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Epiphany Baking and Cooking

There are so many delicious cakes and buns associated with Epiphany throughout the many countries around the world. France has La galette des Rois, a puff pastry filled with, jam or almond paste or chocolate or cream and with one special ingredient A BEAN! yes as with many other countries there is the tradition of placing a bean inside the cake and whoever finds it will be King for the day. Many of the shops selling these pastries place a gold paper crown on top in readiness for the “King”. Spain have Roscón and Mexico Rosca des Reyes.

In Poland they place a coin or an almond inside their Three Kings Cake, which can be similar to the French pastry or be a sponge or fruit cake. The finder will have good luck in the coming year. As in some other countries, Epiphany sees the begining of Carnival time when “P?czki” (doughnuts) are served. In Macedonia a special food jelly form pork and beef meat and bones called “pacha” or “pivtii” is prepared the day before, but served on the day after Epiphany, together with warm local brandy, rakija. In Latvia special three corner apple cakes are eaten on this day.

In parts of southern India, Epiphany is called the Three Kings Festival and is celebrated in front of the local church like a fair. Families come together and cook sweet rice porridge called Pongal. Germans eat a Three Kings cake which may be a golden pastry ring filled with orange and spice representing gold, frankincense and myrrh. Most often found in Switzerland, these cakes take the form of Buchteln but for Epiphany, studded with citron, and baked as seven large buns in a round rather than square pan, forming a crown. Or they may be made of typical rich Christmas bread dough with cardamom and pearl sugar in the same seven bun crown shape.

In England a traditional dish for Epiphany was Twelfth Cake, a rich, dense, typically English fruitcake. As in Europe, whoever found the baked-in bean was king for a day, but unique to English tradition other items were sometimes included in the cake. Whoever found the clove was the villain, the twig, the fool, and the rag, the tart. Anything spicy or hot, like ginger snaps and spiced ale, was considered proper Twelfth Night fare, recalling the costly spices brought by the Wise Men.Another English Epiphany dessert was the jam tart, but made into a six-point star for the occasion to symbolize the Star of Bethlehem, and thus called Epiphany tart. The discerning English cook sometimes tried to use thirteen different coloured jams on the tart on this day for luck, creating a dessert with the appearance of stained glass.

In Argentina they have “Rosca de Reyes” a ring-shaped Epiphany cake which contains a tiny plastic doll of baby Jesus hidden somewhere in the pastry. On January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany has long been an important celebration in Wales, known there as Ystwyll. In Glamorganshire, a huge loaf or cake was prepared, which was then divided up into three parts to represent Christ, the Virgin Mary and the three Wise Men. A large company of neighbours was invited to be present at the dividing of the cake in which rings were concealed. Whoever discovered a ring in his piece of cake (or bread) was elected as King or Queen and presided over the day’s festivities.