Fit For A King: Family owned bakery preps for yearly tradition

EDINBURG — Bakeries across the Rio Grande Valley every year have to make extra room in their ovens for a unique item on the menu this time of year.

La Mexicana Bakery, located at Veterans Boulevard and Sprague Street, is no exception.

In addition to making sweet bread on a daily basis and filling specialty cakes orders, employees at the bakery become even busier when the holiday season arrives. The family owned business, which has deep Mexican roots, wants to keep the recipe of the cake associated with this season true to Mexican tradition.

Jan. 6 is an important day in Christian tradition, particularly in Latin America. The day is referred to as El Dia de los Reyes or Three Kings Day. It is marked as the end of the 12 days of Christmas when the three wise men arrived in Bethlehem bearing presents for the infant baby Jesus.

In addition to exchanging gifts on this special day, a culinary treat is also involved, which is known as the Rosca de Reyes or King’s Cake.

Hector Davila, owner of La Mexicana Bakery, said he has been making king’s cakes for more than 25 years.

“We usually make 200 to 300 per year,” Davila said. “When people stop and ask for a small king’s cake, it usually has one baby, but when it comes to the medium size, people want two to three babies within the cake. Now when it comes to the large size cake, people ask for five to six babies.”

The Rosca de Reyes is rectangular, ring-shaped sweet bread that represents the infinite and never-ending love of God. The king’s cakes also have colorful fruit toppings that contain dried fig strips, which symbolize the crown jewels; it also has candled lemon peel slices, chopped candled cherries along with hidden surprise of the plastic dolls — meant to represent the baby Jesus.

“The preparation and the cooking takes about three hours,” he added. “We have an assembly line (in the kitchen). Everyone does something.”

This year the bakers at La Mexicana began preparing a week in advance, starting last Saturday.

“We usually start after the New Year’s holiday,” the 58-year-old bakery owner said. “We should be expecting a lot more orders on Saturday.”

According to tradition, those who participate in the Rosca de Reyes and receive the baby Jesus figurine must host a party for the occasion on Feb. 2, which is known as Dia de la Candeleria, or Candlemas Day, which falls 40 days after Christmas Eve.