Bolo Rei Portuguese King Cake

Bolo Rei Portuguese Kings Cake

It wouldn’t be Christmas in Portugal without a Bolo Rei Around the Family Table.  Some will even go as far saying there is no Christmas without Bolo Rei.  This Bolo Rei  Portuguese King Cake Recipe has been in our family for generations.  We look forward to making it every year in preparation for the Holidays.

Although it is called a cake. Bolo Rei  is more like a sweet bread.  Traditionally there is a broad bean, usually large fava bean, and a coin placed inside the Bolo Rei.

One of the explanations for the tradition comes from a legend regarding the Three Kings as they followed the Star of Bethlehem on their way to greet baby Jesus.  On their travels, they met a baker who gave them a loaf of bread with a broad bean hidden inside it.  He told them that the one who ended up with the slice of bread with the bean should give baby Jesus his present first.

So the tradition continues and it is made clear that whoever ends up with the bean is expected to make the Bolo Rei for the following year.

Whoever wins the coin is said to be blessed with good luck.   Hmmmm….wonder why I always wind up with the bean?

We had so much fun baking Bolo Rei with Vovo.  Although this is a time consuming recipe, it is totally worth it to do once a year.  I love the tradition behind it and love that three generations spend the day baking Around the Family Table.

All of Vovo’s recipes are in Portuguese, so the first thing we had to do is figure out the conversions.  Thank goodness Alexandra and Vo are so smart and figured it all out!

Bolo Rei Portuguese Kings Cake

Port wine is a big part of any dessert in Portugal.  Bolo Rei is no different.  We soaked our dates, candied fruit and nuts in it for this recipe.

Bolo Rei Portuguese Kings Cake Recipe

Riley helps us get started by measuring the flour and sugar.

Then it’s time to get serious. The kneading of the dough is no easy task and we all have to take turns. Vovo goes first.  After a while she is exhausted.

Bolo Rei Portuguese Kings Cake Recipe

Then it’s Reis’s turn. What a workout!

Bolo Rei Portuguese Kings Cake Recipe

After Vovo and Reis are completely exhausted, Vo comes to the rescue! Truly a team effort by all.

Bolo Rei Portuguese Kings Cake

The dough must be left to rise over night.  We couldn’t believe how much it had grown!

Bolo Rei Portuguese Kings Cake

Then we shaped the dough  into a ring and it is so much fun to decorate.  We used candied fruit and Natural Delights Medjool Dates added the perfect touch.

Bolo Rei Portuguese Kings Cake

Of course, we couldn’t just make one.  One for our home, one for Vovo and Vo’s home and one to share with friends!

Bolo Rei Portuguese Kings Cake Recipe

Our Bolo Rei is ready for the oven.  We can’t wait to try it.  The best part is that after a couple of days, you can toast it and add a butter and it is perfect with a cup of coffee or afternoon tea.

Bolo Rei Portuguese King Cake

5.0 from 2 reviews
Bolo Rei | King Cake Portuguese Recipe
Recipe type: Dessert
  • ½ Cup Candied Citrus Fruit
  • 3 T. Raisins
  • ½ Cup Pine Nuts
  • ½ Cup Walnuts
  • ⅓ Cup plus 2 Teaspoons Port Wine
  • 2½ teaspoon active dry yeast
  • ⅓ Cup plus 2 teaspoons milk
  • 3½ Cups unbleached flour
  • 1½ teaspoon salt
  • 7 Teaspoon unsalted butter, softened
  • ⅓ Cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar
  • Grated zest of 2 oranges
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 dried fava bean and Large Coin
  • Topping:
  • 1 egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon water
  • 10 candied cherries
  • 1 package of Natural Delights Medjool Dates
  • Powdered sugar for garnish
  1. Soak candied fruit, raisins and pine nuts in Port Wine overnight or until plump.
  2. Sprinkle yeast into milk in bowl and let stand 5 minutes. Stir to dissolve.
  3. Mix flour and salt in large bowl.
  4. Make well in center and pour in dissolved yeast.
  5. Use wooden spoon to draw enough flour into dissolved yeast to form soft paste.
  6. Cover bowl with dish towel and let stand until "sponge" is frothy and slightly risen, about 20 minutes.
  7. In separate bowl, beat butter with sugar and orange zests until light and fluffy.
  8. Add eggs, 1 at a time, and beat well after each addition.
  9. Add mixture to flour mixture and mix in flour from sides to until dough is soft.
  10. Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface.
  11. Knead until soft, smooth, silky and elastic, about 10 minutes.
  12. Knead in dried fruit and pine nuts until evenly distributed.
  13. Place dough into clean bowl and cover with dish towel.
  14. Let rise until doubled in size. We usually let it sit overnight, but as little as 2 hours is usually ok.
  15. Punch down, then let rest 10 minutes.
  16. Shape dough into ring and place on buttered baking sheet.
  17. Wrap dried fava bean or trinket separately in wax paper.
  18. Insert tiny package into bottom of shaped dough.
  19. Cover with dish towel and set aside until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  20. To prepare topping:
  21. Brush dough with egg glaze and decorate with candied fruit and powdered sugar.
  22. Bake at 350°F. 45 minutes until golden.
  23. Cool on wire rack.
  24. Makes 1 Loaf

Kid Ratings: Alexandra 10, Ronnie 9, Reis 9.5, Riley 8.5


  1. says

    Admit I was curious since I had never heard the word before ! This looks Delish !! Am shopping today, so maybe will just pick up what I need ti make this awesome holiday dish :) Thanks for sharing anf have a great holiday Isabel !

  2. says

    Isabel~ I love that you have these wonderful traditions and that you share them with the world! The bolo rei looks awesome! Cooking and baking together is so much fun and truly creates memories that will always be treasured!

  3. says

    Looks so great Isabel! I used to do things like this when my Nonna was still with us. What great memories. Your Bolo Rei reminds me of the Italian Panetonne, I think I need to go buy some now!! Buon Natale~

  4. says

    Reading the legend of the Bolo Rei bread/cake and seeing your entire family project participating in the project are truly heartwarming.

    Thank you for sharing this lovely recipe and story, Isabel.

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