So today is the sixth of January. The decorations are down, most people are back at work and Christmas officially ends today. I always feel a little bit sad at the way Christmas in the UK just kind of drifts off into oblivion whereas, in many other countries, the twelfth day is celebrated in style.
The 6th of January is the feast of the epiphany – this is the day when the Three Wise Men finally made it to the stable to see the baby Jesus. OK, I suspect that if it had been Three Wise Women they would have asked for directions and arrived 2 days earlier but, nevertheless, Christmas is a twelve day festival and the last day deserves some recognition.
In France and Spain and parts of South America the day is marked with a King cake or epiphany cake. This consists of a puff pastry case filled with an almond mixture which is somewhere between a frangipane and marzipan. The cake is decorated with leaves and a little icon is hidden inside. The person who finds the icon gets to be king (or queen) for the day and can rule over the household. (Children beware – everything returns to normal tomorrow and parents have long memories!)
In place of the icon I included a whole almond. I am not a fan of potentially tooth breaking foreign bodies in my food and an almond seemed appropriate given the flavour of the cake.
So, what now? I have made the cake and written the blog but everyone else is at work. Should I eat it all myself and be queen of the silent lands? Or should I wait until they come home and someone can reign over the last few hours before bedtime? I didn’t really think this through did I?
6th January is also my sister’s birthday but, as she is 300 miles away, I won’t be sharing this cake with her – I think I’ll just nominate her as Queen for the day anyway. Happy Birthday Maura x
2 x 500g Packs Puff Pastry
100g Caster Sugar
2 eggs + 1 Yolk
125g Ground Almonds
25g Plain Flour
4 Tablespoons Amaretto
Beat the butter and sugar together in a medium sized mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and egg yolks and beat until combined.
Add the flour and ground almonds, beat again and then stir in the amaretto.
Line a 7”/ 18cm cake tin with cling film leaving a few inches of overlap. Pour in the almond mixture and level to form a disk about 2cm deep then cover the top with the excess cling film. Place the tin in the freezer to chill for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180°C / 350°F / Gas Mark 4.
Roll out one pack of the puff pastry to a thickness of about 5mm. Cut out a disk about 10” / 25cm in diameter (using a plate or tart tin as a guide). Repeat with the other pack (see note below).
Line a baking tray with parchment. Put one of the pastry disks onto the tray.
Remove the almond mixture from the freezer and take off the cling film. Place it in the centre of the pastry on the tray. Brush the exposed edge with cold water and top the whole thing with the other disk of pastry.
Smooth the pastry over the top and sides of the almond mixture and press down firmly. Trim the edges of the pastry to make a neat border – I used an 8” / 20cm spring form cake tin (without the base) as a guide.
Seal the pastry by crimping it in a style to suit you. It is really important to get a good seal or the almond mixture will escape during baking.
Cut a pattern into the top of the cake by scoring it with a sharp knife (don’t go all the way through) then brush with an egg wash (beat an egg with a tablespoon of milk). A leaf design is traditional.
Bake for an hour on the middle shelf then rest for a further hour before cutting.
NB – Puff pastry “puffs” because the dough is carefully layered with butter. When using bought puff pastry do not be tempted ball it up before rolling as this will ruin the layers. The same applies to any trimmings. There will be quite a lot of excess pastry from this recipe – try sprinkling it with grated parmesan and cutting into strips. Bake for 10 minutes or so to make cheese straws.