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Spain's Roscón de Reyes
05 January 2016 @ 17:22


Twelfth Night is the festival marking the coming of the Epiphany and concluding the Twelve Days of Christmas. In medieval and Tudor England, the Twelfth Night marked the end of a winter festival that started on All Hallows Eve — now more commonly known as Halloween. The Lord of Misrule symbolises the world turning upside down. On this day the King and all those who were high would become the peasants and vice versa. At the beginning of the Twelfth Night festival, a cake that contained a bean was eaten, and the person who found the bean would rule the feast. Midnight signalled the end of his rule and the world would return to normal. The common theme was that the normal order of things was reversed.

 The origins of the Three Kings' Cake appear to date back to the 2nd century BC, when the Romans celebrated the Saturnalia – also known as the Slaves' Festival as they didn't have to work – with a round pastry that concealed a bean. The bean symbolised the imminent arrival of prosperity thanks to the Spring and to Saturn, the god of agriculture. Its symbolism has changed greatly since then, and the recipe even more-so. The Romans spread it across Europe, but its consumption died out with the arrival of Christianity. However the French preserved the tradition and it was common among bourgeois families to eat the cake, which they prepared with a coin inside it.

Food and drink are the centre of the celebrations in modern times, and all of the most traditional ones go back many centuries. Around the world, special pastries and breads, such as Roscón de Reyes, La Galette des Rois and King cake are baked on Twelfth Night, and are eaten for the Feast of the Epiphany celebrations. In English and French customs, a Twelfth Night cake was baked to contain a bean and a pea, so that those who received the slices containing them should be designated king and queen of the night’s festivities. 



The Kings’ cake, particularly traditional in Spain, is eaten after lunch on the 6th of January to celebrates the visit of the Magi to the Christ Child. The recipe I am going to share with you is the Rosca de Reyes or Roscón de Reyes, a Spanish King’s cake, similar to French brioche. This recipe will feed 12 to 16 people of varying ages and appetites. Don’t forget to add your little trinket or the figurine of a King for good luck and prosperity and a dried bean, who ever receives this will have to pay for the cake the following year! 

Traditionally, however whoever finds the trinket (traditionally a figurine of baby Jesus) must take it to the nearest church on February 2, Día de la candelaria (Candlemas Day), which celebrates the presentation of Jesus in the Temple. According to the Jewish tradition, an infant was to be presented to God in the Temple forty days after his birth. The use of candles on Candlemas represents the light of Christ presented to the world. In Mexico and the Mexican diaspora in the United States, people who find the baby Jesus figurine in their piece of cake usually agree to host a party on Candlemas (February 2) and to provide the guests with tamales and atole.

450g strong white bread flour
75g caster sugar
½ teaspoon salt
75g softened butter
2 large free-range eggs, or 3 medium free-range eggs
7g yeast 
150ml milk, tepid
Zest of 2 lemons
Zest of 2 clementines or 2 small oranges
Decoration and Topping
75g softened butter
75g icing sugar
100g plain white flour
1 to 2 tablespoons orange flower/blossom water (Azahar) to mix
100g candied fruits and nuts, such as cherries, peel and whole almonds


Step 1

Place the dried ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook attached and then add the rest of the ingredients and mix on low speed for 3 to 4 minutes. Then increase the speed to medium and mix for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the dough is shiny and very elastic. Alternatively, knead by hand for about 10 to 15 minutes.

Step 2

Leave overnight in a cool but not cold place, covered with oiled Clingfilm and a clean tea towel.

Step 3

Take the dough out of the bowl and cut into 3 even sized pieces; roll them into balls and then roll them into long sausage shapes, throwing the dough on to the table can do this. Make sure you are working on a floured surface. Insert the trinket or dried bean into one sausage, and then lay them on the floured board and plait them, before making a ring and joining them together with a little flour and water. If you want to cut it in half and add whipped cream or truffle cream to the centre, you can add the trinket or the bean when you add the cream.

Step 4

Place the plaited ring on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper, and then make the topping.

Step 5

Mix the butter, icing sugar and flour together and then add the orange flower water to make a stiff paste. Decorate the Rosca de Reyes by spooning the topping on in segments around the ring and placing candied fruit and nuts in-between. Cover and allow to rise for 1 hour, or until the ring has nearly doubled in size.

Step 6

Bake in a pre-heated oven 160 C Fan/180C/Gas Mark 4 for 30 to 40 minutes; the cake is ready when it is golden brown, well risen, and sounds hollow when tapped underneath. Allow to cool on a wire rack before eating at room temperate and warning your guests about the trinket or/and the dried bean!

Happy Reyes!


[Author : Natalie Spencer]

Like 0


Goldilocks said:
09 January 2016 @ 19:14

Hi Natalie

This is a rather different Roscón recipe to others that I've seen and it sounds delicious. Thank you for publishing it. I'd love to try making it but I'm a bit confused about how the topping should look. Do you have any illustrations of the ring either when it's cooked or before it's baked? Many thanks.

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