Tuesday, January 5, 2016
Rosca de Reyes: Mexico's Traditional Epiphany Three Kings Ring Cake
In Mexico, a flourishing Christmas tradition is the Rosca de Reyes, a circular sweet bread with a hole in the centre that is given to friends and family and eaten on 6 January, the Dia de los Reyes (Three Kings' Day), or Epiphany. This is the day that Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar - the three kings, wise men or magi - are said to have arrived in Bethlehem to give their presents to the baby Jesus.
The rosca itself is in the shape of a bejeweled crown, with the fruit representing the encrusted jewels.
The tradition of sharing these cakes around 6 January goes back to Roman times and the founding of the Catholic church. It was brought to the New World by the Spanish conquistadores and the Catholic priests who came in their wake to convert the native people.
In Spain, the cake is known as the Roscón de Reyes, and 6 January is the day that children traditionally check their stockings for presents (despite the influence of a certain chuckly, chubby, bearded guy to have all the present giving on Christmas Day). In Britain. although rarely seen nowadays, we have the similar Twelfth Night Cake.
In Mexico, it's traditional to share a rosca de reyes with work colleagues in the days leading up to 6 January or on the day itself with family.
The rosca is typically served with a cup of hot chocolate and as each guest is served, everybody waits to see who will get the slice with a plastic figure of the baby Jesus inside (like the sixpence in a Christmas pudding).
On the one hand, it's considered good luck for whoever gets the baby figure. Not so lucky is the fact that this person will have to serve tamales for everybody at another reunion on 2 February (Candlemass).
Nowadays you also find images of the wise men baked in the rosca, and whoever gets a wise man has to cough up the cash for the 2 February tamales or split the bill with the one who got the baby, although traditions differ in different regions of Mexico.
My birthday falls on 6 January so for me it was a real treat to find out about the Mexican tradition of the rosca de reyes, and an even bigger treat to find an authentic rosca at the PacificoMX taco stall in Atlantic Road, Brixton, London. If you fancy trying one, contact Su or Ivan at PacificoMX via their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Pacificomxcouk-500128480166760/
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