One of my favorite things about the holiday season is seeing the different traditions represented. There’s Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and the Feast of Theophany (aka Three Kings Day). Each year, our resident Spaniard Irene Melchor (Melchor being one of the three kings) would get us all together to celebrate Three Kings Day. We would all bring a food dish and she would bring the Kings’ cake.
Inside the cake there is always a baby to represent the baby Jesus. One of the treats while eating the cake is someone would always get a small plastic baby. This was a symbol of prosperity for the rest of the year. I could care less who actually got the baby when they bit into the cake because, seriously, who wants to bite into a plastic doll when they want to enjoy a sweet treat. I did, however, want to be the one to take the baby home. Call me weird, but I collected them.
Here are some of the more interesting traditions I found while I researched Three Kings Day.
- In Mexico, it is tradition to drink hot chocolate with the Kings’ cake.
- In parts of Mexico and the Caribbean, the person who receives the baby is to host a dinner party on Candelaria or what we know as Groundhog’s Day.
- In Puerto Rico, the kids put grass, hay, and straw in a box under their beds as a gift to the Kings’ horses or camels and in hopes of receiving lots of candy and toys.
- In Spain, the kids write letters to their favorite king (Melchor, Gaspar, or Baltasar) to ask for toys and goodies. Much like what the kids in the United States write to Santa Claus.
After doing much research, I found that no matter the tradition or the country, a Kings’ cake was always included. So to help you keep up with the tradition, I’ve included a recipe for Kings’ cake. It’s a cross between bread and a cake, so please follow the recipe precisely for best results. I’ve also included a family recipe for hot chocolate. No one ever went wrong with dipping anything sweet into hot chocolate J.
Three Kings Cake
1/8 cup butter
8 oz sour cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 package dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup warm water
3 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 tablespoon cinnamon
¼ cup butter, softened
- Combine first four ingredients in a saucepan. Heat until butter melts.
- In a separate bowl, dissolve the yeast and 1 tablespoon of sugar in the warm water. Let stand for 5 minutes
- Add the butter mixture, egg, and 1 cups of flour to the yeast mixture and beat at medium speed.
- Gradually stir in the remaining flour until the dough is smooth.
- On a lightly-floured surface, knead dough until smooth and elastic. Then place into a well-greased bowl and cover to let rise for 1 hour.
- In a separate bowl combine the cinnamon and sugar for the filling
- Once dough is doubled in size, pouch it down and roll it on a lightly floured surface. The final shape should be a rectangle.
- Spread the butter out evenly over the surface of the bread then evenly sprinkle the cinnamon and sugar.
- Roll the dough in cinnamon roll or jelly roll fashion, and pinch the edges to seal. At this time you may add the baby before you seal.
- Once sealed, bring the edges of the dough together to form a circle. Cover the dough for 20 minutes and bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes.
- Once cooled, use colored frosting or colored sugar to decorate as desired.
Yields: 4 servings
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup sugar
1 pinch of salt
4 cups warmed milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup half-and-half
- Heat milk in a saucepan until very hot, not boiling
- In a separate bowl, combine cocoa powder, milk, and salt
- Add the cocoa mixture to the hot milk, and let simmer for 3-5 minutes. DO NOT BOIL
- Remove from heat and add the vanilla and half-and-half. Serve hot.