
1 egg beaten with 1 Tablespoon milk
1-2 teaspoons of sugar (I used Sugar in the Raw, which is a larger grained sugar)
1 Tablespoon sliced almonds (optional)

Instructions:

  1. In a small bowl, cover raisins with warm water to plump.  Set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix 1 Tablespoon of sugar and yeast with milk.  Let stand until bubbles appear, in about 5 minutes.
  3. Mix the softened butter, ¼ cup of sugar, egg, and lemon zest in with the yeast mixture.
  4. Mix in half of the flour.  At this point, the recipe I used says to add the raisins.  If you are using a stand mixer, the raisins will be mostly pulverized.  If you want your raisins to be whole, add them after kneading. Then add the other 2 cups of flour and the salt.
  5. If you are using the stand mixer, knead on medium speed for 7-8 minutes, until the dough is smooth but soft.  If you are kneading by hand, knead for about 10 minutes. If you are adding the raisins after kneading, add them now and knead until combined with the dough. 
  6. Place the dough in a clean, oiled bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and set in a draft-free place to rise until doubled, about 2 hours.  
  7. After rising, turn the dough out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface and knead once or twice to deflate.  Divide the dough into 10 equal pieces.  I used my scale for this but you can eye it if you have no scale.  
  8. Shape 8 of the pieces into rolls.  Combine 2 of the pieces into one large roll. Place the almond, if using, inside one of the rolls. 
  9. Arrange the rolls on a greased baking sheet or one covered with parchment paper. Place the larger one in the center and the 8 rolls around the large one, leaving just a little room between each roll for them to touch as they rise. If there are whole raisins on the surface, remove them as they will burn during baking.
  10. Mix together the egg and 1 Tablespoon of milk.  Brush the rolls.  Sprinkle with sugar and sliced almonds.
  11. Let the rolls rise until puffy and doubled, about 30-40 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350F.  
  12. Bake the risen rolls for 25-30 minutes until golden brown.
  13. Let cool for 10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.  Let cool completely before transferring to a serving plate.
  14. These are probably best eaten the day they are baked, but will keep in an airtight container or tightly covered for 3-4 days.

Traditionally, the person who gets the almond is King for the day.  It’s fun to make or purchase a crown or other prize for the King!

Published by Joy Allison

I am a Christian, a wife and mother, a daughter and a friend. I love my husband and best friend, David. In 2020, I finished 34 years of homeschooling our nine children. I love sending mail and talking on the phone to our 11 grandchildren. My favorite things are reading, chocolate, coffee shops, and being with all my people, especially the little ones.