This is one of those modified pastry or brioche dough and yeasted cakes you only make once per year, after the New Year festivities and for Epiphany on January 6, especially in francophone countries and regions or for Mardi Gras in February, in many countries overseas. Because it’s a multi-step cake, even when initially mixing it and a multi-rise dough, with filling and shaping steps and decorating and garnishing steps too, you need to begin one day ahead.
You usually make two (by doubling the recipe) and you have one with the family (if the holiday happens to be in the middle of the week) and then one with guests on the weekend right after Epiphany, but this tradition can go on until the middle or the end of the month.
I made this cake for my birthday and Orthodox Christmas which is on January 7 and I cannot tell a lie, it isn’t easy but it’s really good, and it only happens once per year anyways !
There are 2 versions of this Epiphany-inspired dessert. The easier one requires puff-pastry and a frangipane (almond custard) filling but many variations exist (as I’ve shown you several times on the blog) called GALLETTE DES ROIS, predominant in central and northern France. Then there’s the BRIOCHE or COURONNE DES ROIS, made with a yeasted, soft brioche dough, with diced candied citrus pieces inside, usually scented with orange blossom water, covered in rock sugar and decorated with colorful candied fruits and typical of southern France.
Brioche dough requires some technique because it’s soft, which is why chilling it several times is helpful because you don’t want the butter to melt even when it’s incorporated because long mixing heats up the dough. It has to be mixed and rested several times and it needs to rise and to be deflated twice before the final rise and baking and I strongly recommend using a high bundt pan or any type of higher baking pan to contain it. It also can dry out quickly so the syrup coating I use (instead of an egg wash) seals it and sweetens it appropriately and helps to keep it fresh and moist for several days, when well covered with plastic film of course, unless all eaten on the first day.
My version is with CHESTNUTS, in all its forms and variations. I use some chestnut flour in the mixture, I fill the cake with sweetened chestnut cream and chopped up chestnuts that were preserved in syrup (to thicken and firm up the softer cream) and I brush the cake several times (almost soaking the crust) with chestnut syrup and I finally decorate the cake with whole candied chestnuts, rock sugar and some chopped sweetened chestnuts again. Candied chestnuts are quite expensive but chestnuts in syrup are more affordable so you can use those instead.
Have a great & chilly weekend and if you don’t feel like making this cake, just ROAST SOME CHESTNUTS IN THE OVEN instead ! … :)