12 January 2016

Día de Los Reyes Magos {Three Kings' Day}

If you're coming over from another blog linked in the SOTBS blog hop, welcome! In an attempt to blog more often, a few women and myself, the "South of the Border Sisters" as we call ourselves, have decided to start a monthly blog hop. Take a look around, and if you also have a South Of The Border post to share, feel free to link up your post!

I love Three Kings' Day. A lot of people assume that after the 25th of December, Christmas is over. And for a lot of people, it is. However, as a Catholic, Christmas is just getting started on Christmas Eve. And it lasts all the way into January. We get the whole "12 Days of Christmas" thing.

Christmastide officially ends on the Feast of the Epiphany, traditionally on January 6th. In the US, this feast day is usually moved to the Sunday closest to the 6th (this year that day was January 3rd). The Feast of the Epiphany commemorates the arrival of the three wise men from afar who came bearing gifts for the Christ child. In Mexico and many other countries, this is the day for gift giving, not Christmas day, which is a religious day. Traditionally, a King's cake (Rosca de Reyes) is eaten with hot chocolate. Whoever finds the Christ child hidden in their slice of cake has to make the tamales for the last feast of the winter holidays, La Candalaria, Candlemas, on February 2nd. In fact, many people who have now put away their Christmas decorations, will leave their nativity sets up until that day.

Last year, I bought a rosca at the local grocery store bakery in Mexico and we split it with some friends. Since I was alone this year with just the kids and my American family, I decided to try to MAKE my own rosca de reyes. It is a little like making bread, which, I had never done. Also, I had to make the dough twice, because the first batch never rose until hours later. I apparently didn't activate the yeast. Also, I didn't know where to find the baby Jesus figurines. I went to a Mexican bakery and they had them for about a dime a piece. I got two, just in case I screwed something up. The baby figurine is hidden inside of the cake to remind us that Mary and Joseph had to hide the Christ child from Herod by escaping to Egypt.

I searched and searched for a recipe that I might try, one the didn't seem too intimidating for a novice bread maker. I found this one on Pinterest after doing a search, but even then, it didn't seem quite right. So I improvised. Anywhere in the recipe that it called for lemon juice or lemon zest, I substituted vanilla and almond extract. Now, messing around with recipes the first time you try them is not very good advice. I lucked out, but I wouldn't do it again. Especially since, as I mentioned before, I had to do this twice.

Before baking and all of the fruit
The King's Cake recipe above calls for icing and colored sugar. Traditional Mexican rosca has candied fruit on it.  I don't know where to buy candied fruit and  So again, I improvised. I bought several types of dried fruit and sliced almonds. I was going to make a pretty design with the almonds, but Isaias decided to help me.

Before baking, but with the dried fruit added
I tried to make a design with the dried fruit, but it didn't want to stick to the dough very well. I used dried figs, Craisins, and dried apricots. There was not really any rhyme or reason for these fruits except they were available at the store. The colorful fruit is supposed to remind us of the jewels on the crowns of the Three Kings.

Freshly baked. It expanded much more in the oven.
I baked the bread, and I had no idea what I was doing. Fortunately, my mom was available to check everything for me, because I would have burned this things silly. The bread itself expanded much more inside of the oven; I was not expecting that. I would have used the bigger cookie sheet and made the rosca wider had I known that it would do that.

We set the nativity up with the cake, to remember why we were celebrating.
On the morning of January 6th, we woke up and I made some Mexican hot chocolate (basically hot chocolate with cinnamon), read the Bible story of the visit of the Wise Men, and we sliced open the cake. The kids wanted to dig through the whole thing trying to see who could find Baby Jesus. But, it was my dearest dad, who found him by nearly swallowing the Baby Jesus. After eating the rosca, which wasn't nearly as dry as a store-bought, we spent the afternoon taking down the Christmas decorations and the tree. I am always a little bummed by the end of Christmas, but I am also glad that everything is now put away in time for Baby's arrival in just a few short weeks!


  1. How wonderful that you make your own rosca! I have yet to try my hand at it, but I agree that the store-bought ones tend to be a bit dry. We try to get ours from a local panaderia (bakery). Maybe I'll give it a go next year.

  2. What a wonderful way to celebrate Día de Reyes with your family in the US! Día de Reyes is easily my favorite holiday here in Mexico. Yay for you making your rosca completely from scratch! That is totally awesome and you should be VERY proud of yourself! I would love this rosca with the dried fruit.

    We do our rosca on the evening of the 5th, in the same spirit that we have our Christmas dinner on the 24th. Plus, it's the last day before the younger kiddies go back to school.

    Thanks so much for joining the blog hop this month and for giving us this glimpse into your life.