I like to be the one to find the king in the “King Cake” during Lent. This is the green, yellow, and purple-frosted coffee-cake-like concoction, which sometimes is filled with cream cheese. It usually is decorated with Mardi Gras beads and other knick knacks. A little plastic baby, which symbolizes Jesus, is hidden in the cake.
Whoever is first to find the baby is supposed to buy the cake the next year. I just like the thrill of the hunt.
If you just can’t wait for the King Cakes to arrive, you can buy a “Rosca de Reyes,” also known as the “Three Kings” cake. It’s an Hispanic tradition for the feast of Epiphany. And it's another chance to find a plastic baby in a baker’s confectionery.
Kay Bakery, which also makes King Cakes, makes “Three Kings” cakes. This year, they’ll make about 400 cakes, says owner Queo Bautista.
The cake symbolizes the Three Wise Men. “When they brought gifts to Baby Jesus,” Bautista says.
A plastic baby is hidden in the cake, which symbolizes hiding Baby Jesus from King Herod. According to the Bible, Herod, who didn’t know where Jesus was, wanted to kill all baby boys who were born about the time Jesus was born to make sure he’d get rid of him. He was afraid Jesus was going to one day become the new ruler.
Unlike the fancy “King Cake,” the “Three Kings Cake” basically is “bread with some fruit on top,” Bautista says.
The sweet fruits on top of the cake are candied figs, cherries, and strips of green, yellow and red candied papaya, which symbolize the gifts the Kings brought Jesus. They were gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Dollops of yellow sugar icing also adorn the top of the cake, which is made from a slightly sweet dough.
The cake is round to symbolize that “Jesus has no beginning and no end,” Bautista says.
In Mexico, the cake traditionally is served on Epiphany Sunday, which, this year, is January 6th. Children receive small gifts — “Not as big as Christmas” — to symbolize the gifts, which the kings brought Jesus. “Gifts to the new king.”
I love the subtle, sweet taste of the Epiphany Cake. And, to make things even sweeter, I instantly found the plastic baby. Unlike the little pink ones usually in a seated position in the King Cake, these babies are white and in a standing position. My editor said the baby looked like an “android.”
You can order Epiphany Cakes through January 5th at Kay Bakery. Small, which serves 12, is $18; medium, which serves 20, is $25; and large, which serves 30, is $30.
Kay Bakery is at 667 Avon Road. Call: (901)-767-0780.