For many families in Mexico and other parts of the world, Wednesday will mark a day of special celebration as Dia de Los Reyes, or the Day of the Kings.
On this holiday, people honor the Three Wise Men who traveled to give gifts to baby Jesus. In celebration of that biblical event, families will not only exchange gifts but break bread, serving Rosca De Reyes, or King’s Cake, to honor the Three Wise Men.
Helping serve Rosca De Reyes is a tradition in which Ayala’s Bakery takes great pride. The bakery at 844 Military Road has been baking its roscas since last Saturday, already selling more than 400.
“We make about 10 batches per day,” said bakery owner Esteban Ayala. “It’s been hard to keep up with the demand. They’ve been selling off the shelves.”
He explained the oval shaped cake is symbolic, mimicking the shape of a crown. A small plastic doll is hidden within the cake to symbolize the infant Jesus Christ being hidden from King Herod’s troops. The top of the cake is adorned with jewel-colored dried and candied fruits. Ayala said the person who receives the slice with the hidden doll must host a party for those sharing the King’s Cake on Día de la Candelaria on Feb. 2.
“Most people buy it as a gift, to come together and celebrate,” Ayala said.
He said the number of dolls within the cake is up to the buyer. Typically, the small roscas contain one doll with the medium-sized rosca containing two. The large roscas usually house three dolls, but on occasion some customers have requested more.
The bakery not only makes traditional roscas, but sells varieties stuffed with filling in flavors such as pineapple, apple, strawberry, lemon, cajeta, Bavarian cream and cream cheese.
“The most commonly requested filling flavors are cream cheese or cajeta,” Ayala said. “Those two are most peoples’ favorite.”
Ayala said his bakery has been in business for five years. The youngest of six brothers, he shares his passion for baking with his brother Ricardo Ayala, the bakeshop owner of De Ayala Bakery at 895 Calle Milpa Verde. He said their father taught them both the craft.
Esteban said Dia de Los Reyes is one of the busiest times of the year. During this holiday they deliver their sweet baked Rosca De Reyes cakes to 20 individual stores.
“The first batches we made actually went to the stores because it gives them a chance to sell them as well,” he said. “Toward the end I try to stock up here because on the last day, Jan. 6th, it gets very busy.”
Ayala said he hopes to have enough to sell this year. Last year the store sold out of roscas by 5 p.m. on the Day of the Kings. His goal this year was to bake 2,000 to ensure there was enough for everyone.
“Sometimes it’s hard to keep up with the numbers because some customers come in very late,” Ayala said. Because the bread contains yeast, the rosca takes time to prepare and bake. This can delay people from receiving their order when they don’t call in ahead of time.
Most of the bakery’s customers start buying their roscas on Jan. 5 and 6. During these days the bakery starts work early to be able to catch up to the demand.
The store operates Monday through Saturday from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. On Sundays they are open from 5 a.m. to 1 p.m. Due to the holiday, however, this Wednesday the bake shop is prepared to stay open late at night, until all the roscas have been sold.
Alexia Resendiz, a customer of the bakery, said she’s been enjoying Ayala’s Bakery roscas for two years now. This year marks the first she will try the cajeta and strawberry filled roscas with her family and in-laws.
“In my opinion the roscas there are really good,” she said. “I’ve tried other places and in my personal opinion, I think Ayala’s is better than all of the other ones.”
Ayala said he and his family will also celebrate Dia de Los Reyes together, sharing the roscas they make with friends and neighbors.