January 6, 2011

Celebrating Three Kings Day with a Pull-Apart King Cake Recipe


Already this year is whizzing by, and I've found myself woefully unprepared for one of my favorite winter celebrations -- Three Kings Day; also know as Epiphany or Twelfth Night.  

Each year, we enjoy a King Cake with a few close friends, and as per tradition, the person to find the baby in their piece of cake is crowned "king" or "queen" and will have good luck all year long.  With January 6 abruptly waking me this morning, shaking my shoulder and announcing, "I'm here!  Are you ready?", it's a good thing that my family-friendly version of the King Cake requires very little preparation or time.  

I published a post last year about my family's Three Kings Day traditions and have revived it here, for those who may have missed it. I've also added a quick new project tutorial, for those who are back for a second time around.

BACKGROUND:  For those unfamiliar with Three Kings Day, this Christian holiday celebrates the day that the three wise men brought gifts to the baby Jesus. The legendary visit later gave rise to the custom of gift giving at Christmas on the Feast of the Epiphany.  In these modern times, Epiphany is observed on the sixth of January.  

TRADITIONS:  In Germany, where my father's family originated, children go from house to house on Epiphany eve, singing carols and chalking the year and initials KMB (those of the kings, Kaspar, Melchior and Balthasar), near the entrance of each home. The festive Dreikonigskuchen or Three Kings Cake is also served that night to celebrate the occasion.

Today, I whipped up a super quick chalkboard to hang from our front door.  I got my inspiration from my friend Holly of 504 Main whose chalkboards made from silver trays never cease to catch my fancy when I visit her home.

Here's how I did it:

1 silver tray (mine is just one of the cheap ones from the Dollar Tree)
Fine Sand paper
masking tape (painters' masking tape is preferable)
Krylon Chalkboard Paint (spray)
Hot Glue Gun

Step 1:  Lightly sand the area of the tray that you will be spraying with chalkboard paint.

Step 2:  Mask off the edges of the tray.
Step 3:  Apply 1 coat of chalkboard paint.  Dry.
Step 4:  Apply a second coat of chalkboard paint.  Dry.

Step 5:  Remove tape.
Step 6:  Use a hot glue gun to attach some decorative ribbon or cord to the back of the tray for hanging.
Step 7:  Write something in chalk!

THE CAKE:  The tradition of the King Cake is popular in France, Belgium, Switzerland, Portugal, Spain, Greece, and Bulgaria, to name a few. In the United States, the King Cake is part of the Mardi Gras season's traditions. Each country has it’s own recipe for the King Cake, varying from the French Galette de Rois with Puff Pastry and Almond filling (my absolute favorite dessert EVER), to the Louisana version which more closely resembles a ring of frosted brioche. Despite regional differences, what these special cakes have in common is that they all have a small trinket (often a small plastic baby, sometimes said to represent Baby Jesus) inside, and the person who gets the piece of cake with the trinket has various privileges and obligations. The traditional trinket in the cake is a bean, still seen in some European and Mexican traditions but rare in U.S. King Cakes.

I’ve taken some major liberties with the Louisiana style King Cake, to make it more family friendly and fun to prepare as a group. Borrowing from the Mardi Gras tradition, we top our King Cake with sprinkles in green, purple, and gold: Green representing “Faith”, Purple representing “Justice”, and Gold representing “Power”. It is also said that these three colors represent the gifts of the Magi: Gold, Incense and Myrrh.  The cake is baked in a bundt pan, giving it its characteristic ring shape, representing a crown.

This tradition is a wonderful way to round-out the Christmas season, continue the joy, honor our culture, history, and for those of the Christian faith, to further celebrate the birth of Christ.

Pull-Apart King Cake
(adapted from my grandmother's recipe for monkey bread)
for a printable/downloadable copy, visit HERE

3 tubes refrigerator biscuits (small, buttermilk)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup melted butter (2 sticks), plus extra for buttering the pan
1 trinket  (we use a plastic baby, which I promise you does not melt)
purple, gold, and green sprinkles
icing (recipe below)

Preheat oven to 375.

Butter the inside of a bundt pan.

Open biscuit tubes.  Cut each biscuit in half and gently squeeze into a rough ball shape.  Children can do this with safety scissors.

In a medium bowl, combine sugars and cinnamon.
In a separate bowl, melt butter.

A handful at a time, dip biscuit balls in melted butter. 
Transfer to sugar bowl and toss to coat.

