Rosca de Reyes, or Roscón de Reyes, is an oval-shaped Mexican dessert and Spanish dessert eaten on January 6th. It celebrates the Three King’s visit to the Baby Jesus. A delicious treat with a special surprise inside. See the VIDEO or follow the step-by-step tutorial.
Growing up, we never took down our Christmas decorations until after January 6, or Epiphany. We would always get gifts as kids. Then later that day, we would eat a slice of Rosca de Reyes, or Roscón de Reyes, with a big cup of champurrado.
I am lucky to have a bakery nearby that makes Rosca de Reyes each year. You can even pre-order them. To be perfectly honest, you can make this King’s Cake just about anywhere in the world. The main ingredients are in the picture above. However, I left out the ingredients for the toppings. You’ll see those when we’re decorating our cake.
You start with the yeast. Most breads and cakes require yeast. Mix it with some warm milk, flour, and sugar. Make sure there are no lumps. Set the mixture aside until ready to use.
This is the zest of one orange. Zest is best. Everyone has their own taste. If you like more orange-y flavor, zest another orange. I know people who will even use the juice of the orange. Orange you glad we’re making a Rosca de Reyes. Lol.
I love my KitchenAid. It gets plenty of use. If you don’t have one, you can use a hand mixture. Just a warning … There will be some kneading by hand involved regardless of what you use. If you do this by hand, you need to create a volcano of flour, then add the ingredients in the center and slowly work them in.
Take out the butter so it can be room temperature. Or, put it in the microwave for 10 seconds. If it is still cold, zap it again for 5 more seconds. Do not use melted butter. Add the butter slowly to the mixer. You want it to be fully incorporated.
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Next, the eggs. We are using 3 whole eggs and 3 egg yolks. I had one of the yolks crack in the process of separating the yolk from the whites. Oh well.. I’m not yolking about it. It really happened. lol. There are such things as egg separators. I clearly don’t have one. 🙂
Mix well. Party time in the mixer! The ingredients are getting to know each other.
Flour sometimes stays on the bottom. We need all the flour power we can get! Make sure to scrape the sides and the bottom. I do this periodically while I’m working.
This is a very sticky dough. Do you see how it looks on the hook? Sticky is tricky. Get it off the hook.
Dust the surface of a counter with flour. Add the dough. My advice is to work on a surface that is easy to clean. Wash up and start massaging the dough. It’s not a chair massage. It’s a table massage.
It’s a very sticky dough. Here the thing, though. You can’t add too much flour, or your Rosca de Reyes will not be very soft. Only add as much flour as you need to get the dough to come together.
After about 20 minutes and you’ve burned a few calories, the dough will form. Once your hand no longer sticks to the dough, it’s ready. Give yourself a hand. This part is done!
Pull the dough slightly. You are looking for a stain glass window effect. The light will come through the dough. It’s a cathedral in your kitchen.
Once the dough is ready, place it in a buttered bowl. You can also use canola oil. Oily to rise.
Cover it with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel, and let it rise for 1 ½ hours. Covering your dough will help prevent a crust from forming on the dough. Do this in a warm place like the kitchen. If you live in colder temperatures, it can take up to 2 hours to rise.
Once it is ready, dust a clean surface. Add the dough and start rolling it out. Roll out the dough as long as you can. You can also use a rolling pin. It will look like a very long baguette.
Form an opening on one of the ends. It kinda looks like an elephant’s trunk. Ain’t no junk in this trunk. Lol. Connect the two ends together.
Now, shape the dough. Rosca de Reyes is more oval shaped than round. I am shaping the dough here first to make sure it will fit my cookie sheet. Carefully place the dough on a large cookie sheet. You will need to shape the dough again. This time, though, it will not take as much time.
Note: If you shape the dough into an oval, and it’s bigger than your cookie sheet, make two Roscas. One big one, and one little one.
I had a hard time finding these Baby Jesus dolls. Luckily, you can order the Jesus doll online. I eventually went to my local bakery and asked (more like begged) them to give me one. Some people have a hard time finding Jesus. I found Him at the Mexican bakery. 😉
Hide the Baby Jesus doll from the bottom up. Press the dough together to hide the seam. Nowadays, if you buy a Rosca de Reyes, you’ll find 6 or more dolls. When I was a kid, they only hid one doll. I think it’s more exciting with one doll.
Make an egg wash. This is just one egg and 1 tablespoon water. Beat it with a fork.
Take your brush, and brush the egg wash all over the Rosca dough. Be sure to get the sides.
