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|
|Before baking, but with the dried fruit added|
|Freshly baked. It expanded much more in the oven.|
|We set the nativity up with the cake, to remember why we were celebrating.|