Celebrate the Epiphany with a Dreikönigskuchen or Swiss Three Kings Cake. This brioche-like cake is perfect for sharing, and whoever finds the hidden fève is crowned king for the day! Follow my Dreikönigskuchen recipe with step-by-step photos.
Swiss Three Kings Cake
If there is one thing that can chase the post-Christmas blues away, it is the knowledge that the Epiphany is just around the corner. Once all of the Gingerbread Men, Panettone and Fruit Mince Pies have been devoured in the lead-up to Christmas, one can then look forward to the joys of the Dreikönigskuchen to celebrate the Epiphany on 6 January.
What is a Dreikönigskuchen?
A Dreikönigskuchen is a Swiss Three Kings Cake. It is made of a sweetened enriched dough, often studded with raisins or chocolate chips, and baked in the shape of a crown.
A fève is hidden inside one of the buns, and whoever finds the fève is crowned king for the day!
It is a fun cake to share with family and friends, and it is also common for teams at work to celebrate together with a very large Dreikönigskuchen – you can buy some specially made with 15 or more buns!
But don’t think that you need to enjoy a Dreikönigskuchen in big groups. In recent years, bakeries and supermarkets have been selling mini versions with just 3 buns, and which happen to be a nice treat for the kids to share at afternoon tea. And it goes without saying, the less buns, the greater the chance of winning the crown!
Dreikönigskuchen vs Galette des Rois
The Dreikönigskuchen is traditionally eaten in the German-speaking parts of Switzerland, hence the German name.
In the French-speaking region of Switzerland, the French-style Galette des Rois is more common. Instead of a brioche-like dough, a Galette des Rois is instead a pie made from puff pastry with a layer of frangipane in the middle.
One of my favourite bakeries in Zurich, Confiserie Sprüngli, actually sells a Dreikönigskuchen which sits on a bottom layer of hazelnut frangipane and puff pastry. For me, it is certainly the best of both worlds!
Different Types of Fèves
When eating a shop-bought Dreikönigskuchen or Galette des Rois, you are most likely going to find a white plastic fève inside. Some specialist bakeries use porcelain fèves, but these are quite rare.
The traditional fèves depict a religious figure, which is not surprising, given that the cake is to mark a religious holiday. But in recent times, non-religious fèves have become quite popular, especially as a collector’s item among home cooks in France.
I was once shopping in a French supermarket and found packets of ground almonds which were running a promotion and which came with different porcelain fèves depicting some of my kids’ favourite cartoon characters. Needless to say, I bought a lot of ground almonds that day!
Alternatives to Fèves
If you can’t find any porcelain fèves, simply use a large dried bean or even a coin wrapped in foil. Whatever you choose to use, make sure that it is large enough to avoid any risk of choking, and also so that it can be found easily.
Enjoying with Young Children
When eating a Dreikönigskuchen with young children, I often ask them to break open the buns first to search for the fève, before they start eating. This is to reduce the risk of a young child accidentally swallowing a fève or choking on one.
That said, my kids have always been very careful when eating a Dreikönigskuchen, and I have never actually heard of anyone choking on a fève …
A Swiss Dreikönigskuchen is made from a sweetened enriched dough, so it is essentially a sweet bread. It is similar in taste and texture to a brioche bun or, if you are Australian, a cream bun but without the cream 😉
A traditional Dreikönigskuchen is often made with raisins but, these days, it is also common to find them made with chocolate chips as well. Simply substitute the raisins in the recipe below for some good-quality chocolate chips.
How to Make a Three Kings Cake
Measure the flour, sugar, yeast and salt into the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Lightly mix the ingredients together.
Slowly add the warm milk (you may not need all of it), and lightly beat everything with the dough hook until it comes together into a large ball of dough. Only add as much milk as you need to bring the ingredients together into a dough.
Slowly incorporate the butter, one tablespoon at a time, until all of the butter has been used.
Then increase the speed to medium and continue kneading with the dough hook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Lightly oil a large mixing bowl, and place the dough into the bowl. Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and leave it somewhere warm for 1 to 1.5 hours, or until the dough has doubled in size.
Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it back and knead it gently into a smooth ball.
Add the raisins and knead the dough for about 5 minutes to incorporate the raisins.
Portion the dough into 8 small pieces, plus 1 large piece. The small pieces of dough should weigh about 100 g/3.5 oz each.
Roll each small piece of dough into a smooth ball.
Hide a plastic or porcelain fève into one of the pieces of dough. Alternatively, you could use a large dried bean, or even a coin wrapped in foil. Just make sure it is not too small as there may be a risk of choking.
Arrange the small pieces of dough evenly on a sheet of baking paper into the shape of a circle. Leave a bit of space between each piece to allow them to puff up slightly.
Place the large piece of dough into the centre.
Loosely cover the dough with a sheet of cling film.
Place the dough somewhere warm for about 30 minutes, or until the dough has puffed up slightly.
When you are ready to bake, brush the cake with some egg wash, and sprinkle generously with pearl sugar.
Bake the cake for about 30 minutes, or until it is golden brown. The cake is cooked when an internal thermometer reads 85°C/185°F.
