Not so common these days, (before the commercialization of Santa Claus and the Christmas holiday), Mexico, Spain and other Latin countries used to receive the majority of their gifts from the Three Kings rather than from Santa Claus at Christmas.

Before going to bed, on the night of January 5th, children would place their old shoes or a box filled with grass or hay under their bed for the camels with a wish list on top for the Three Kings. In the morning of January 6, the shoes or box would be filled with toys & gifts from the Three Kings (or Wise Men –Caspar (Gaspar), Melchior (Melchor) and Balthazar (Baltazar)).

The family would then feast on a “Rosca de Reyes” also called Three Kings Cake or bread roll of the kings. The Rosca de Reyes is ring shaped sweet bread with a small doll baked inside which represents baby Jesus. The doll figure symbolizes the hiding of the infant Jesus from King Herod’s troops. According to tradition whoever finds the little doll in their slice of sweet bread must give a party on February 2nd, Candlemas Day or Dia de la Candelaria, offering tamales, hot chocolate and atole to their guests. Candlemas is the day that Mary presented the infant Jesus to the temple and is traditionally the day that candles are blessed in the Catholic Church.

According to an old legend based on a Bible, these three kings (The Magi) saw a bright star on the night when Christ was born. They followed it to Bethlehem and found there the Christ child and presented it with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. On the Christian calendar, the twelfth day after Christmas is known as “Epiphany”, “Twelfth Night”, or “Kings Day.”

Nowadays, I don’t know many families that go to the extent as celebrating Kings Day with gift giving.  Many just purchase or make the “Rosca de Reyes” from scratch, bond with loved ones over a nice hot cup of champurrado or hot chocolate, tell stories and reminisce over old family photos.

Photos credit:
Rosca de Reyes innards (see the little plastic baby Jesus)…

Rosca de Reyes Recipe
from:  Recetas Mexico

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour plus about 1 cup more for kneading
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
4 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 cup lukewarm water ( not more than 115 degrees)
5 egg yolks
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup finely chopped dried fruit
1 pecan half
1 egg, lightly whisked with 1 tablespoon milk

For the decorating sugars, use already colored purple, green, and yellow, or make your own by tinting 3 tablespoons white granulated sugar with a very small quantity of each color of paste food coloring.

3 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup strained fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons water
2 candied cherries, cut lengthwise into halves


In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, nutmeg, salt, yeast, and lemon zest. In another bowl, combine the warm water and egg yolks. Add to flour mixture and blend in the softened butter and chopped fruit.Turn out onto a floured surface, adding more flour as needed. With your hands, knead the mixture about 10 minutes until smooth and satiny. Butter mixing bowl and place the ball of dough in it. Cover.

Let rise in a warm draft-free place 1 1/2 hours. Punch the dough down and shape it into a cylinder about 14 inches long. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and then loop the cylinder onto the sheet.

Pinch the ends together to form a ring. Press the pecan half gently into the ring so that it is completely hidden. Drape the dough with a cover and set it in a draft-free place to rise for about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Just before baking, brush the surface gently with the egg mixture. Bake 30 minutes. Slide the cake onto a wire rack to cool to room temperature. When cool, make the icing by combining the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and water to make a smooth icing which you can drizzle over the cake, allowing it to run irregularly down the sides.

Sprinkle the colored sugars over the icing immediately, forming rows of purple, yellow, and green strips, each about 2 inches wide on both sides of the cake. Arrange two cherry halves at each end of the cake.

Otra vez en Espanol…
Receta:  Rosca de Reyes
3 1 / 2 tazas de harina para todo uso, más 1 taza más para amasar
1 / 2 taza de azúcar
1 cucharadita de nuez moscada molida
2 cucharaditas de sal marina fina
4 1 / 2 cucharaditas de levadura seca activa
1 cucharadita de ralladura de limón
1 taza de agua tibia (no más de 115 grados)
5 yemas de huevo
1 / 2 taza de mantequilla ablandada
1 / 2 taza de fruta seca finamente picada
Una nuez media
1 huevo, ligeramente batido con una cucharada de leche.  
Para la decoración de azúcar, puede usar colorante de alimentos (violeta, verde, y amarillo) , y hacer su propio tinte. 3 Cucharadas de azúcar blanca granulada  con una muy pequeña cantidad de cada color de la pasta de colorante de alimentos.
3 tazas de azúcar en polvo
1 / 4 taza de jugo de limón colado
3 cucharadas de agua
Dos cerezas confitadas, cortadas longitudinalmente en dos mitades

En un tazón grande, bata la harina, el azúcar, la nuez moscada, sal, levadura y ralladura de limón.En otro tazón, combine el agua tibia y yemas de huevo.

Añadir a la mezcla de harina y mezclar con la mantequilla ablandada y fruta picada.Sobre una superficie enharinada,

con sus manos, amasar la mezcla de unos 10 minutos hasta que esté suave y satinado, añadiendo más harina si es necesario. Mantequille recipiente para mezclar y coloque la bola de masa en ella. Cubra.Deje reposar la masa en un lugar cálido sin corrientes de aire por 1 hora y media.

Perfore la masa y dele forma de un cilindro de unos 14 centímetros de largo. Forre una bandeja para hornear con papel pergamino y una el cilindro en la hoja formando la rosca.Pellizque los extremos juntos para formar un anillo.

Acomode en una mitad nuez, suavemente en el anillo de forma que este completamente oculta. Cubra la masa con una cubierta y déjela en un lugar sin corrientes de aire que repose unos 45 minutos.Precaliente el horno a 375 grados.

Justo antes de hornear, unte la superficie suavemente con la mezcla de huevo. Hornee 30 minutos. Coloque el pastel sobre una rejilla para enfriar a temperatura ambiente. Cuando se enfríe, prepare el betun combinando azúcar en polvo, jugo de limón y agua.  Rocie sobre la rosca.Espolvoree el azúcar de color sobre el betun inmediatamente, formando hileras de tiras púrpura, amarillo y verde, cada uno alrededor de 2 pulgadas de ancho a ambos lados de la torta.

Coloque dos mitades de cereza en cada extremo de la rosca.

Ericka Sanchez


  1. Reply


    January 4, 2011

    We feast on Rosca de Reyes with my in-laws every year, and it's fun to see who finds the baby. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  2. Reply

    Donnalea Melendez

    December 14, 2015

    Please would you tell me what each of the colors are and the pastic baby means in English thank you