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!

Epiphany

Epiphany is the observance of the arrival of the wise men to the place where Jesus was born. It’s the last day of the Christmas season, set apart from the nativity to show the space of time historically between the birth of Jesus and the magi’s visit. In some cultures, Epiphany is the gift-giving day rather than Christmas.

There are many ways you can mark the day with your family, but most involve some sort of crown-shaped King Cake (which is prepared and eaten in some traditions any time between Epiphany and Lent, so perhaps Christmas isn’t really over the sixth of January after all!).

We’ll share a recipe for the King Cake in a future post, which we eat for breakfast (you don’t have to do this of course, but why not?) on Epiphany when we light our Christ candle for the final time and read the lectionary scriptures.

If you have children, it’s fun to hide an almond in the cake and give a little glittery crown or a treat to the finder. This tradition originates in Sweden, where an almond is hidden in the Christmas rice pudding and the finder gets to make a special request (à la Annika’s Secret Wish). It’s a fun way to help little minds comprehend the joy of finding the treasure at last — the way the wise men were overcome when they realized they had discovered the Son of God.

Lectionary texts:
Isaiah 60:1-6
Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14
Ephesians 3:1-12
Matthew 2:1-12

The magi were advisers to kings, thought to have special magical or spiritual knowledge. They read the stars, interpreted dreams, and imparted their wisdom in a time when high value was placed on spiritual insight, making them very powerful and influential men. Daniel the prophet held this role in Babylon. According to his prophecy, a new king was expected at this time in history, and the alignment of the planets confirmed this king’s arrival.

Three More Kings by Annette Gandy Fortt

New year, new hope

Welcome to The Holy Days! Thank you for joining us as we embark on this new venture and this new year. As we close the chapter called 2020, I am dazed by the whirlwind of changes it brought, not only to us but to the whole world. Global pandemic, political and economic upheaval, and lifestyle changes that are new territory for many. Our relationships look different now, whether through distance in feet or miles or the emotional distance brought on by fear. And all of this would be enough in itself, but 2020 also brought natural disasters that have displaced families and changed the landscape of their lives.

In the midst of this, I have an added layer of newness, though one with a happier shade: we welcomed our first child, a beautiful son, in September. Now nearly four months old, Jaron is thriving. We are so excited to begin this crazy journey of parenting, which brings with it opportunities for growth and perspective we never had before. With so many changes, especially with children to care for, we all need hope. We need the peace that comes through life rhythms and the joy from celebrations. We need to know who we are and where we came from so we know where all this is going.

With a little one, the practice of annual traditions surrounding holidays takes on a greater importance. For one thing, we want to pass on the story of our family identity, both culturally and in Christ. For another, life now moves at unrelenting speed and these familiar observances are grounding and centering as we mark the passage of time. We set our values as a family, and the simple rituals of our daily lives reinforce and remind of those values.

So in 2021, I invite you to join us as we celebrate the seasons and bring a little creative order back into the chaos of life. We hope you will find inspiration for starting your own practices to bring your family together around the table. Amid the darkening skies, tradition is a candle of hope that warms us all.