Epiphany > This time of year takes the carnival cake

This time of year may seem like a boring stretch that’s nothing more than the aftermath of the holidays. But it’s also the beginning of a new cycle of holiday traditions.

Carnival season is starting, lasting until Lent begins. Many culinary traditions from Catholic countries have a special baked treat for this time of year, and local bakeries offer versions of these cakes:

In France, it’s galette des rois, or king cake, and it’s being made at Jean-Robert’s Greenup Café in Covington. This is a tradition for Epiphany, or the Feast of the Kings, on Saturday. It’s a round of puff pastry filled with almond paste. Hidden inside is a “fève,” a ceramic figurine, but not necessarily a baby. Whoever gets it in his or her slice is king of the party and gets to wear the paper crown that comes with it. It’s $24 and serves 8-10 people. Available until Sunday, the cakes can be reserved at 859-261-3663.

Rosca de reyes is the Mexican version of a king cake: It means crown of kings. It, too, has a small ceramic baby hidden inside. Whoever gets the baby has to do more than just be king; he or she has to make tamales for a party on February 2, the feast of Candelaria. You can buy roscas at the Panaderia Las Mexicana in Fairfield. They’re a sweet bread, filled and topped with dried fruit pastes, like guava and quince. They’ll have them until Sunday; call ahead to reserve one at 513-942-5065.

The New Orleans-style king cake is sold for a longer period of time, starting just after Epiphany until Mardi Gras on February 20. They’re rings of sweet bread, topped with colorful sugar in the Mardi Gras colors. Whoever gets the small doll inside is responsible for throwing the next party, and buying the next king cake. Servatii’s makes them, starting Saturday. So does Graeter’s starting Friday, Busken’s starting January 12 and other bakeries.

In Poland, and cities with lots of Polish-Americans like Chicago and Detroit, the pre-Lenten tradition is Paczki (pronounced poonch-key). These are essentially jelly doughnuts. These, too, are available at bakeries all over town. Busken’s begins selling them Monday.