Place sugared biscuits in buttered bundt pan.

Be sure to embed your trinket into one of the biscuit pieces before dipping and rolling in sugar.  If serving a small group, and wanting to ensure that one guest gets the trinket, insert a toothpick in the area where it is hidden.  This way, you can be sure to serve from this portion of the cake first.

Continue until all biscuits have been buttered and sugared and placed evenly around the bundt pan.  Gently press down to help biscuits adhere to one another.  Pour remaining butter over the top of the biscuits.

Bake until biscuits rise and are golden brown (approx. 30 minutes).

Remove from oven and immediately invert cake on to a serving plate.

Drizzle with icing.
  1. Melt 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) of butter in a saucepan or microwave.
  2. Sift 2 cups of powdered sugar into a medium size bowl.
  3. Add the melted butter to the powdered sugar.
  4. Add 2 tablespoons of milk.
  5. Beat until smooth and creamy, adding a little more milk if necessary.
Sprinkle one third of cake with purple sprinkles, another third with gold, and the last with green.


The guest that finds the trinket becomes
"King" or "Queen" for the day. 



This post has been linked-up with:

504 Main



  1. Love the chalkboard and the cake!

  2. We've never celebrated 3 Kings day, even though it is traditional to in Latin countries (which is my ancestry). Sounds like a neat tradition...I'll have to mark my calender for next year :-)

  3. Oh my, the cake looked VERY yummy. I hadn't heard of this holiday although I know the story well. Thanks for sharing.

  4. I've never done much for celebrating Epiphany: generally I use it as my guide that it's time to take the Christmas decorations down.

    I have made King Cake before, but like you mentioned in your post, have always associated it with Mardi Gras. (But with a name like King Cake, makes more sense that it would be associated with Epiphany!) Do you know how the tradition of the cake got shifted to Mardi Gras? Mardi Gras can be nearly two months after Epiphany, depending on when Easter falls - I wonder how the cake got all caught up in those traditions?

    The chalkboard looks great! I love all the little traditions you incorporate in your daily life!

  5. How interesting! I really didn't know anything about this holiday so it was great to get some info. And of course, the cake looks AMAZING! Got any left for me? : )

  6. mmm, the ooey, gooey cake pictures is enough to make me start preheating my oven right now! Yum :)

    Your chalkboard is just perfect - so perfect that I thought it was a printable until I started reading.

    This looks like such a fun celebration. Thanks for sharing all of the great info - and adding this to Sweets This Week!

    Happy Three Kings Day!


  7. Stopping by to wish you a happy SITS day and thank you for this great idea! I used to celebrate 12th night, but this is a family friendly idea! Will have to mark it on my calendar for next year!

  8. Pull-apart! What a great way to make an "epiphany" cake!


ar campaignName = ""; var postLabels = $('.post-labels a'); var insertBefore = $('.post-footer'); //END CODE OPTIONS - DO NOT EDIT BELOW THIS LINE var labels=[];var label;var alternateLabel;var minposts=minimum-1;if(postLabels.length===1){label=postLabels.text().trim()}else if(postLabels.length>1){$(postLabels).each(function(){labels.push($(this).text().trim())});label=labels[Math.floor(labels.length*Math.random())];var labelLocation=labels.indexOf(label);if(labelLocation===labels.length-1){alternateLabel=labels[labelLocation-1]}else{alternateLabel=labels[labelLocation+1]}}if(label!==undefined){var title=$(".entry-title").text().trim();var labelCount=0;var alternateLabelCount=0;var matches=[];var url=$('link[rel="alternate"][title*="Atom"]').eq(0).attr("href");$.ajax({url:url,data:{"max-results":maxSearched,alt:"json-in-script"},dataType:"jsonp",success:function(e){$.each(e.feed.entry,function(t,n){if(e.feed.entry[t].category!==undefined){var r=[];for(var i=0;i=minposts){label=alternateLabel}$.each(e.feed.entry,function(t,n){if(e.feed.entry[t].category!==undefined){var r=[];for(var i=0;i'+s+''+s+"")}else if(matches.length'+s+''+s+"")}}}}});if(matches.length>=minimum){if(relatedTitle===true&&labelInTitle===true){insertBefore.before('")}else if(relatedTitle===true&&labelInTitle===false){insertBefore.before('")}else{insertBefore.before('')}matches.sort(function(){return.5-Math.random()});for(var t=0;t