After a few years of very good intentions, finally 2022 sees the recipe for roscón de Reyes, Kings cake, on the blog. Not that I haven’t been making it! But I am not a great planner of the recipes that I will post on Mama Ía blog and the Christmas hustle and bustle always caught up with me.
That always seems to be the case. I do have some method and loose plan of what I will post on the blog. However, more often than not, I will cook or bake something that will override what I had planned. And I will not kid myself: that’s most likely going to continue, ha ha!
Roscón de Reyes, however, was a recipe that eventually would make it into the blog, and this year is the year. How could it not, with the feast of the Three Kings only 3 days away! Three Kings Day, or the feast of the Epiphany, is a very ingrained tradition in my home country of Spain, and roscón de Reyes, Kings cake, is the very popular dessert enjoyed on this day.
The kings’ helpers bring presents to the children in Alcoy
Unique to Alcoy, the Kings’ helpers reach the balconies on ladders
The feast day is January 6, which is a national religious holiday in Spain, much like Christmas day. On this day, children wake up to their presents, which were delivered overnight by the three wise men, Melchior, Gaspar and Baltazar, who also brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to baby Jesus at Bethlehem. The night of January 5, every town and city in Spain, big or small, hosts the arrival of the three wise men in very colorful, lively parades.
These parades, called cabalgatas de Reyes Magos, or three Kings cavalcades, have been celebrated in Spain since 1866, and they commemorate and represent the Magi’s visit to baby Jesus on the first Christmas.
Coincidentally, the very first three kings cavalcade happened in Spain in Alcoy, a city my family is very linked to —my dad‘s family comes from there, and I had the opportunity to enjoy the cavalcade on a number of occasions both as a child and as an adult, with my very young children.
Much like on the morning of Christmas day in America, after the mayhem of opening presents on the morning of January 6, families gather around the dining table to enjoy the last celebratory meal of Christmas, the one that officially marks the end of the season. The dessert of choice on three kings day is a sweet bread In the shape of a ring, usually filled with one of various fillings like whipped cream, chocolate mousse or cabello de ángel, candied pumpkin fibers. But what makes roscón de Reyes extra special, particularly amongst children, is the surprise hidden inside, a small figurine. If you find the figurine in your slice of roscón, you’ll have good luck in the new year.
If you would like to make roscón de Reyes for January 6, you will have to start right away, as the dough has to rise for about eight hours. That’s the only thing you have to remember, because despite how beautiful this cake looks, the rest of the recipe is quite easy to follow (like most of the recipes I make!)
Also, if you’re curious about this beautiful Spanish tradition and would like to know a bit more about it, here is a link that will take you to a story I wrote for Highlights for Children magazine a few years ago. From the point of view of a young child watching the parade, the story takes you to the heart of the celebration. Click here to read All of Spain celebrates Three Kings’ Day.
¡Feliz día de Reyes!
ROSCÓN DE REYES
- 7 cups flour
- 10 Tbs butter at room temperature
- 2/3 cups + 2 Tbs sugar
- 1 envelope active yeast
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup + 3 Tbs milk
- 1 Tbs orange blossom water
- 1 Tbs rum
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Zest of 1 orange
- Small pieces of candied fruit
- 1 Tbs sliced almonds
Optional: candied orange slices
- 1 orange
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup water
Prepare the candied orange slices (if making):
Slice the oranges into thin slices and discard the ends.
In a small saucepan, make a simple syrup: add the water and sugar, cook on medium heat, and stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat.
Place the orange slices in a single layer on a wide pan. Pour the syrup over the slices and cook on medium-low heat, turning the slices occasionally, until the liquid becomes thicker and sticky (much of the water will have evaporated).
Set aside and let cool
Prepare the roscón:
In a small bowl, mix 3 Tbs warm milk with the yeast and 2 Tbs flour. Stir well to mix and let rise until the mixture is slightly bubbly and has doubled in volume.
In a separate, large bowl, or in the bowl of a stand up mixer, add the remaining flour (sifted), 2/3 cups sugar and salt and mix to blend. Add the lemon and orange zests, 2 eggs, orange blossom water, rum and milk and mix. Finally, add the softened butter and mix until you obtain a smooth, elastic dough that comes off the sides of the bowl(Note: you can do all the mixing and kneeding by hand)
Add the yeast mixture to the dough and continue to blend
On a counter, form a round ball and place it in a large bowl. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and let the dough rest and rise for the next 6 to 8 hours.
On a floured surface, form a ring with the dough and place it on a round pizza or cookie sheet lined with parchemt paper. If you will not fill the roscón, now it’s the time to place the small surprise inside of the ring.
Cover the ring with a damp towel and let it rise until it doubles in volume
Preheat the oven to 350ºF
Beat the remaining egg and carefully brush the dough on all its visible surface. Scatter the pieces of candied fruit, the sliced almonds and the candied orange slices (if using) over the dough, pressing slightly to help them stick.
In a small bowl, mix 2 Tbs sugar with a few drops of rum or anise (you can also use water). Scatter the damp sugar over the dough.
Place in the preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes, checking at the 25 minute mark for doneness (the roscón should be slightly golden)
Remove from the oven and let cool
If the roscón will be filled, slice the roscón with a bread knife and spread your filling of choice (I use angel hair, candied pumpkin fibers)
Don’t forget to insert the small surprise!