The intersection of Glendale Boulevard and Scott Avenue in Echo Park usually reeks of car and bus exhaust. Today, however, on Epiphany, the southeast corner of the intersection never smells sweeter as the bakers and the oven at La Espiga Bakery work overtime churning out Roscas de Reyes. Mexican bakeries across the Eastside are busy baking and selling the holiday sweet bread, shaped to resemble a crown in honor of The Magi, or the three kings, who are said to have visited the baby Jesus. It is one of the busiest – and lucrative – days of the year for La Espiga, which sells more than 500 roscas, said Mario Cruz, whose mother and father, Guillermina and Mario Sr., have operated the bakery for a decade. The roscas come out in batches every 90 minutes, with the last one scheduled to be ready by 8:30 tonight. If you don’t have one ordered, Cruz offers this advice: “The earlier [you arrive] the better.”
At La Espiga, the roscas – the largest of which, at $25, is big enough for a family -are topped with slices of dried figs, guavas and candy. Chew that rosca slowly because each contains two baby figurines, considered a blessing for those who find it. “Some people want more babies,” Cruz said. Those extra blessings, however, will cost you 50 cents a piece.