To eat King´s Cake in Latin American countries is something very special during the Day of the Epiphany or three King´s Day on January 6. This custom finds its origin in the times of the antique Roman Empire.
The Catholic church adopted this originally pagan tradition into their religious customs, and later it made its way to the new Spain with the Spanish colonization.
In Mexico the representation of the nativity is incorporated into the King´s cake. Inside the cake there are one or various little porcelain, ceramic or plastic dolls which are heat resistant and which represent Jesus Christ that had to be hidden and protected by Mary and Joseph to be saved from Herodes. The amount of the dolls that are put inside the cake vary as to the size of the cake that is made. Whoever gets one of the little dolls in his piece of cake is supposed to make a party and prepare tamales on February 2 which is the day of the Candelaria. During this celebration it is the custom to eat wrapped tamales to represent Jesus, wrapped in clothes, being presented at the temple.
The rosca de reyes (King´s cake) represents a crown, and is adorned with dried and crystallized colored fruits which simulated jewels incrusted in the crowns of the King´s men which signified peace, love and happiness.
For the Christians, the circular form represents the love of God which has not beginning or end.
Some investigations say that the origin of this round sweetbread is French where a lima bean was hidden inside the bread. Today in France, the sweetbread takes the name of Galette de Rois or King´s Cake and is formed with puff pastry on a flat surface.
In Spain it is called Roscon de Reyes, and it is made with orange blossom water with dried fruits and looks very much like the Mexican Rosca de Reyes. It is said that this custom celebrates the last get together of the Christmas holidays, during which time gifts may be exchanged and to remember the gifts that were given to baby Jesus by the three kings.
In some places in Mexico the people have the custom to put a ring or a thimble in the sweetbread. If the person finds a ring in his piece means that he will soon be getting married, and the person finding the thimble will remain single for at least a year.
3 lbs. flour
2 packages of dry yeast
½ tsp. salt
1 ½ C. of sugar
1 ½ C. of milk
3 tsp. of grated orange rind
1 ½ lbs. butter
1 little porcelain or plastic doll
Put all of the ingredients except the butter and the plastic doll in the mixer. Add the butter until you get an elastic and firm dough.
Decoration with vegetable shortening
1 lb. of vegetable shortening
1 lb. of sugar
1 lb. flour
Cream the shortening with the sugar, adding in the flour
Fruits for the decoration
Caramelized orange rind and figs, cherries, etc.
Shape the dough into a large circle and add in the little doll. Take pieces of the vegetable shortening decoration and make flattened strips and place on cake like rings around the cake and decorate with the fruits.
Bake for 40 minutes to an hour at 350°.