Epiphany is the time the Three Kings, a.k.a. the Magi, visited Jesus. According to a web site on Christmas customs, Epiphany means “revelation” and refers to the coming of the Wise Men to Bethlehem after the birth of Jesus, when Jesus was revealed to be very important. The three Wise Men had seen a large star in the sky, and thought it portended the birth of a messiah, in accordance with prophesies. Thus, the Bible relates, Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthazar made their way to Bethlehem on the order of King Herod, who wanted to know if a “rival” had indeed been born.
[Today, both Balthazar and Melchior have large wine bottles named after them – 12 liters and 18 liters respectively, but alas, Gaspar is left out. Per Mental Floss, “No word on why Gaspar, the third wise man, did not get a bottle named after him.”]
In any event, Epiphany is celebrated in many countries with a special cake. In America it’s called a “Kings’ Cake.” Other languages repeat the theme: “Galette des Rois” in France; “Rosca de Reys” in Mexico; etc. It most often takes the form of a round cake filled with marzipan in which a little bean or little baby plastic doll is hidden inside to represent the idea of finding baby Jesus.
I make a version of King’s cake whenever I can, because I will use any excuse to have marzipan. (Yes, I need an excuse because almond paste is about 12,000 calories a spoonful.) Since I am lazy, however, I generally buy a box mix – yes, there is a box mix for Kings’ Cake! (I use Mam Papaul’s Mardi Gras King Cake Mix Kit. You can also order a kit from the King Arthur Flour website.)
There are many instructions online for making the cake from scratch for the more ambitious among you.
One recipe I think sounds particularly appealing comes from an English-language Barcelona, Spain website. It is for the Catalan “Tortell de Reis” (Kings’ Cake) and uses a brioche pastry. Though this recipe includes marzipan, one can also fill it with jam, cream, chocolate, or whatever indulgence you prefer. The recipe is here.
Happy Three Kings Day!!