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Breads, Desserts

Rosca de reyes (Kings cake)

Rosca de reyes (Kings cake)
Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times

Because I left Mexico when I was 6, my recollections of our holiday traditions are often dreamlike and vague. But my memory of Three Kings Day, or el Dia de los Reyes Magos, remains vivid because it came right after ... Read more

Total time: 1 1/2 hours, plus rising times | Serves 24 (Makes 2 cakes)
  • 2 ( 1/4-ounce) packets active-dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water, plus more for brushing
  • 5 to 6 cups (21.25 to 25.5 ounces) flour, divided
  • 3 eggs, divided
  • 7 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling over the cakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons orange flower water
  • 2 small plastic dolls
  • 1/3 cup chopped candied orange peel
  • 1/3 cup chopped acitron (candied biznaga cactus) or candied figs

Step 1In a large bowl, or in the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the yeast with the water and a tablespoon of the flour. Set aside until the yeast begins to bubble.

Step 2When the yeast is bubbly, add 2 eggs, the egg yolks, sugar, salt, butter, lemon zest and orange flower water. Using a hand mixer or the paddle attachment for a stand mixer, beat the mixture until the ingredients are thoroughly combined.

Step 3With the mixer running, begin to add the flour, a spoonful at a time. Continue adding flour until you have a soft, smooth dough; you may not use all of the flour. Form the dough into a ball. Place it in a large, greased bowl and cover with a damp cloth or loosely with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place until it is doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours.

Step 4Punch the dough down and re-form a ball. Re-cover the dough and set aside again until doubled in size, another 1 to 2 hours.

Step 5Divide the risen dough into 2 pieces. Form each piece into a ball, and punch a hole in the center of the ball (this can be done with the handle of a wooden spoon). Gently stretch the hole, widening the dough into the shape of a wreath. Keep stretching the dough to widen the circle (alternate between the 2 pieces of dough, giving one time to relax as you work on the other half). Continue until each round is 8 to 10 inches in diameter, and the hole in the center is at least 4 inches in diameter. Insert 1 small plastic doll at a random location in each round.

Step 6Place the rounds on a floured piece of parchment paper set on a baking sheet. Loosely cover each wreath with a greased piece of plastic wrap, and set aside until almost doubled in size, about 1 hour. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Step 7Whisk the remaining egg with 1 to 2 tablespoons water to make an egg wash. Remove the plastic wrap and brush each round with the wash, then decorate each round in alternating stripes of candied orange and acitron, along with stripes of sugar.

Step 8Place the baking sheets in the oven and bake until the cakes are lightly browned and a toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Rotate the cakes halfway through baking for even cooking.

Note: Orange flower (or orange blossom) water can be found at select well-stocked markets, as well as at cooking and baking supply stores and select Latin and Middle Eastern markets. Acitron (candied cactus) can be found at select Mexican and Latin markets. Plastic dolls for the cakes can be found at select Latin markets and baking supply stores. The cake photographed was garnished with powdered sugar, though regular sugar can be used (colored sugars, such as pink, red or yellow are commonly used for garnish).


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