King cake

King cake


80 Cakes Around the World
Jean Cazals

Part of every Portuguese family's Christmas, the king cake, or bolo rei, is a majestic ring of sparkling jewels. It made its way from France to Portugal in the nineteenth century, and is named for the dia de reis, or Day of Kings, when the three wise men visited the baby Jesus. The round shape resembles a crown, the dried fruits the jewels. I use mango, papaya and kiwi fruit to add colour, along with other more traditional dried fruits. If you are making it during the festive season don't forget to include a dried bean. Tradition has it that whoever gets the bean has to make next year's bolo rei.


Quantity Ingredient
30g fresh yeast, (or 15g dried yeast)
100ml warm water
500g strong white flour
5g salt
70g caster sugar
1 lemon, grated zest
3 medium eggs
150ml dessert wine
100g unsalted butter, melted
75g raisins
40g soft dried mango, chopped
30g glace cherries, washed and cut in half
50g sultanas
50g semi-dried apricots, cut into small pieces
1 dried bean, (optional)

To decorate

Quantity Ingredient
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon of milk, to glaze
200-300g mixed dried fruits, sliced, such as mango, papaya, kiwi, glad cherries, figs, pears
50g flaked or chopped almonds
50-75g apricot jam
a little icing sugar


  1. Mix the yeast with the warm water until liquid. Place the flour, salt, sugar and lemon zest in a freestanding electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the yeast mix with the eggs and dessert wine and combine on a low speed for 1-2 minutes to form a soft, elastic dough. Add the melted butter and mix on a low speed for 15 minutes, until the dough is soft, shiny and pulling away from the sides of the bowl to form a ball. Remove from the machine and add the dried fruits, kneading well by hand. Cover the dough and leave in a warm place until doubled in size.
  2. Turn the dough out on to a lightly floured surface and knead for 2—3 minutes. If you are including the bean, wrap it in cling film and knead it into the dough. Shape the dough into a 20cm ball and flatten it slightly with a rolling pin. Place on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Using a 5cm pastry cutter, cut out a piece from the centre to give you a ring (you can bake the offcut and enjoy it toasted with butter). Loosely cover with oiled cling film and leave in a warm place until doubled in size.
  3. Heat the oven to 180°C. Brush the ring gently with the beaten egg wash and decorate with the sliced dried fruits and the nuts. Bake for 20 minutes, then check that the fruits are not colouring too much. If they are, cover the entire cake with foil. Cook for a further 15-20 minutes, until the cake is golden and sounds hollow when tapped underneath. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
  4. Heat the apricot jam until runny, then strain through a sieve. Brush the cake with the warmed apricot jam and dust with a little icing sugar.
Claire Clark
80 Cakes Around the World
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