January 6 – Epiphany, or Twelfth Day of Christmas, a.k.a. Three Kings’ Day – Celebrate with Kings’ Cake!

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.

The Adoration of the Magi by Giotto [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

[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.)

My Kings’ Cake from last year, which doubled as a birthday cake as you can see

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.

Tortell de Reis (Kings’ Cake). Photo by Rebecca T Caro on the Barcelona recipe website

Happy Three Kings Day!!


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7 Responses to January 6 – Epiphany, or Twelfth Day of Christmas, a.k.a. Three Kings’ Day – Celebrate with Kings’ Cake!

  1. BermudaOnion says:

    I’ve mentioned that it’s Epiphany to several people this morning and then had to explain to them what it is. *sigh*

  2. Beth F says:

    Ha, ha on the marzipan — but yummm! I didn’t know King Arthur had a kit … will investigate.

  3. Tina says:

    That Kings. Cake is amazing!

  4. the cake looks delicious- whipped cream would be my filling. Happy Kings Day

  5. Mae says:

    Only 12,000 calories? I thought it was more than that. (Great looking cake!)

    best… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

  6. Marg says:

    That looks so good!!

  7. stacybuckeye says:

    What a beautiful birthday cake!

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