King Cake, anyone?

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roscas at the bakery

I am thinking about finding or making a king cake to bring to school on Wednesday.  It is Epiphany.  I remember well my different encounters with King Cake.  I am from Lafayette, Louisiana, so I have had all sorts of New Orleans style king cakes.  Being a gourmand, I have to admit that my favorite kind has always been one with as much cream cheese, fruit filling and icing as possible.

When I was living in France, I got turned on to the galette des rois, which is a puff pastry confection with frangipane inside.  Frangipane is a type of almond paste – coarser and more natural than marzipan.  I think it is also put in almond croissants.

When I came to Georgia, I had a great time sharing the king cake tradition with my students and friends.  I even would go all the way to New Orleans for Mardi Gras “just” to bring back kings cakes for my high school French students.  I know, the sacrifices we teachers have to make…  The most notable year was when I transported the aforementioned loaded cakes home and forgot to keep them horizontal.  Can I just say that we had a major collapse on our hands?

I used to have dinner parties in January, and I was so excited to find a bakery in Atlanta that made the frangipane filled cakes.  They were more expensive, so I was loathe to get those for my 6th graders that I taught at the time.  But I did buy a couple for one of my dinner parties.  My French friend clucked disapprovingly at my addition of a raspberry coulis, but I thought it went very well with the cake.

I only recently became familiar with the Mexican version of the king cake, called a rosca de reyes.  It is a relatively plain concoction – a yeast bread with fruit and maybe some nuts that is garnished with candied fruit.  I just happened to be driving home one January 6th when I passed a panaderia in Marietta.  They were making hundreds of roscas, and they were selling like, um, well – hotcakes.

I purchased a couple – one to share with my colleagues at school and a smaller one for my students.  I think they were pretty expensive:  $20 for the small one and $30 for the larger one.  Before I went home that night, for some reason I stopped by my favorite taqueria to have a couple of tacos de lengua.  I happened to mention to the proprietor that I had snagged these cakes on the other side of town, and she ended up buying one from me.

I was looking for recipes online and found this little group forum invitation.  You may go to the website, but here is the deal:

How to participate:
Please read and follow the instructions below. King Cake 2009

  • Bake or buy a King Cake, take pictures (if possible) and blog about the cake and your family tradition and don’t forget to mention who was the “crowned” king
  • Please link back to this announcement in your post, and eventually to the roundup.
  • Fill in the form below and your post will be listed in the roundup.
  • Last day of submission is January 8

If you click on the link to the right and look at last year’s contributors, you will see that there are all sorts of cake traditions for Epiphany.  I just read that even panettone – that Italian fruitcake that is on sale now everywhere – has been used for king’s cake as well.

Here are some more:  The Bolo Rei – from Portugal, the Tortell from Catalonia, Vasilopita from Greece, Banitsa from Bulgaria, etc.

Maybe I’ll make my old cheap stand-by.  One year, I purchased cans and cans of pop and serve cinnamon rolls.  It was easy:  I just opened up the cans, separated the rolls, and arranged them in circles or ovals – just like a real king’s cake.  I made some extra icing and either colored the icing green, purple, and yellow (Mardi Gras colors) or used sprinkles in those colors on white icing.  It was pretty good, too.  I just waited to hide the token or baby until after the cakes were done.

Hey, I just found a similar recipe from Sandra Lee of Semi-Homemade!   Here is another using crescent rolls and a filling…  I did NOT, however, find and “easy” rosca de reyes recipe.  Hmph.

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