Decorating time. This is the same powdered sugar mixture used to top everyone’s favorite Mexican sweet bread, Conchas. The full recipe is in the recipe card below. Roll it out.
I cut it to have more exact measurements. You can also spread it out in your hand and eyeball it. Some people will add yellow or green food coloring. Whatever you like is fine.
I found a baby Jesus, but I did not find ate, or fruit paste. Instead, I used what I could find. I added slivered almonds, maraschino cherries, and raisins. You can also add dried fruits like dried figs, dried plums, pineapples, mangos, oranges. Invite the kiddos. They will love helping you decorate.
There are different recipes for Rosca de Reyes. However, they all look very much alike. Check out the one below. It is a store-bought Rosca de Reyes (or Roscón de Reyes). I wanted to show you the different types of toppings people use. I’ve also seen green-colored cherries and shredded coconut or stuffed with cream cheese.
January 6 is Epiphany Day or the appearance of the Wise Men or Magi Kings: Balthazar, Melchior and Caspar. The dried and candied fruits on the bread symbolize the crowns of the Kings. The Baby Jesus doll placed inside represents Mary and Joseph fleeing Egypt to escape Herod, trying to kill their baby. The tradition of the Rosca de Reyes started in Europe in the 14th century.
Today, Mexicans will invite people to their homes to eat a slice of Rosca de Reyes. It is said that the person who finds the baby Jesus doll, should throw a party on Día de la Candelaria, or Candlemas Day, on February 2. The person hosting the party is supposed to make tamales.
Watch the Video to learn to make a Rosca de Reyes
- For Yeast Mixture:
- 1 package yeast
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon whole wheat flour
- ½ cup milk warm milk (not hot)
- For Dough:
- 4 cups whole wheat flour
- ¾ cup sugar
- ¾ tablespoon salt
- 3 eggs
- 3 egg yolks
- Zest of 1 orange
- ½ cup softened butter (or 1 stick)
- For Sugar Topping:
- ⅔ cup powdered sugar
- ½ cup butter
- 1 cup all-purpose flour + ½ cup for dusting
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- For Decorations:
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon water
- Ate (or fruit paste)
- Candied or dried fruits - pineapple, oranges, figs, dates, plums, raisins
- Maraschino cherries - red and green (if available)
In a small container, mix the yeast, sugar, flour, and warm milk.
Mix until smooth and set aside.
Note: Do not use HOT milk. Warm milk only.
In a large mixer, add the flour, sugar, salt.
Mix together to combine.
If you are using a KitchenAid, use the hook attachment.
Add the eggs, egg yolks, and orange zest.
Start mixing slowly.
Gradually add the butter.
Once the butter is fully combined, add the yeast mixture.
Mix for a few minutes.
On a clean surface, dust with flour.
Add the dough.
The dough will be very sticky.
Start working the dough by hand.
It will take roughly 20 minutes to get the dough to come together.
Add flour only as needed.
When your hand no longer sticks to the dough, it is ready.
Butter a bowl.
Add the dough to the bowl.
Cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel.
Proof for 1 ½ hour.
Note: if you live in colder climates, you might need to proof longer.
Dust a clean surface with more flour.
Roll out the dough as far as it can go.
It will look like a long baguette.
You can use a rolling pin.
Make a hole on one end of the dough.
Connect one end of the dough to the end with the hole.
Shape the dough into an oval.
Eyeball the size of the oval dough in comparison to your cookie sheet.
If it's too big, cut the dough and make two Rosca de Reyes
Carefully place the dough onto a buttered cookie sheet.
Shape again into an oval form.
Cover and set aside.
Make the sugar topping by combining the powdered sugar, butter, 1 cup flour, cinnamon, and vanilla.
Mix until a small ball forms.
Dust a clean surface again with flour.
Roll out the sugar topping.
With a knife, cut into small equal-sized rectangles.
Make the egg wash by mixing an egg with water.
Brush the dough with the egg wash.
Be sure to brush the sides of the dough.
Add the sugar toppings and desired decorations.
Cover while heating the oven.
Heat an oven for 350 degrees F.
Uncover the dough and bake for 30 minutes.
Let cool before serving.
If you can't use whole wheat flour, you can use all purpose flour. However, the cake will turn out more dense and not as soft.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.
Recipes for Mexican Tamales
Masa for Tamales
Red Pork Tamales
Tamales de Rajas con Queso, Pickled Jalapeño and Cheese Tamales
Instant Pot Chicken Tamales
Beef Tamales, Tamales de Res
Chicken Salsa Verde Tamales
Northern Style Bean Tamales, or Tamales de Frijol Norteños
Tamale Masa with Oil