I·ATE: Epiphany cakes for 6th January

January 7, 2017 10:00 am

The end of the Christmas season is marked by the Epiphany, a Western Christian celebration held on January 6. This celebration commemorates Three Wise Men‘s visit to Jesus Christ in Bethlehem. In many places all around Europe, there is a special dessert that is eaten on this day: the kings’ cake, which is a pastry basically made with milk, sugar, butter and flour, but also with other different ingredients depending on the specific country or region. It goes without saying that this time, our I·ATE section will be dedicated to provide an overview of the most popular varieties.


Starting with France, their kings’ cake is called galette des rois, and is composed of a puff pastry cake usually filled with a cream – frangipane –  made with almonds, butter, eggs and sugar. But you can also taste other versions, such as the ones filled with chocolate, apple or candied fruits. There are two little figurines hidden inside the cake – the fève – and whomever finds the figurine is crowned King or Queen of the day.

In the French region of Switzerland, they also eat the galette des rois, while the German Swiss have the Dreikönigskuchen. These two cakes may vary in in appearance but share the same tradition. The main difference is that dreikönigskuchen is made from a sweet dough formed into balls, arranged into a flower shape and flaked with almonds. But in both cakes,  a plastic king – or a gold coin, sometimes –  is hidden inside, giving luck to whoever finds it. 

galette de rois           roscon de reyes spain

In Spain, and in other Spanish-speaking countries such as Mexico or Argentina, they have roscón de Reyes, which is a cake baked in the form of a large ring, decorated with candied fruits and very often it also has a layer of pastry cream. Just like the French version, the roscón also has small surprises hidden inside. Usually they are a small figure of one of the three Kings and a dry fava bean. According to the tradition, the one who finds the figure is also crowned as the King or Queen of the celebration, while whomever finds the bean should pay for the cake.

In Greece, and also in some eastern Europe and Balkan areas, we find the vasilopita (βασιλόπιτα). It is a traditional cake or bread that is very similar to the kings’ cakes: it is made from a variety of doughs, especially depending on the region or even family traditions, but one of the most popular recipes is the one prepared with tsoureki dough. Inside the baked cake, there is also a coin hidden that is supposed to grant luck to the recipient for the rest of the year. However, the vasilopita is served at midnight on New Year’s Eve.

Finally, there are some other sweets that resemble to the kings’ cake but are served during the whole Christmas season, such as the Portuguese version, the bolo rei. This one consists of a tasty mix of white dough, crunchy nuts and raisins and sweet crystallized fruit. In Italy, and more specifically from Milan, we find the well-known panettone, which is a type of sweet bread loaf in a cylindrical shape. It is normally served in slices, and in some regions is also accompanied with mascarpone cream or dried fruits.

bolo-rei-portugal          panettone

Was your country mentioned in the article? Do you normally have any of these kind kings’ cakes, or do you know any other types? Have a nice weekend and don’t hesitate to share your feedback it with us!


Written by Ana Jiménez Morente
Content Editor.
Communication Trainee, DG TRAD – Terminology Coordination Unit



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