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This Roscón de Reyes recipe is a traditional Spanish Three King’s Cake served at the culmination of the Christmas season on Three King’s Day. It’s a tender and buttery sweet bread best served with a cup of hot chocolate.
Spanish Three Kings Cake (Roscón de Reyes)

In Spain, we love to celebrate the last days of the Christmas season. On Three Kings’ Day, we open presents and indulge in a delicious Three Kings’ Cake, a tender and buttery sweet bread often served with a cup of hot chocolate. Learn how to make your own Three King’s Day Cake following this Roscón de Reyes recipe.

a Roscon de Reyes (Spanish Three Kings Cake) with 3 individual slices on a plate.

Roscón de Reyes, A Spanish Tradition

Three Kings’ Day, or Feast of the Epiphany, is a celebration of the adoration of the baby Jesus by the Three Wise Men, also known as the Three Kings: Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar. Nowadays in Spain, even if one isn’t a religious person, they will probably still celebrate Three Kings’ Day as this national holiday is part of the tradition and culture of the country

This is a magical day full of presents and special sweets bought or baked that are shared with family and friends, like the buttery Three Kings’ Cake.

Important! What Makes the Spanish Three Kings’ Cake Special

This Roscón de Reyes recipe mentions a “surprise” as optional, but we highly encourage you to add it. Traditionally, with a Three King’s Cake, you hide a “small toy king” and a “bean” in the cake. Make sure to cover it in plastic film for safety reasons.

When sharing the Three Kings’ Cake with your family and friends, one of them will find the “king” and will be blessed with good luck for the remainder of the year. The one who finds the “bean” will pay next year Three Kings’ Cake.

Key Ingredients You’ll Need

To get the soft and buttery texture, you need strong flour (known as bread flour in the US) as it contains more gluten than other types of flour.

In Spain, it’s also very typical to flavor the milk that is included in the dough. The combination of the cinnamon, orange zest, and orange blossom water is what will give the Christmas flavor and scent.

Finding orange blossom water can be difficult in some countries. If this is your case, don’t worry, flavoring the milk with rum, orange zest, and a cinnamon stick the day before will ensure that the taste will be amazing either way.

Using a Cream Filling

While this recipe doesn’t include a filling it’s common to fill the cake with some delicious rich cream, chocolate cream, or marzipan. To fill your cake slice and separate the Three Kings’ cake horizontally and pipe or spread the filling on the bottom part. Place the top carefully back.

Now, is it necessary to add a filling? Not at all. The best Roscón de Reyes is without filling, because when the quality of the sweet bread is good no filling is necessary, according to baker Iban Yarza. He wrote one of the best Roscón de Reyes recipes (my favorite) in a book called ‘Pan Casero’ (Homemade Bread).

How to Make the Roscón de Reyes Recipe

This recipe is in grams and not in cups! Baking requires precision. That’s why we recommend making the Roscón de Reyes recipe using a scale for the metric units and not converting it to cups.

Step 1: Make the Biga (Pre-Fermented Dough)

A biga is a pre-fermented dough. To create your biga dissolve the yeast in warm milk. Then add 90 grams of strong flour and let it rest overnight, covered, in the fridge. If you let the biga rest the night before baking your Roscón de Reyes (between 8 to 12 hours) you’ll have a full-flavored tender dough.

Step 2: Flavor Your Milk

For the dough, you’ll need 120 grams of the milk mixture. To create the mixture, heat the milk with the cinnamon stick, the rum, the orange zest, and a tablespoon of orange blossom (optional) until it comes to a boil. The milk will evaporate which is why you’ll need to check the weight after it comes to a boil.

Step 3: Create the Dough

Mix the biga (first dough) with the milk mixture, flour, sugar, eggs, yeast, salt, and start kneading by hand or using a mixer. Once all ingredients are incorporated, add the butter bit by bit while incorporating each one first. Knead the dough for at least 20 minutes or until it doesn’t stick to your hands or the mixer anymore. Add the dough to a bowl, cover it, and let it rest for an hour, and double in volume.
Once the dough is rested, remove it from the bowl and knead for two minutes to remove the air. Form a ball with the dough and let it rest for 10 minutes again.

Step 4: Add the Surprise and Decorate

Take a baking tray and line it with parchment paper. Roll out the dough to create a long cylinder then attach the ends creating a big ring. Make sure to have enough space in the middle of the ring for the sweet bread to rise while still holding its shape.

Push the “surprise” (optional) inside the middle of the dough. Let the dough rest again covered for another hour. Brush your Three Kings’ Cake with beaten egg and decorate with your favorite ingredients. The most common ones are candied fruits (or just orange slices with sugar on top), sliced almonds, sugar with orange blossom, or pearl sugar.

Step 5: Bake & Serve

Once your oven is preheated to 180ºC/350ºF, bake the cake for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean and the cake is golden-brown. Let the cake cool before serving.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do the Spanish celebrate the Three Kings Day?

On Three Kings’ Day, we open presents and indulge in a delicious Three Kings’ Cake, a tender and buttery sweet bread often served with a cup of hot chocolate. Nowadays in Spain, even if one isn’t a religious person, they will probably still celebrate Three Kings’ Day as this national holiday is part of the tradition and culture of the country.

What is hidden in a Three King’s Cake? / Why is Roscón special?

