Reader Ed writes:
The King’s Cake that you just made and posted pictures of, complete with swirling decorative cuts – is what I grew up calling a Pithivier. The only differences are – no bean, and we brush the top of the pastry with beaten egg yolk BEFORE scoring the pastry. The egg yolk glaze (two layers) makes the cake a very dark brown and the score marks are noticably lighter in color. We use a pairing knife, turns on it’s side, so the score is a bit wider as well.
So, is the classic King Cake just a Pithivier, renamed or re-purposed for use at the holiday?
That certainly seems to be the case. This pastry (a puff pastry pie filled with frangipane) goes by the name Pithivier in more than a few cookbooks. Pithviers (with an “s”) is a town in northern France where it’s said this small miracle was invented. Galette des Rois is known as a northern French specialty, so that all seems to jibe rather well. As to why some people call it galette des Rois and others call it Pithivier I have no idea. Maybe it’s just the time of year you eat it. Perhaps a French reader would care to shed a little light on this?