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Celebrate Three Kings Day with Rosca de Reyes

January 5, 2012 |  4:14 pm

Cake

The holiday season isn't quite over just yet. Friday marks the 12th day of Christmas, known as Three Kings Day or El Día de los Reyes Magos, the Epiphany. Christians believe that on this day the three kings, also known as wisemen, arrived in Bethlehem bearing gifts for the newly born Jesus.

Celebrations typically include caroling and of course culinary treats, the most famous being the Rosca de Reyes, a festive round cake topped with trinkets and candy. Baked into the cake is a small plastic baby Jesus. If you find him in your slice, tradition says you must throw a party on Feb. 2, Candlemas Day, and serve tamales to your guests.

KingscakeTo celebrate the big day, Pink Taco in Century City is offering patrons their own version of Rosca de Reyes. Their smaller, individual cakes still feature the signature hole in the middle but are made with a gummy bear instead of a baby Jesus, and fresh raspberries, blueberries and a raspberry sorbet take the place of more traditional candy.

If you're in the mood for a full festive meal, you can feast on items from their special Three Kings Day menu such as the signature pink taco with Yucatan-style panuchos, achiote grilled chicken and habanero pickled onions, sweet corn tamal and their signature En Fuego cocktail, made with El Jimador Blanco Tequila topped with a float of high-proof rum to set a fire at your table.

La Morenita bakery in Cypress and La Monarca bakery in Huntington Park also specialize in making the round cakes for the holiday.

If you'd like to try your hand at making your own Rosca de Reyes, check out a recipe from our test kitchen:

Rosca de Reyes (Kings Cake)

Total time: 1 1/2 hours, plus rising times

Servings: 24 (Makes 2 cakes)

2 (¼-ounce) packets active dry yeast

1/2 cup warm water, plus more for brushing

5 to 6 cups (21.25 to 25.5 ounces) flour, divided

3 eggs, divided

7 egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling over the cakes

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature

Grated zest of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons orange flower water

2 small plastic dolls

1/3 cup chopped candied orange peel

1/3 cup chopped acitron (candied biznaga cactus) or candied figs

1. In a large bowl, or in the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the yeast with the water and a tablespoon of the flour. Set aside until the yeast begins to bubble.

2. When the yeast is bubbly, add 2 eggs, the egg yolks, sugar, salt, butter, lemon zest and orange flower water. Using a hand mixer or the paddle attachment of a stand mixer, beat the mixture until the ingredients are thoroughly combined.

3. With the mixer running, begin to add the flour, a spoonful at a time. Continue adding flour until you have a soft, smooth dough; you may not use all of the flour. Form the dough into a ball. Place it in a large, greased bowl and cover with a damp cloth or loosely with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place until it is doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours.

4. Punch the dough down and re-form a ball. Re-cover the dough and set aside again until doubled in size, another 1 to 2 hours.

5. Divide the risen dough into 2 pieces. Form each piece into a ball, and punch a hole in the center of the ball (this can be done with the handle of a wooden spoon). Gently stretch the hole, widening the dough into the shape of a wreath. Keep stretching the dough to widen the circle (alternate between the 2 pieces of dough, giving one time to relax as you work on the other half). Continue until each round is 8 to 10 inches in diameter, and the hole in the center is at least 4 inches in diameter. Insert 1 small plastic doll at a random location in each round.

6. Place the rounds on a floured piece of parchment paper set on a baking sheet. Loosely cover each wreath with a greased piece of plastic wrap, and set aside until almost doubled in size, about 1 hour. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

7. Whisk the remaining egg with 1 to 2 tablespoons water to make an egg wash. Remove the plastic wrap and brush each round with the wash, then decorate each round in alternating stripes of candied orange and acitron, along with stripes of sugar.

8. Place the baking sheets in the oven and bake until the cakes are lightly browned and a toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Rotate the cakes halfway through baking for even cooking.

Each serving: 220 calories; 5 grams protein; 28 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 10 grams fat; 6 grams saturated fat; 108 mg cholesterol; 6 grams sugar; 65 mg sodium.

-- Jenn Harris
Twitter.com/jenn_harris_

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Photo: Plastic babies are traditionally hidden in the Three Kings cakes. Credit: Kirk McKoy/Los Angeles Times

Right photo: Version of the Three Kings cake from Pink Taco. Credit: Pink Taco

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