When I was little, I was always looking forward to the Swiss Three Kings Cake. As in Switzerland, on the 6th of January, everybody eats a Three Kings Cake. It’s a tradition I loved. I must admit, mostly because I always had so much luck whit picking the right dough ball to be king for one day. My poor two sisters….
If you don’t know this tradition, the Swiss Three Kings Cake is comparable to a Zopf but sweeter, and it is formed with a big middle and six to eight balls lying around it. One of the smaller balls contains a little plastic king, but you do not know which one it is. So everybody can take one piece, eats it carefully, and when you bite on the king, you will get a crown which you have to wear for the whole day. For sure, when you are a kid it’s super funny. If you are parents, you should hope that you don’t have the piece with the king in it.
My recipe for the Swiss Three Kings Cake is not the easiest one, and it takes a bit of time and work, but it’s so delicious. If you want to surprise your kids, please take the time to make one by yourself, they will love you for it (and your spouse too).
You have to start one day in advance; the best is about noon or in the early afternoon. It takes you about 8 hours when you start with the poolish until you place your dough into the fridge to slowly rise overnight. I know, it’s a lot of time, but totally worth it. The good part is, the next morning, on the three kings day, you just have to wake up, preheat your oven for one hour, take your dough out of the fridge and place it right away in the oven, bake it for 30 minutes and ready to serve for breakfast. On top of that, your dough will be super fluffy and delicious.
Swiss Three Kings Cake
Swiss Three Kings Cake is comparable to a Zopf but sweeter, and it is formed with a big middle and six to eight balls lying around it.
- 80 g Zopf flour 90% all purpose flour & 10% spelt flour
- 80 g milk
- 1 g fresh yeast
- 320 g Zopf flour 90% all purpose flour & 10% spelt flour
- 170 g milk room temperature
- 6 g fresh yeast
- 8 g salt
- 0.5 lemon only zest
- 60 g butter room temperature
- 35 g caster sugar
- 1 package bourbon vanilla sugar 1 package ~ 8g
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp milk
- 3 tbsp coarse sugar
- To make the poolish, mix the zopf flour, milk and fresh yeast in a bowl or big glass jar. I use a 500ml Weck glass jar for it. Close it with the lid or a plastic wrap and leave it to sit at room temperature for 5 hours. Your poolish will rise to at least double the size, so make sure to use a jar which is big enough.
- After 4 hours, take out the milk and butter from the fridge and let it warm to room temperature (1 hour is a suitable time).
- Add the poolish, zopf flour, milk, fresh yeast, salt and lemon zest to your kitchen machine and knead at the lowest possible speed for 5 minutes.
- Turn the speed level one up and knead for another 5 minutes.
- Add the butter, piece by piece, until well combined with the dough. This will take you about 5-10 minutes.
- Add the sugar and bourbon vanilla sugar and mix for another 5 minutes until the sugar is combined with the dough.
- Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel and let it rise for 2 hours at room temperature.
- After 2 hours, your dough should have doubled in its size. Place it on a well-floured working surface and cut away six pieces of about 80g. The remaining part is for the middle.
- Form all pieces into round balls. The easiest way is to fold the outside of the dough into the middle, turn it upside down and form a ball with your hands. Don't forget to place a little king or an almond in one of the balls.
- On a baking paper, place the biggest ball into the middle and lay the other 6 pieces around it. Put it on a large plate, cover with a damp kitchen towel and leave it in your fridge overnight. Your dough will now slowly rise overnight.
- The next morning, preheat your oven to 190°C/350°F (conventional). It will take up to one hour till your entire oven reaches this temperature.
- At the same time, take your dough out of the fridge, mix one egg with a tablespoon of milk in a small bowl and brush your dough with it. Leave it at room temperature until your oven is preheated.
- Brush your dough again with the egg-milk-mixture and sprinkle with coarse sugar.
Bake your three kings cake for 30 minutes and let it cool down on a rack.
Never add the whole liquid (milk or water) from beginning to your dough. Always keep 10% left and add it carefully step by step while kneading your dough. It depends on the quality and ingredients of your flour, how much liquidity it can take up. For example, on this recipe, 160g milk might be enough for flour A, but flour B needs 175g. If you don't have the feeling for it, better add less than too much liquidity to your dough, once added, you cannot take it out again 🙂