If you have ever wished for the Christmas season to never end, you might be Swiss. In the Alpine country, as in many European countries, there is a holiday on January 6, which many Americans associate with taking down their decorations from Christmas merriment.
Even to English blogger Diccon Bewes, January 6 means dried out pine trees and discarded wrappings piled up in the garbage along the street, the Swiss are celebrating Epiphany Day, the last of the Twelve Days of Christmas with a very special pastry, Dreikönigskuchen, of course drinking.
The baking of the Epiphany Cake, is one of Switzerland’s oldest traditions associated with the Christmas Holidays. Celebrating the Three Wise Men dropping by to give the infant Christ some bling and perfume, the Swiss also exchange small gifts when they go about to their friends and neighbors “Three Kings” parties. Like all the best holidays, the Swiss party hop from friends to feasting with family late into the evening, when the delicious sweets Switzerland is famous for come out of the kitchen.
In European countries, many foods are considered a mark of the individual’s national identity and the pastry tradition is a very serious business in Switzerland at the heart of a continent obsessed with mastering cuisine. The German’s make pastries from elastic, sugarless dough folded and fluffed over and over to create the light airy crust of their classic strudels. The French use a tissue-thin dough and lots of butter and baguette crumbs to give substance to their puff pastries.
Epiphany Day is no different for the Swiss and, like their language heritage, their pastry chefs use a menagerie of European styles. The Swiss’ Epiphany Cake is one of the many instances where the landlocked, crossroads country has taken its neighbors’ influence in full stride and created a lasting identity that is unique.
There is another reason for easily dividing the cake into many distinct section. The Epiphany Cake contains a token, which can be any figur. The first person to crunch into the diamond in the dough, or narrowly miss it with their teeth, gets to be “king” for the duration of the party and every other guest who took a losing piece of cake must fulfill a wish of the King or Queen. For the whole night.
Angie Cafiero, an Italian food enthusiast near the border with Switzerland has an amazingly simple recipe and the preparation is swift and clean. (Use Google Chrome, which will automatically translate, if you are less than proficient with the writer’s native language.) If you have no idea how to bake but want to impress a special friend at the next holiday office party, I suggest Food.com