Recipe: A Cake for 3 Kings (Dreikönigskuchen)

Epiphany. People use the word to say they had a great idea. Like the proverbial lightbulb going off over one’s head. But we’re not going to eat lighbulbs today. Nope. Epiphany is the time of year that Liechtenstein, as well as many other countries around the world, celebrate “little Christmas.” This national holiday is celebrated on January 6 and is a nod to the late arrival of the 3 kings to the very first Christmas party… afterall, they did hike quite a ways to get to Bethlehem.

Calling the Dreikönigskuchen a cake is somewhat a misnomer as it is really more of a sweet roll. You can find it fresh in bakeries all over Liechtenstein. Filled with fresh citrus rind, sweet raisins and bound with the richness of milk and butter, it’s a fantastic treat on a cold winter’s day.

The best part?

A single almond is hidden inside one of the rolls. Whoever finds it gets to be King (or Queen) for the day.

It’s a beautiful and fun game for kids. Once the winner is crowned, they spend the rest of the day in a royal daydream which, most assuredly, looks exactly like this:

Burg Gutenberg in Balzers, Liechtenstein. Photo by Adrian Michael.

NOTE: You can bake the almond in the roll, but I prefer to slip it into the bottom of the bread after baking and slightly cooling… that way I can remember what roll I put it in (a good idea if less than 8 people are eating on the cake… or if you have a little one you either want to win or you don’t want to choke).

Serves 8

Ingredients:

4- 4 1/4 cups flour
2 tsp instant dry yeast
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup warm milk, preferably whole
1 egg
1 stick butter, softened (1/2 cup)
1 1/2 tsp orange thinly stripped zest
1 1/2 tsp lemon thinly stripped zest
1/2 cup raisins

1 almond

egg wash:

1 egg, beaten with 1 Tbsp water

Coating:

1/8 cup apricot jam
1 Tbsp hot water
demura sugar, for sprinkling

Method:

In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat together all ingredients except for the almond, egg wash, and coating. Make sure to add some love.

Once a soft, smooth ball forms, set it aside to rise until doubled in bulk. Mine took about 2 1/2 hours. Be sure to cover it and place in a warm spot. 

Meanwhile, take a walk through a vinyard in Liechtenstein… to see where your raisins might have come from. This place is just… sparkling with goodness. Isn’t it?

Vineyard in Liechtenstein. Photo by Andrew Bossi.

When you get home, divide the dough into 8 Pieces, one a little larger than the rest.

Roll each piece into a ball and arrange the 7 smaller balls around the slightly larger one on a sheet pan, forming a flower. Let rise another 3o minutes, then brush with the egg wash.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375F. Prepare the glaze by mixing the apricot jelly with a tablespoon of hot water.

Bake the rolls for 30-40 minutes, or until deep golden brown. Brush with several coats of apricot glaze and sprinkle with the coarse sugar. It’ll sparkle in the sunlight, like a beautiful jewel…

Just. like. a. crown.

Next, add a real crown. You can make one out of a brown paper bag or, if you happen to have one of these laying around…

… go for it! Once the bread is cool enough to handle, poke an almond into the bottom of one of the rolls. (Blanched is traditional, but this is all I had)

Then, let a lucky someone find the almond and be royalty for the day.

I have to admit that, while I love, adore, and want-to-marry whoever invented French King Cakes, this version (popular all over the Germanic countries of Europe) is delicious and I’ll definitely be making it again and again.

And again.

And I’ll serve it with a big cup of tea or coffee and … an epiphany or two.

Here’s my epiphany for you:

May you always make it to the party, no matter how long it takes you to get there. And may you have friends good enough to celebrate with you, even when you’re late.

Love you guys!

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Comments

  1. Love it! Might have to make that one!
    Takes me back to my youth when in school we did something like it. I never was the Queen but it made enough of an impression.

  2. …and I can attest to the fact that this was a delicious breakfast coffee accompaniament (is that word spelled right?) – the texture reminded me of Irish Bread…definitely sweeter and more moist, however…and much preferred from a Hungarian/Italian point of view….

  3. Jessica Bennett says:

    Oh, those pictures of Liechtenstein are reminding me of my trip there. It was definitely one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited!!! That picture of your mom is great too :)

    • Sasha Martin says:

      They make me desperate to retire there someday, honestly. So stunning. Although I’m guessing the winters can get freezing!

      • Jessica Bennett says:

        I just read about the climate. Supposedly, the winters are mild. Compared to Tulsa though, yes, you would be freezing. Not sure how windy it gets (that’s the important part). And the summers are wet. I was there in October, and it was an absolutely gorgeous day. Guess I got lucky on the right time of year to go (not that I had a choice- I was there for work).

  4. this looks delicious. We always “celebrate” Epiphany too, but mostly by just making Christmas ekstend through then! I did get married on Epiphany as well, but that didn’t last. Nonetheless, the holiday is dear to my heart. This looks a lot like the special Christmas bread they sell @ Trader Joes, which i love. i can’t remember the name of it, but it’s Italian. Thanks for the recipe, and Happy New Year Sasha!!!

    • Sasha Martin says:

      It’s the best holiday because no presents are expected, there is good food and someone gets to wear a crown! When I was younger my family liked to give the winner a token prize, like nailpolish or something. Such cute memories!

  5. Nicole DeBoer says:

    Love your blog! Love, love, love. It is my daily “go-to”. I had good intentions to make this delicious-looking recipe in celebration of Epiphany. At the supper table I asked my husband and two teenage boys if they knew what Epiphany was. My dear husband said “no”. (Sad.) My oldest son said, “it’s when a light bulb goes off.” (Right, but not what I was going for.) And my 13-year-old popped out the correct answer with many additional details. (I love it when the little one gets some limelight.) So, after good discussion I offered to make Dreikönigskuchen – and have for breakfast today. Instead, they talked me into “Better than Sex” cake for a late-night snack. Sigh. I tried. Maybe this weekend. Thanks for all you do!!

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Nicole – you’re a true “Knight of the Global Table” for trying to get your family to try something new. I say just make it this weekend… once they see how fun it is, with the crown and everything – they’ll want to do it every year. Carry on, valiant knight! ;)

  6. elisa waller says:

    I had an ephiphany..Im gonna make this tonight!!! LOL <3

  7. Elizabeth says:

    I made this today for my
    Family and they LOVED it! They’re begging me to make it again soon! Thank you do much for sharing this awesome recipe!

  8. So funny, I had no idea that epiphany was celebrated in Lichtenstein and that they had such a similar tradition to us in Spain. Epiphany is also a very big date in Spain – he highlight of Christmas, especially for children – and after enjoying a parade to greet the Three Wise Men on the evening of 5th January and going to bed early, children wake up on 6th January to find their Christmas presents. Then the traditional family breakfast includes a very similar bake called ‘roscón de Reyes’, which has a tiny pottery figure and a dried bean inside. Who finds the figure is crowned king for a ay and who finds the bean pays for the treat next year :)

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  1. […] great option is the King’s Cake from our Global Table for Liechtenstein. These soft, sweet rolls are made with fresh citrus zest, […]

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