What makes a Spanish Three King’s Cake special is the surprise hidden into the cake and its meaning. When sharing the Three Kings’ Cake with your family and friends, one of them will find the “king” and will be blessed with good luck for the remainder of the year. The one who finds the “bean” will pay next year Three Kings’ Cake.

Can we fill the Spanish Three Kings’ Cake with cream?

While this recipe doesn’t include a filling it’s common to fill the cake with delicious rich cream, chocolate cream, or marzipan. To fill your cake slice and separate the Three Kings’ cake horizontally and pipe or spread the filling on the bottom part. Place the top carefully back. While this recipe doesn’t include a filling it’s common to fill the cake with delicious rich cream, chocolate cream, or marzipan. To fill your cake slice and separate the Three Kings’ cake horizontally and pipe or spread the filling on the bottom part. Place the top carefully back.

Which ingredients do I need to bake my Spanish Three Kings’ Cake?

For the pre-fermented dough, you’ll need fresh yeast or instant yeast, warm milk, and strong flour (bread flour). The final dough will include a milk mixture consisting of milk, cinnamon stick, orange zest, rum, and optionally, orange blossom. For the dough itself, you’ll need, strong flour (bread flour), granulated white sugar, eggs, fresh yeast or instant yeast, salt, and butter. The decoration depends on your preference, but we recommend sugar or pearl sugar, candied fruits, or fresh fruits.

Then not to forget a bean and small king (toy).

How to form and decorate my Three Kings’ Cake?

Take a baking tray and line it with parchment paper. Roll out the dough to create a long cylinder then attach the ends creating a big ring. Make sure to have enough space in the middle of the ring for the sweet bread to rise while still holding its shape.

Push the “surprise” (optional) inside the middle of the dough. Let the dough rest again covered for another hour. Brush your Three Kings’ Cake with beaten egg and decorate with your favorite ingredients. The most common ones are candied fruits (or just orange slices with sugar on top), sliced almonds, sugar with orange blossom, or pearl sugar.

Spanish Three Kings Cake (Roscón de Reyes)

Roscón de Reyes Recipe (Spanish Three Kings Cake)

Laura Fernández Manzano
This Roscón de Reyes recipe is a traditional Spanish Three King’s Cake served at the culmination of the Christmas season on Three King’s Day. It’s a tender and buttery sweet bread best served with a cup of hot chocolate.
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 1 hr 30 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Resting time 10 hrs 10 mins
Total Time 12 hrs 20 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine Spanish
Servings 8 people
Calories 1068 kcal

Equipment

Stand mixer

Ingredients
  

Biga (Pre-Fermentation)

  • 2 grams fresh yeast ((or 0.7 grams instant yeast))
  • 50 grams warm milk
  • 90 grams strong flour/bread flour

Milk Mixture

  • 120 grams milk
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 orange zest
  • 20 grams rum
  • 20 grams orange blossom (optional)

Final Dough

  • 340 grams strong flour/bread flour (bread flour)
  • 80 grams granulated white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 15 grams fresh yeast ((or 5 grams instant yeast))
  • 5 grams salt
  • 60 grams unsalted butter ( softened)

To Decorate

  • 1 egg
  • Sugar or pearl sugar
  • Candied or fresh fruit
  • A surprise (optional (see note 1))

Instructions
 

Biga

  • The night before, prepare a biga (pre-fermentation) by dissolving the yeast in warm milk. Then add 90 grams of strong flour and let it rest overnight, covered, in the fridge.

Milk Mixture

  • Heat 120 grams of milk with the cinnamon stick, the rum, the orange zest, and a tablespoon of orange blossom (optional) until it comes to a boil. Pour 120 grams of the milk mixture into a container and store it in the fridge to rest.

Dough

  • On the day, mix the biga (pre-fermented dough) with the milk mixture, flour, sugar, eggs, yeast, salt, and start kneading. Keep kneading until all ingredients are incorporated. Add the butter piece by piece by kneading each one into the dough first. Knead the dough for at least 20 minutes until you have a dough that doesn’t stick to your hands or the mixer. Add the dough into a bowl, cover it, and let it rest for an hour, so it doubles in volume.
  • Once the dough is rested, remove it from the bowl and knead for two minutes to remove the air. Form a ball with the dough and let it rest for 10 minutes.

Forming, Decorating, and Baking

  • Form a big ring with the dough on a baking tray lined in parchment paper and push the “surprise” (optional) inside the middle of the dough. Let the dough rest again covered for another hour.
  • In the meantime, preheat your oven 180ºC/350ºF. Brush your Three Kings’ Cake with beaten egg and decorate with pearls sugar, almonds, candied fruits, or fresh fruits. Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden brown and fluffy. Let it cool before serving

Notes

  1. In Spain is typical to hide a small “king” or ‘bean’ into the dough, it symbolizes good luck for the person that finds it in his piece.

Nutrition

Calories: 1068kcalCarbohydrates: 96gProtein: 27gFat: 66gSaturated Fat: 38gPolyunsaturated Fat: 5gMonounsaturated Fat: 19gTrans Fat: 2gCholesterol: 644mgSodium: 2201mgPotassium: 568mgFiber: 5gSugar: 87gVitamin A: 2467IUVitamin C: 16mgCalcium: 287mgIron: 4mg
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