feast of the Epiphany
for Catholics, the twelfth day of Christmas. At our prim, tiled patisserie in traffic-strafed Bordeaux it was a round yeast cake glazed with sugar. You bought one and the thin-lipped lady behind the counter discretely poked a plastic ring into the bottom with a sharp finger, then slipped a gold cardboard crown in with the paper-wrapped, string-cinched cake. Later, if you got the slice with the ring in it, you got to wear the crown, as if you'd splurged at Burger King
. My American girl-buddy and I loved it: I swear in that first week of January we polished off a galette a day for three or four days running (after draining a bottle or more of wine), just to see who'd come up with the crown.
In Mexico the Epiphany cake's called rosca de reyes, essentially "kings' biscuit": Every bit as doughnut-shaped as the French ones I recall, only heftier, since the rosca is destined for sprawling family parties.
There's been a sea change at La Victoria Bakery since the days Jaime Maldonado's dad ruled over a bustling Mission panaderia, but the rosca de reyes still makes its annual appearance. You have to pre-order: a 2.4-pound ring costs $19, a 3.4 pounder $29, and a 4.5-pound brute $39. La Victoria's rosca comes with a little plastic Jesus to poke into the cake (secular bastards, the French). And instead of a crown, whoever gets the charm in her slice is on the hook to throw a tamale party for Dia de la Candelaria (aka Candlemas) on Feb. 2. Sounds like sort of a gyp, really ― I'd much rather be king. Anyway, La Victoria's rosca looks delicious. Call 642-7120 to order for pickup Jan. 4-6.
As a college student abroad (Scotland, near Glasgow) visiting an American friend in France (Bordeaux), I was totally charmed by the ritual of the galette des rois, the kings' cake. You ate it on or around Jan. 6,