Rosca de Reyes

Tonight, my kiddies are expecting visitors.  Royal visitors.  Royal, gift bearing visitors from far away.  The Orient, to be exact.

Reyes Magos
Los Reyes Magos: Melchor, Gaspar & Baltazar
My son Jack (in the red robe) with his two friends

Tomorrow (January 6th), is El Dia de los Reyes Magos (3 Kings Day).  In some parts of Mexico, El Dia de Reyes is an even bigger gift-giving holiday than Christmas.  And like Christmas, the celebration starts the night before.  The entire family gathers together at my suegra's house for Mexican Hot Chocolate and Rosca de Reyes.  (For more about how my family celebrates this holiday read Three Kings & a Full House and watch the fun family video.) 

Rosca de Reyes (King Cake/Bread) is a traditional pastry served just for this holiday.  It's an orange-flavored, wreath shaped loaf, decorated with dried and candied fruits to resemble a king's crown.  Tucked away inside each Rosca de Reyes, is a plastic or porcelain figure of El Niño Dios (the Christ child).  The hidden figurine is symbolic of when the Baby Jesus was hidden from Herod's decree to kill all male babies.

The real fun is watching to see who will find the Niño Dios hidden in their slice of Rosca.  A Rosca de Reyes can have anywhere from 1 to 5 figurines.  Most have about 3.  We order ours with extra monitos (dolls/figurines).

Whoever finds El Niño Dios in their slice of Rosca has to provide the tamales for the celebration on El Dia de la Candelaria on February 2nd.  It's also believed that whoever finds El Niño Dios will be blessed all year long.

Not bad for my first Rosca de Reyes

Rosca de Reyes
(Dough recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour)

  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon instant or quick active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

  • All of the sponge
  • 3/4 cup Mexican crema or plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour

Sugar Topping:
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

In a large mixing bowl, combine the sponge ingredients (water, sugar, yeast and flour) and mix well.  Cover and let set for about 10 minutes or until the yeast has bubbled.

Rosca de Reyes Dough prep

Add the dough ingredients to the sponge.  Mix by hand, just until the dough forms a ball.  Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic.  Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and turn dough greased side up.  Cover and let rise for 60 to 90 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size. 

Rosca de Reyes dough

Divide the dough in two.  Shape one half of the dough in to a circle.  Cut a slash into the center of the circle.  Carefully stretch and shape the dough into a oval and place in a lightly greased 11 x 15-inch baking sheet.  Cover and let rise another 30 to 60 minutes.  (The only thing I recommend is not stretching it so far that it touches the edges of the pan, because the dough is still going to expand.)

shaping the rosca de reyes

Tuck the Niño Dios figurines into the Rosca, making sure to cover completely.  Preheat oven to 375°F.

Hiding baby Jesus in Rosca de Reyes

Prepare the Sugar Topping by combining the powdered sugar, flour, butter and vanilla until it forms a dough.  Divide the sugar topping into 6 to 8 pieces, depending on the size of your Rosca.

Sugar Topping Prep

Decorate the Rosca with Sugar Topping, Candied Citrus Peel and/or Dried Fruits and pecans.  (Note:  Learn from my mistake.  Just place the sugar topping on top of the Rosca, because it will melt down the sides in the oven.  I didn't do that and had to scrape burnt sugar topping off the baking sheet.) 

Uncooked Rosca de Reyes

Bake the Rosca at 375°F for 20 to 25 minutes or until light golden brown.  Serve with Mexican Hot Chocolate or Atole.  Enjoy!!!  (I only used half of the dough, but I'd recommend using all of it for a bigger Rosca.)

Slice of Rosca de Reyes with Niño Dios

Remember: whoever finds the Niño Dios in their slice of Rosca, has to provide the tamales for the El Dia de la Candelaria (February 2nd.)  Looks like I'll be making tamales very soon!



  1. LOVE the pic of your son with his friends...Que cute! I also love the fresh candied fruit peels on your rosca and your post on how to make them. YUM!

  2. Thanks for the lesson, Leslie. You make everything look so simple, Amiga. Y los pequeños! Love it. Un abrazo a ti y tu familia.

  3. When I was younger I had a collection of all the baby jesus figurines from years past. Chido no?

    One day i'll actually make my own rosca.

  4. That is such a huge loaf! Your candied citrus peel looks so beautiful on there. Wish I could have a slice!

  5. This looks so delicious. And the kids are so cute!!!

  6. I love it! Congrats on your first Rosca! I wish I could taste some of yours.

  7. When I worked for Marriott here in LA, most of the staff would bring the cakes in. i just remember how tasty they were. Reminded me of La Fete des Rois. It was a similar concept, except whomever found the jewel in the cake was the king or queen for the day.
    This cake looks great. I'd like to try the homemade version sometime!

  8. I believe the origin of this cake would have been when Spain was part of ancient Rome, because there are a few tales about Dionysus/Bacchus getting torn into pieces and eaten (and of he and his priests & priestesses tearing people and animals into pieces to consume their flesh and blood in communion with Dionysus/Bacchus).

  9. Isn't it great to make your own? I also made my first one this week... I was so proud! :) Good job Leslie! :)