January 5 is Twelfth Night, the Eve of the Epiphany. It commemorates the Adoration of the Magi (or kings). It marks the end of the Christmas season and was a big deal in Medieval Europe. One of the traditions was (and still is) baking a "king's cake" or galette du roi. The cake is ring-shaped, to represent a crown; and small items are baked inside it, like coins, rings, and a bean. If someone finds a coin, it signifies wealth; a ring, marriage; and whoever finds the bean becomes the king of the feast, the Bean King. Tolkien wrote a novella around the king's cake called Smith of Wootton Major. And here's a recipe for it (the cake, not the story), from Elizabeth Bissette at BellaOnline:
2 envelopes active dry yeast
1/2 c granulated sugar
1/4 pd (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 c warm milk
5 large egg yolks, room temperature
4 1/2 c all-purpose flour
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp. grated lemon peel
1 tsp. vegetable oil
1 pound cream cheese, room temperature
4 c confectioner's sugar
1 bean, 1 ring, 1 coin
5 tbsp. milk, room temperature
3 tbsp. lemon juice
Purple, green andd gold or yellow srinkles
Combine yeast and granulated sugar in bowl of mixer. Add melted butter and warm milk. Beat at low speed 1 min. With the mixer running, add egg yolks, then beat for 1 minute at medium-low. Add flour, salt, nutmeg, and lemon peel, beat until well mixed. Increase speed to high and beat until the dough pulls away from sides of the bowl & forms a ball. Remove dough, form into smooth ball. Lightly oil a bowl with vegetable oil. Place dough in the bowl and turn to oil all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm, draft-free place until doubled, (about 2 hours).
Make filling: combine the cream cheese and 1 c confectioner's sugar. Blend. Set aside.Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board, pat into rectangle about 30 in. long and 6 in. wide.
Spread filling over the bottom half of the dough, flip the top half of the dough over the filling. Seal the edges, pinching together. Shape into a cylinder and place on prepared baking sheet seam side down. Shape into a ring and pinch the ends together so there isn't a seam. Insert objects into the ring from the bottom so they're completely hidden.
Cover and place in a warm, draft-free place. Let rise until doubled in size, about 45 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Brush top with 2 tablespoons of milk. Bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove and let cool completely.
Make icing by combining remaining 3 tablespoons milk, lemon juice, and 3 c confectioner's sugar. Stir to blend well. With a rubber spatula, spread evenly over the top of the cake. Add sprinkles, alternating colors around the cake.
Traditionally cut into 2-inch-thick slices with all guests present.