Rosca de Reyes is a beautiful yeasted cake bread eaten just after Christmas in Mexico and Central America. The oval-shaped loaf is topped with different dried fruits and meant to look like a bejeweled crown. We’ve got all the tips for making this fancy holiday bread yourself!
What is Rosca de Reyes?
This celebratory Christmas food, also known as Three Kings Cake, is eaten on Epiphany, or Three Kings Day, which takes place 12 days after Christmas. It symbolizes the Three Kings bringing their presents to baby Jesus. Similar to the New Orleans King Cake, it also has a hidden baby figurine inside!
Rosco de Reyes is also known as Twelfth Night or Epiphany Bread in Spain.
What happens when you get the baby Jesus in Rosca de Reyes?
The little baby baked inside of the rosca is arguably the best part. The figurine symbolizes the baby Jesus, and whoever finds it is in for a task! They’re charged with making the tamales for the whole family for Candelaria Day less than a month later on February 2.
What’s the difference between Rosca de Reyes and King Cake?
Rosca de Reyes and King Cake have the baby in common, but there are plenty of other differences. King cakes are French in origin, and are denser cakes than roscas, which have a rich buttery dough like brioche. The cakes are also decorated differently: roscas with dried fruits, and king cakes with glazes and sprinkles. But they’re both enjoyed during Epiphany, and they’re certainly both delicious.
Key Ingredients for Rosca de Reyes
Yeast: Use active dry yeast for this recipe. It’s easy to use, and it’s the key to getting your dough to rise.Flour: Bread flour will give you the light texture you’re going for here, but all-purpose flour will work in a pinch.Orange flavoring: Use fresh orange zest for the best and most natural flavor for this cake.Dried fruit toppings: Dried fruits are essential to giving your crown cake such an ornate look. Guava or quince paste are popular toppings, as are candied cherries.
Rosca de Reyes Recipe
This Rosca de Reyes recipe comes to us courtesy of Taste of Home Community Cook Susan Bickta. It makes one large loaf.
3 tablespoons water3 tablespoons whole milk2 tablespoons bread flour
1/2 cup warm water (110 to 115F)4-1/2 to 5 cups bread flour3/4 cup sugar1/4 teaspoon salt1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast3 large eggs, room temperature, beaten1/2 cup butter, softened4 teaspoons grated orange zest1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 butter, softened1/2 cup all-purpose flour1/3 cup sugar1 teaspoon vanilla extract1 ounce semisweet chocolate, grated
1 large egg, room temperature2 tablespoons whole milk2 tablespoons green candied cherries1/2 cup guava or quince paste
Step 1: Make the tangzhong
In a small saucepan, make the tangzhong, a water roux, by combining water, whole milk and bread flour. Cook over medium heat until thickened, about two to three minutes. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer and let cool.
Step 2: Make the dough
Add 1/2 cup warm water to the water roux and mix with a dough hook on low until combined. Add 4 cups flour, plus the sugar, salt, yeast, eggs, butter and orange zest. Knead until smooth and elastic, about six to eight minutes, adding more flour as needed. Mix in cranberries.
Place dough ball in a greased bowl, turning once to grease the top and sides. Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1-1/2 hours.
Step 3: Shape dough
Punch down dough. Turn onto a lightly floured surface. Roll dough into a long rope, pinching the ends together to form a large oval. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover again and let rise in a warm place until almost doubled, about 1 hour.
Step 4: Make the streusel
Meanwhile make the streusel. In a large bowl, beat the butter, chocolate, flour, sugar and vanilla until combined, to make a chocolate dough. Roll this dough between two pieces of waxed paper into a rectangle. Use a knife or pizza cutter to cut it into 1 inch strips.
Step 5: Decorate and bake
Preheat oven to 350F.
In a small bowl, whisk egg and milk and brush mixture over risen dough. Decorate the oval with strips of the chocolate streusel mixture and candied fruit, laying strips of guava paste over the ring and dotting with cherries.
Bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool slightly, slice and serve.
Change the toppings: Other toppings can be used to change up your rosca. Popular toppings include walnuts, pecans and prunes.Make it sweeter: In some parts of Mexico, roscas are filled with dulce de leche and decorated with grated coconut!Fill with nuts and cream: One variation of roscas is Rosca de nuez, filled with walnuts and pastry cream.
How to Store Rosca de Reyes
Rosca can be stored up to four days at room temperature, wrapped tightly in plastic or an airtight container. You can also freeze it for up to three months.
Rosca de Reyes Tips
How do you serve Rosca de Reyes?
If it couldn’t get any better, it’s traditional to serve Rosca de Reyes with Mexican hot chocolate. It also goes great with corn atole or champurrado.
Can you make roscas ahead of time?
Get a head start on your rosca the night before. Go through steps 1 and 2, but instead of resting your dough on the counter, leave it in the fridge overnight for the first rise. The next day pull the dough from the fridge and allow it to come back to room temp for 30 minutes, then continue to step 3.