Friday, January 2, 2015

"Spice Cake" To Celebrate The Feast Of The “Epiphany”

I hope everyone had an enjoyable New Year’s with lots of partying and celebrations. However, the fun is not over yet. The feast of the “Epiphany” is January 6th, but the church is celebrating this feast on Sunday. The Epiphany is the day that the Three Wise Men came to pay homage to the Christ Child.

In the Roman Catholic religion the teaching of the word “epiphany” means “manifestation.” This is the day when the Magi (Three Kings) reached the Christ child and He became known to the world as Jesus Christ. There were three manifestations of Christ’s divinity, 1. The birth itself  2. The Adoration of the Magi  3. Is Jesus’ baptism. In some regions the Feast of the Epiphany is also called the Feast of the Holy Kings. The Kings names were Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar. They followed the bright five-pointed star in the heavens which brought them to Bethlehem, and the stable where Mary, the Mother of Jesus, had just given birth.

The Three Kings presented their gifts of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh to the baby in the stable, in honor of His birth. The Feast of the Baptism of Jesus follows the Epiphany, as the last in the Christmastide celebrations. 
There are various customs and traditions on how to celebrate. The Feast of the Epiphany in southern Italy, especially Sicily, celebrate by their children looking forward to a visit from the Three Wise Men themselves. A sign of the region’s historical ties to Spain. In Tuscany and other region’s of Italy on January 6th, there is the tale of La Befana. An old witch with her clothing worn to rags, she flies through the Italian skies on her broomstick during the night, and fills stockings with toys, and sweets for the children who were good, and coal for the ones that were naughty.
According to the legend, the night before the Three Wise Men arrived at the manger, they stopped at the shack of an old woman to ask directions to the Star. They invited her to come along but she replied she was busy cleaning her house with her broomstick. Later that night, she saw a great light in the sky and decided to join the Three Wise Men, bearing gifts that had belonged to her child who had died. She got lost and never found the manager. As the legend continues La Befana flies around on her broomstick each year and brings gifts to children in hopes that she may find the Baby Jesus. 

The blessing of the home is also a popular Epiphany custom, using blessed white chalk. Many households mark their entrance door with the year and the inscription CMB, the initials of the Three Wise Men. This inscription also stands for “Christus Mansionem Benedicat” which means “Christ, Bless This Home.”

There are many traditional foods that the Italians prepared for the Epiphany. The Magi came from the Orient, so many of the foods served on this day are spicy. Spice cake is often prepared to adorn your festive table for dessert. Sweet cakes or breads made with dried figs, anise seeds, and candied fruits are always a favorite. These breads or cakes are made in the shape of a circle or crown, to honor the Three Wise Men. Everyone drinks the local wine and eats a special fig and raisin bread baked in a wood-burning oven. The flavors of oranges and tangerines, are included in many dishes, which represent sunlight. (Epiphany is also known as the holiday of light) Meats such as lamb and pork are rubbed with good olive oil, rosemary, and garlic which adds a festive fragrance to your table. 

When I was growing up my parents would leave the Christmas tree up until the Epiphany. As a child and even now, I really never wanted Christmas to be over. So, as I try to keep the spirit of Christmas going all year, I would love to share with you my recipe this week which is a delicious “Spice Cake.” I know that if La Befana comes to your door looking for the Christ Child she will be hungry. I’m sure if you invite her in she would just love a big slice of “Spice Cake” with a cup of hot tea and don’t forget to give her an orange for her journey.

 "Spice Cake"

Prep: 20 min.
Bake: 35 min.
Yield: 12-16 servings 

2 cups sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
4 eggs, beaten
3 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/4 cups buttermilk 

Butter Cream Frosting:
1/2 cup cream cheese
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons milk

In a bowl, cream sugar and butter. Add eggs; beat well. Combine dry ingredients; add to creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk. Mix well. Pour into a greased and floured 13-in. x 9-in. baking pan. Bake at 350°F for 35-40 minutes or until the cake tests done. Cool.
For frosting: cream butter and cream cheese in a bowl. Add the vanilla. Gradually beat in sugar. Add milk; beat until light and fluffy. Frost cake. Yield: 12-16 servings.

Adapted from “Taste of Home”

Till Next Time…………………

Copyright © 2015 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved


  1. Hi Dottie ,
    What a great story and I am sure all your readers will enjoy it . Hubby's aunt tell the kids the same story of the old lady getting lost and each they are in awe with the story . We are so very blessed to have her and to tell the kids a lot about their heritage (she's 89 and still going strong) .
    I feel that the new year will bring us hope and happiness to be enjoyed by all. One of our Christmas trees' stays up until Epiphany (the larger one in the family room) .
    I will bake the spice cake , we love them here . I make my butter cream frosting the same way as you ... when I make peanut butter cake , I make this frosting but I add creamy peanut butter .
    Dear Dottie you made the sweets today and I made the soup . together we have dinner and dessert . Thanks dear Dottie for sharing , stay warm and be safe . Blessing ..~Nee~ ;-D

    1. Good afternoon Nee,
      Thanks for your visit! I am thrilled that you have your husband's aunt still with you. Yes, it is wonderful that she tells the children all of these stories and legends from Italy. It is so important, the kids won't realize this till they get older but it is fabulous especially that she is 89, God Bless her!
      Yes, I feel Nee that this year will be a good one for all. I thought of you when I was posting the spice cake. I know spice cake is baked a lot down south. It is so good, especially with a cup of tea. Your peanut butter cake sounds yummy. I love peanut butter. I am going over to your blog now, to see your soup recipe...Thanks again for your comment and I am trying to stay warm. It really has been cold here this past week. Blessings for a terrific weekend dear friend!
      Dottie :)

  2. We all love la Befana here! I have always been so obsessed with it, so much that my daughter was born on the 6th of January! My children are getting two little mini befane with chocolate coins inside and some presents too. Of course fruit and nuts are never missing and let's never forget the charcoal! I love your cake, we call it "Pinza" in my region and it is very similar. Have a lovely Epiphany day Dottie!

    1. Hi Alida,
      I agree I have also been obsessed with this legend of the witch-La Befana. You can't forget this day for sure that is your daughter's Birthday..I wish her a good Birthday for me! Your children must look forward to Jan. 6th with all the goodies that they is like a second Christmas. When I was little they would call it "Little Christmas." I never heard of Pinza before but if it is anything like Spice Cake, then I am sure I would love it! Hope that you had a good day..have a great week ahead...Thanks for visiting and your comment.
      Dottie :)

  3. Dear Dottie, I enjoyed reading the story of Befana.
    The spice cake looks wonderful. xoxo Catherine

    1. Dear Catherine,
      Thank you for your visit...I always enjoy when you stop by. I love the story of La Befana. Everyone seems to have a slightly different version, but the meaning is still the same. Yes, the "Spice Cake" is a moist spicy decadent piece of heaven. I love it and my mom does too. Always loved these spices together. They fill the house with a warmth and comfort of the times gone by. Thank you again for your comment. Blessings on a good week in the New Year!
      Dottie :) <3