More Kings Cake Recipes
If you are looking for other types of Kings Cake, you might also like:Print
- Resting Time: 2 hours
- Prep Time: 1 hour
- Cook Time: 30 mins
- Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
- Yield: Serves 8 to 12
- Category: Bread
- Method: Oven
- Cuisine: Swiss
Celebrate the Epiphany with a Dreikönigskuchen or Swiss Three Kings Cake. This brioche-like cake is perfect for sharing, and whoever finds the hidden fève is crowned king for the day!
For the dough
- 600 g (4 cups) strong white bread flour
- 110 g (1/2 cup) caster sugar
- 1 teaspoon fine salt
- 14 g (4 teaspoons) instant dried yeast (see Kitchen Notes below)
- 375 ml (1 1/2 cups) milk, warmed to 37°C (98°F)
- 60 g (4 tablespoons) butter, softened
- 80 g (1/2 cup) sultanas or raisins
- 1 plastic or porcelain fève, or a large dried bean, or a coin wrapped in foil
For the egg wash
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1 tablespoon milk
- pearl sugar
- 1 paper crown
To make the dough
- Measure the flour, sugar, salt and yeast into the bowl of an electric stand mixer.
- Lightly mix the ingredients together using the dough hook.
- Slowly pour in the warm milk, and continue mixing until everything comes together into a rough dough.
- Add the butter, one tablespoon at a time. Once the butter has been fully incorporated into the dough, add the next tablespoon of butter.
- Once all of the butter has been added, continue kneading the dough on medium speed for about 15 to 20 minutes.
- The dough is ready when it is soft and smooth, and also slightly elastic in texture when you try to stretch it. If you poke the dough softly, it should bounce back right away.
- Lightly oil a large mixing bowl.
- Place the dough inside the bowl.
- Cover the dough with a clean tea towel.
- Leave the dough somewhere warm for 1 to 1.5 hours, or until the dough has doubled in size (see Kitchen Notes below).
- Once the dough has doubled in size, punch back the dough to release all of the air.
- Gently knead the dough a few times, and then knead in all of the raisins.
To portion the dough
- Pat the dough into a long log.
- Cut off 8 small pieces of dough. If you are using kitchen scales, each piece should weigh 100 g/3.5 oz.
- Roll each piece of small dough into a smooth ball.
- Hide a plastic or porcelain fève inside one of the small pieces of dough.
- Roll the remaining dough into a large circle.
To shape the dough
- Line a baking tray with baking paper.
- Evenly arrange the 8 small pieces of dough into a circle on the baking paper, leaving a bit of room between each.
- Place the large piece of dough in the middle of the arrangement.
- Cover the dough loosely with a sheet of cling film.
- Place the dough somewhere warm for about 30 minutes, or until the dough has puffed up slightly.
To bake the Dreikönigskuchen
- Preheat the oven to 220°C (428°F) (without fan).
- Make the egg wash by lightly whisking together the egg and milk.
- Brush the cake with some egg wash.
- Sprinkle pearl sugar generously all over the cake.
- Bake for about 30-40 minutes, or until the cake is lightly golden. Check the cake at about 15 minutes, and if it is browning too quickly, cover the cake with a loose sheet of foil for the rest of the baking time.
- The cake is cooked if an internal thermometer reads 85°C (185°F).
- Gently remove the cake to a wire rack, and leave to cool completely.
- Whoever finds the fève is crowned king or queen for the day!
ALTERNATIVES TO PEARL SUGAR
If pearl sugar is not available, you could use flaked almonds, which are also traditionally used in Switzerland.
* Instead of raisins, use the same quantity of chocolate chips.
* Omit the raisins for a plain dough.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF FLOUR
* For Swiss readers: I use Zopfmehl (or farine pour tresse) when making bread and enriched dough.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF YEAST
* Please note that there is a difference between instant yeast (also called instant dried yeast or fast-action dried yeast) and dried yeast (also called active dry yeast). If you are not sure what type of yeast you have, please check the packaging for instructions on how to use the yeast.
* With instant yeast, you can add it directly to the flour mixture without having to activate it first.
* With dried yeast, you will need to activate it first (usually in some warm liquid).
* If you are using fresh yeast, you will need about one block (40 g fresh yeast = 14 g instant dried yeast). Crumble the fresh yeast into the warm milk, and stir to dissolve the yeast.
PROOFING THE DOUGH
Dough needs a warm environment for the yeast to activate and cause the dough to rise. If you don’t have a warm place in your home, try one of the following ideas:
* In the oven with the oven light switched on (works only for some ovens).
* In the oven with a tray of boiling water on the bottom shelf.
* In the oven at a low temperature of about 25-30°C (77-86°F).
* On the open oven door, with the oven turned on at 100°C (212°F).
All recipes on this website state temperatures for a regular oven (i.e. a conventional oven without fan). If you have a convection oven with a fan, please consult the manufacturer’s handbook on how to adjust the temperature and baking time accordingly.
To convert from cups to grams, and vice-versa, please see this handy Conversion Chart for Basic Ingredients.
This recipe was first published on 3 November 2020. It has been updated with new photos and more comprehensive recipe notes.