Four or five years ago my friend Sarah went to a party after Christmas with some Latino friends and came back saying she got the baby Jesus. I could not make heads or tails out of what she was saying but understanding eventually dawned. In many cultures around the world they make a much bigger deal out of Epiphany, the celebration the first week January when the three wise men came to visit the baby Jesus. One of the traditions is to bake a cake made to look like a crown (for the three kings) with a small porcelain Baby Jesus baked into it. It's called Rosca de Reyes, and if you get the baby Jesus in your piece, you have to bring food for Candlemas (another holiday we don't celebrate). New Orleans has a similar tradition, called King's Cake, where if you find the figurine, or sometimes a coin, you get to be king for the day. All of those cultural factoids are just so I can explain this recipe. For the last couple of years I have been trying various recipes for different countries' Epiphany breads and bring them to church, and we use them for our communion bread the week of Epiphany. My Church of Christ background would call eating a sweet yeasted bread for communion sacrilege, but I digress.
This year's was especially tasty, found once again on my bread wondersite, King Arthur Flour. I felt there was absolutely no reason to relegate this to a once a year bread, especially when you could try it with different fillings. It's a very versatile sweet dough recipe. I imagine it would make excellent cinnamon rolls, too.
To make the original Rosca de Reyes recipe which has dried fruit and nuts in the filling and decorated with candied orange peel, it can be found here: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/three-kings-cake-rosca-de-reyes-or-roscand242n-de-reyes-recipe
I highly recommend it as is, but this time I made it more like a cherry tea ring.
For the Dough:
For the Filling:
For the Icing: