This can really be anything from a fancy bread, coffee cake, jelly roll or a filled cake. Traditionally, a dried bean or tiny toy baby was hidden in the batter or dough and whoever got the piece with the bean or trinket became “king” for the day. The King could expect to be waited on (within reason) and could make silly requests of his friends and family–such as–singing a song, doing a trick, dancing or making animal sounds.
I’m never that excited to have someone chip a tooth on a surprise in the dessert–so we put little charms on the glaze of the cake, that say things like “live, believe, laugh, hope, wish, love”—and I can’t stand for anyone to be left out–so everybody gets one.
Some people add color to the cake or frosting to make it more festive. One year, we made a steamed chocolate cake in a plum pudding pan. This year it will likely be spice cake in a Bundt pan decorated with gum drops. We’ll see…