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Kings cake: traditions and where to buy

Olivia Regout. Food

04 Jan 2013, 05:01 Last Updated: 03 Jan 2020, 13:01

Celebrate Epiphany with this special tradition. On January 6th, there’s the first excuse of the year to buy something sweet: the infamous king’s cake! Here a couple of good locations in Brussels where you can buy the king’s cake.

The indulgences that come along with the holidays and the New Year have brought you to declare some good resolutions like, for example, cutting out sweets and eating more balanced. After a week of dieting and hunger, it’s about time to have a yummy treat. On January 6th, you are allowed to give in for the first dessert of the year: the king’s cake!

Historically, January 6th is the day of the Epiphany. This is a religious holiday that commemorates when the Magi visited baby Jesus. Today, it’s more about sharing this cake with family and friends. Basically, just a good way to kick off the year. However, the king’s cake is not like just any other cake. Inside hides a little lucky charm. If your piece contains this trinket, you get to be crowned king or queen for the day! You must consume it following the rules, cheating will not be tolerated…

In other times, it was also customary in Brussels to give children sweets, spiced breads or chestnuts bought from the travelling merchants on the Grand Place. These sweets were often accompanied by Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar, the three Magi or the Three Kings. These are the same figurines that we mix into the almond paste that goes into the cake today.

Where to buy your king’s cake in Brussels?

On the day of the Epiphany, go to the following places to choose your cake. In Brussels like in many other cities, pastry shops sell the king’s cake along with a golden crown that is to be given to the king or queen of the day. Have a visit to your neighborhood bakery shop. Whether it is De Baere in Woluwe or Boulangerie Espagne in Uccle, buy your cake from somewhere near you.

Of course there is always the Sablon with renowned, yet pricey, pastry places likes Wittamer, Marcolini, Pain Quotidien… However, the quality and taste might be worth it. At Wittamer, for example, even the crown is pink, staying with their trademark color. You can also sit down to have a piece of the cake along with a tea, coffee or hot chocolate.

Large chains are not to be outdone. For several days, they make a point to have some room in the pastry section for this Three King’s delicacy. We had to step into to Delhaize to see for ourselves… Verdict? A cake for 6 people costs 6.45 euros. Trinket and crown included.

If you prefer homemade, try our recipe for the king’s cake.

The king’s cake ritual

The way to eat it is very precise. In order to avoid any cheating, the youngest in the group goes under the table to distribute each part of the cake. After everyone has eaten their slice and the trinket is found, that one happy person gets crowned the king or the queen of the party. He or she can then choose his or her special someone. These two are the rulers of the grounds for the whole day!

King’s cake for everyone’s taste

Flakey, moist and flavorful, offer some king’s cake to your guests and everyone will love you! Today the traditional puff pastry stuffed with frangipane remains a crowd pleaser. However, pastry shops are bringing out new flavors like an apple or chocolate cake, or even brioche filled with candied fruit.

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