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Spain's Famous Round Cake for The Epiphany
Thursday, December 28, 2023 @ 10:59 AM


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 at 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 bread, such as Roscón de Reyes, La Galette des Rois and King cake are baked on the 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. 

Over the centuries this tradition has changed. Gold coins began to be introduced as a reward to whoever found the Roscón treasure, it was later decided to hide a figurine of  King and a bean at the same time to find out who was the 'lucky one' and who was the fool with the bean ... until today. Nowadays most Roscón have the figurine of a King and dehydrated bean, only now the person who finds the bean is not only the fool but also has to pay the cake!

Traditionally, however, there was a time in Spain when whoever found the trinket (which would have been a figurine of baby Jesus) had to 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. The Kings’ cake (Roscón) in Spain is traditionally eaten after lunch on the 6th of January and if you fancy making one this year, here is a simple recipe:


Sourdough mix:

100 g of strong flour
60 ml of warm milk
2 g yeast


1 beaten egg
Glacé fruits

For the final dough:

162 g of sourdough 
330 g of strong flour
60 ml of milk cooked with cinnamon and the peel of 1 orange
2 eggs
80g sugar
30 ml of honey
110 g butter
15 g of pressed yeast (or 5 g of dry baker's yeast)
3 teaspoons of rum
2 teaspoons of random water
Zest of half a lemon
5g salt


The day before, prepare the sourdough. To do this, mix the flour, milk and yeast and knead it sufficiently so it is well mixed.

Let it ferment for 30 minutes at room temperature and then leave it in the fridge for at least 12 hours.

The night before you also have to make the milk infusion with, cinnamon and the peel of 1 orange without the white part. Heat the milk with the ingredients to just before boiling point and then remove from the heat and cover. Let it cool and then refrigerate.

The next day, mix all the ingredients for the final dough, except the sugar and butter.
You will have to knead it in 3 steps:
 1) 5 minutes as is. 
 2) 5 minutes in which the sugar is incorporated in 2 batches until you can see no lumps are left each time.
 3)Now the cold butter is added and kneaded for another 10 or 15 minutes until the dough has absorbed all the butter and is smooth.

Let it ferment for about 2 hours. Form into a ball. Wait 15 minutes and then form into an even ring

Ferment for another 2 and a half or 3 hours: it almost triples its volume (then hide the figurine and the dehydrated bean).

Brush, decorate and bake in an oven at 180 ° C. Baking time is about 20 minutes (if fan assisted;  if not, slightly longer).

Let cool on a rack. Once cold, the roscón can be cut in two halves and filled with sweetened whipped cream or truffle cream, as you prefer.

However, if this seems like too much effort they are available in all supermarkets across the country. According to one of Spain's leading consumer organisations, the OCU, after analysing Roscones in nine major supermarkets, the best value-for-money Roscón de Reyes comes from Día and retails at €11.71 for a kilo.

The OCU looked at Roscones sold in Eroski, Carrefour, Alcampo, El Corte Inglés, Ahorramás, Mercadona, Lidl, Aldi and Día, and said the best quality ones were the cream-filled versions from Eroski and Alcampo, followed by those sold at El Corte Inglés, although in terms of price and quality combined, Día's cream-filled one came out top.

They retail at between €6 a kilo in Carrefour, Aldi and Lidl, and €17 a kilo in El Corte Inglés, although the OCU warned that in most cases, the cheapest prices reflected the quality of what you're buying.

Those with the lowest price tags, in general, had a greater quantity of vegetable oils and fats – coconut and palm oil – compared with the higher-priced ones, which contained cream and butter.

This said those seeking to avoid animal-based produce would find the cheaper ones suited them better.

Whatever you decide to do - Happy New Year!

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