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The "king cake" takes its name from the biblical three kings. In Catholic liturgical tradition, the Solemnity of Epiphany - commemorated on January 6 - celebrates the visit of the Magi to the Christ Child. The season for king cake extends from the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas, up until Mardi Gras, or "Fat Tuesday;" the day before the start of Lent. The cake traditionally celebrating Epiphany in France and Quebec is sold in most bakeries during the month of January. Two versions exist: in northern France and Quebec the cake called galette des rois (which can be either circular or rectangular) consists of flaky puff pastry layers with a dense center of frangipane. In southern France the cake called gâteau des rois is a torus-shaped brioche with candied fruits and sugar, similar in its shape and colors to a crown (Rosca De Reyes / See Video & Recipe). Tradition holds that the cake is “to draw the kings” to the Epiphany. A figurine, la fève, which can represent anything from a car to a cartoon character, is hidden in the cake and the person who finds the trinket in their slice becomes king for the day and will have to offer the next cake.
In a skillet, toast together the almond meal, whole almonds and flour to light brown color. Let cool and blend to coarse meal in the food processor, and transfer powders in a bowl. Meanwhile, in the food processor cream butter and salt. Throw in the toasted powders along with sugar. Add the egg and flavoring; blend and set aside. Use almond cream at room temperature. If you prefer frangipane, fold 30 percent of chilled pastry cream into the almond cream. Though, use 70% of frangipane filling for the king cake.
Cut out the classic puff pastry pâton into 4 equal portions (Watch video). Save 2 for the cake. Roll out puff pastry into 0.14''/3mm thick sheets; chill to rest for about 20 minutes, or freeze for later use. For best handling: keep puff pastry sheets half frozen prior using. Lay one puff pastry sheet onto a baking tray lined with a silicone mat, or parchment. Use the inside frame of a 9.5''(23/24cm) diameter fluted tart pan, and pipe out almond cream into a 8.5''/22 cm disk. Add a trinket is desired. Remove tart pan and moisturize the pastry edges with water. Enclose pie with the second pastry sheet. Press down to seal, and chill for 20 min. Use tart pan frame to cut it out just like a cookie cutter. Save scraps for your next apple pie. Freeze king cake for 20 min and flip; so the bottom becomes the top; this trick helps the pie to rise more evenly. If not using fluted tart pan frame, scallop the pastry border using the back of the knife. Brush the top of the galette all over with egg wash, then chill the galette in the fridge for 30 minutes; egg wash a second time. Score using the tip of a pairing knife in bias. Chill for a couple of hours prior baking, or best overnight. At this juncture, the king cake can also be kept frozen for up to 3 months.
Preheat oven to 375ºF/190ºC. A pizza stone is recommended. Lower temperature to 350ºF/180ºC if using a convection oven. Place four 1.75''/4.5cm height pastry rings or something similar. After 20 minutes baking, top cake with parchment paper and an upside down wire rack. Bake for another 30 minutes. For a glossy finish, dust cake lightly with powdered sugar and place in the oven at 550ºF/290ºC for about 3 min. Or, brush out cake with simple syrup right after baking. Cool to room temperature – Enjoy!