When my children were young, I read of an old epiphany tradition and promptly revived it. It commemorates the Three Magi bearing gifts to the infant Jesus twelve days after Christmas, January 6. You slip an uncooked bean into the batter of a Three Kings Cake and whose ever serving contains the bean, is crowned king or queen for the night.
Last year, my 5-year old grandson, Avram scored. He was thenceforth donned with a tin-foil circlet, draped in a robe and, since he was king for the night, we subjects obeyed his every command. His first decree: “Stand on your chair, flap your wings and crow like a rooster.” His next was comparably sophisticated, “Get on the floor, roll all around and howl like a wolf.” And so the ruckus blossomed until, the king unwittingly said, “Watch a movie!” and, coincidentally, it became bedtime.
Over the years, we’ve crowned kings and queens of all ages. Of course, with young children present, the bean magically finds its way into the cake of a smaller child, or one whose “turn” it is that year. Whether it’s just your family gathering or an excuse to fill the house, staging an epiphany dinner is a generosity tradition worth borrowing. Or, should you be dining solo next January 6, crown yourself and have at it!
As for the Three Kings’ Cake recipe, here’s one of our favorites below. With an older crowd, the bean disappears in the batter. However, when rigging the coronation, first pour the batter into the pan and then tuck the bean into marked corner.
Maple Carrot Cake
As this cake is moist and satisfyingly sweet, I rarely ice it. If, however, the occasion calls for birthday candles, then I blend cream cheese with honey and slather it on. Or top it with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. For a layer cake, double the recipe and bake it in two pans.
Makes an 8-inch diameter cake
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup unbleached white flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup softened unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extra
3 cups coarsely grated carrots
1/2 cup toasted, chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and dust with flour an 8-inch diameter cake pan.
In a large bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, salt, coriander and nutmeg. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, mix together syrup, butter, eggs and vanilla. Combine with the flour mixture. Stir in the carrots and nuts. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the cake. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before turning cake out of pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Wheat-free: substitute 1 ½ cups barley, ½ cup millet, ½ cup rice flour and ½ teaspoon xanthian gum for the flour.
Substitute yams, sweet potato, pumpkin or squash (winter or summer) for the carrots.