Inside: Learn all of the steps for making a traditional Rosca de Reyes (Kings Day Bread) that everyone will enjoy for years to come.
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What is Rosca de Reyes?
The Rosca de Reyes, or Kings Day Bread, is a traditional, orange-flavored bread that is adorned with dried fruit and that is primarily consumed around January 5th and 6th during the Kings Day celebrations.
The main flavor profile is orange, which is infused into the bread by adding orange zest to the dough. That said, the flavor can vary and some people even fill it with sweetened cream cheese, jelly, caramel, chocolate or dried fruit.
You will find Rosca de Reyes in every bakery throughout Mexico as Kings Day (or Dia de Los Reyes) approaches in January. They come in many different sizes and varieties as well.
The great thing is that people can add their own style and tastes to the decorations. For example, some people add figs, cherries, quince, citron, and even nuts! The only limit is your own imagination.
Cutting and Sharing the Rosca de Reyes
One of the best parts about making a Rosca de Reyes is participating in the traditions that go with it. Inside of each Rosca de Reyes, the baker adds little white figurines, which represents the baby Jesus.
According to the tradition, whoever finds one of the figurines in the piece of Rosca that they cut, is obligated to make Tamales for everyone else to celebrate “Dia de la Candelaria”, which is another Mexican holiday celebrated on February 2nd.
This is one of the best parts about sharing the Rosca de Reyes with your friends and families. It is so fun to watch everyone cut their piece, hoping that they don’t pull out the little white figurine! If you do happen to pull it out though, we have you covered – click here for our tamales recipe.
Celebrating Dia de Los Reyes
As the tradition goes, on the Dia de Los Reyes (or King Day), we celebrate the arrival of the three wise men, who were guided by a star to receive the baby Jesus together with his mother Maria, and his father Joseph.
The wise men took three gifts, which were carefully selected and which had important meanings. The three gifts were Gold, Frankincense, and Myrhh.
In Mexico, millions of little kids anxiously await the arrival of the three wise men after Christmas has passed, to receive gifts just like baby Jesus did after his birth. Those days are filled with magic and excitement and so many wonderful memories are created as a family.
You will see entire families participating in making the Rosca de Reyes, and then enjoying it together later with hot chocolate or atole. At the same time as this is going on, the little kids get ready for bed in eager anticipation of the gifts that they hope to receive.
Without a doubt, it is one of the most beautiful and special traditions in Mexico. I remember picking grass from my great-grandparents’ yard to put in a shoe box so that the wise men could feed it to their animals after traveling such a long distance!
Of course, it was even more exciting to wake up the next day and see what they had left me inside that same shoe box! I miss those days of innocence, and of course, I am so excited to be able to share these traditions with my own kids and (in the future) grandkids!
I hope you enjoy this recipe and are able to have fun with this tradition that millions of people around the world hold so dear.
Let me know how it turns out in the comments below!
- 4 1/4 Cup Flour
- 3/4 Cup Granulated Sugar
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- 5 Large Eggs (At Room Temperature) (One will be used as an egg wash to brush onto the Rosca before baking)
- 2 Egg Yolks At Room Temperature
- 1 tbsp Vanilla extract
- Orange Zest from 1 1/2 large oranges
- 1 1/4 Bars Butter At Room Temperature
- Leavening Mixture From Below
- 1/2 Cup Milk warm
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 tbsp flour
- 1 1/2 tbsp Active Dry Yeast
- 1/2 Cup Butter At Room Temperature
- 1/2 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
- 1/2 Cup Powdered Sugar
- 1 Egg Yolk At Room Temperature
- 1-5 Baby Jesus Figurines (Use more if you have more people so that they can work together on the tamales)
- Red or Green Cherries Optional
- Dried Figs Optional
- Red or Green Quince Paste Cut Into Long Strips (You can find this in the hispanic aisle at many grocery stores - look for "pasta de membrillo") Optional
- Candied Orange Peel Optional
- Granulated Sugar Optional
- Sugar Paste (Instructions Above)
Add the sugar and the flour in a large bowl with the warm milk, and mix well until there are no lumps remaining.
Add the Active Dry Yeast and mix well with the other ingredients.
Put the bowl in a warm place and let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes until it ferments and has doubled in size. Set aside to use for the dough.
Add all of the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well until completely integrated and a paste is formed. Set aside.
Mix the flour, the sugar, and the salt in a large bowl and mix well. Once completely mixed, remove the dough to a flat service and form a volcano shape (See image).
In the middle section of the dough, add 4 of the eggs and both egg yolks and mix together, adding a little bit of surrounding flour. Add the butter, the vanilla, the orange zest, and the leavening mixture from above, and mix well by hand.
The dough will be very sticky at first, but do not add more flour. Knead by hand for about 20 minutes until an even and smooth dough is formed. (The kneading process can be difficult, so if you don't have enough time, you can add the ingredients to a stand mixer after a few minutes and finish it there).
Once the dough is formed and kneaded, gather it into a large ball and place it in a large, pre-greased bowl. Add additional vegetable oil to the top of the ball so that it doesn't dry out. Cover with plastic wrap so that no air enters and let it rise for 1.5 hours, or until it has doubled in size.
Once the dough has doubled in size, remove it to a flat, floured surface, and knead into a long, even rope (see image above).
On the part of the dough rope that will be placed down on the baking sheet, insert the baby Jesus figurines. Make sure that they do not come out the top, since they need to be hidden when the Rosca is finished.
Once you have added the figurines, place the dough on a pre-greased baking sheet in a large circle or rectangular shape (see images). Let rise for one more hour.
Once the dough has risen for an hour, beat the remaining egg and brush it over the top of all of the dough. This will give the Rosca the shiny look after it has baked and it helps when adding the decorations prior to baking.
Take some of the sugar paste from the instructions above, flatten it and add it to different sections of the Rosca (see image).
Decorate as desired and bake at 325 degrees F (160 degrees C) for 25 minutes, or until it is golden brown.
Let cool and enjoy with hot chocolate or atole.