The King Cake of Provence: A Traditional Epiphany Dessert

Celebrated just after Christmas and New Year's Eve, on January 6 each year, Epiphany is the opportunity, in Provence, to taste the traditional ‘Couronne des Rois’ king cake.
By Justine Fiordelli

The celebration of Epiphany is rooted in Christianity and arrived in France with the Popes of Avignon. Referencing the text of the Bible, this feast day symbolizes the visit of the Three Kings to the infant Jesus. The story goes that Melchior, Gaspar and Balthazar followed a much brighter star than the others known as the Star of Bethlehem, which guided them to the birth of Jesus.

In Provence, Epiphany is characterized by eating the famous king cake the ‘Couronne des Rois,’ on the first Sunday of January. Delicious and beautifully decorated with coarse sugar crystals and candied fruits of all kinds (cherry, rhubarb, melon, apricot, orange), the ‘Couronne des Rois’ is the traditional king cake of Provence. Prepared with flour, eggs, sugar and butter, and perfumed with orange flower water, this brioche cake is delicious and so pretty to look at. On January 6, tradition has it that one cuts the cake into as many pieces as there are guests, and the youngest person hides under the table and designates who gets each piece. As is customary, he who finds the “fève” in his cake chooses his king or queen, and is supposed to invite his friends over to enjoy next year’s ‘Couronne des Rois’!

The King Cake of Provence
The King Cake of Provence
The King Cake is decorated with coarse sugar crystals and candied fruits of all kinds.
Fotolia - Cynoclub
The King Cake of Provence
The King Cake of Provence
As is customary, he who finds the “fève” in his cake is supposed to invite his friends over to enjoy next year’s ‘Couronne des Rois’!
DR Sébastien Garcia - Fotolia.com

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