In France, two versions of king cake predominate, one from the north and one from the south. The northern version is puff pastry filled with frangipane, while the southern king cake contains dried and candied fruits in a brioche pastry. But what all king cakes have in common is a small trinket - often a representation of the baby Jesus - which confers special powers on the person who finds it, much like the lucky sixpence in a British Christmas pudding.
A low-effort recipe (using ready-made puff pastry) can be found below, courtesy of the BBC's Good Food website. As Twelfth Night is tomorrow, life really is too short to make homemade puff pastry in the week the world returns to work.
400g ready-made puff pastry
2 rounded tbsp apricot jam
100g softened butter
100g caster sugar
1 lighly beaten egg
100g ground almonds
2 tbsp cognac or dark rum
1. Heat the oven to 200C/fanC180/gas 6.
2. Divide the ready-made puff pastry in half, roll out each piece and cut into a 25cm round. Put one round on a baking sheet and spread with the apricot jam to within 2cm of the edges.
3. Beat together the softened butter and caster sugar until light and fluffy, then beat in the egg. Stir in the ground almonds and cognac or dark rum.
4. Spoon the mixture over the jam, spreading it evenly. Brush the edges of the pastry with water, then cover with the second piece, pressing the edges to seal. Mark the top of the pastry from the centre to the edges like the spokes of a wheel or in a zig zag pattern, then brush with beaten egg.
5. Bake for 25-30 mins until crisp and golden. Serve warm or cold.