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Monday, January 3, 2011

For Epiphany or a Secular Pig-Out, It's La Victoria's Rosca de Reyes

Posted By on Mon, Jan 3, 2011 at 5:42 PM

Rosca de reyes: Score the baby Jesus and you have to host a tamale party. - LA VICTORIA
  • La Victoria
  • Rosca de reyes: Score the baby Jesus and you have to host a tamale party.
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, 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.

Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie. Contact me at John.Birdsall@SFWeekly.com
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