Christmas Special: Bolo Rei

Bolo Rei, which means Kings Cake, is a traditional cake eaten in Portuguese homes around Christmas time. Traditionally it is made and eaten on King’s Day (6th of January), as an offering, in respect to the Three Wise Men. Inside, two things are hidden: – a small gift wrapped in parchment paper (normally a little metal saint or a coin) and a dry broad bean. Whoever finds the gift keeps it, and who finds the dry broad been will have to pay for next year’s cake. It is made from a a soft, brioche-like dough with a hole in the middle, mixed with raisins, dried nuts and candied fruit. It requires a bit of work, but it is the perfect cake to make the last days at uni a bit more Christmas-y!



  • 7 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup fine sugar
  • 6 eggs at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cup butter at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 3/4 cups + 1/8 cup warm milk (210ml)
  • 1/3 cup Port Wine
  • 2 pinches salt
  • 1/3 cup pinenuts
  • 1/3 cup walnuts cut in pieces
  • 6 perfect walnut halves for decoration
  • 1/3 cup blanched slivered almonds
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1/3 cup red and green candied cherries cut in quarters
  • 6 red and green cherries (3 + 3) whole with no seed for decoration
  • 1 cup candied fruits cut up in small pieces
  • 2 half candied pears
  • 2 half candied oranges cut in quarters for decoration
  • Icing sugar for decoration



1) Warm up the milk in a saucepan on medium heat until it reaches the point of boiling. Remove from the heat as soon as it does.
2) In a bowl dissolve the yeast with 1/3 of the warm milk until totally dissolved.
3) Sift the flour and put 1 cup in a bowl. Make a well in the center and add the yeast with the milk, a pinch of sugar and sprinkle some flour on top.
4) Leave it for 10 minutes let the yeast rise.
5) Put the remaining 6 cups of sifted flour in the bowl of a stand mixer.
6) Add the flour and yeast from the bowl, the sugar and the remaining milk. Attach the flat beater and mix slowly.
7) Mix on medium speed until all ingredients are mixed well and have a smooth and even consistency.
8) Add the butter at room temperature, the Port wine, the salt and the eggs one at a time, beating very well before you add the next one.
9) Mix on medium speed to obtain a smooth and consistent dough.
10) When the dough starts to unattach from the sides of the bowl change the flat beater to a spiral dough hook and beat at medium speed for 15 to 20 minutes.
11) Sprinkle the top of the dough with a little flour and cover it.
12) Allow to rise for 1 1/2 hours or until doubled.
13) Put the bowl back in the stand mixer with the spital dough hook attached and deflate the dough.
14) Add all the nuts and candied fruit and mix to spread these evenly in the dough.
15) Take a 2 1/2 diameter cookie cutter and wrap it with a 5 inch wide strip of parchment paper all around. Tuck a bit of the parchment paper under and inside the cookie cutter so it doesn’t open.
16) Grease the outside of the parchment paper with butter or cooking spray.

17) Transfer the dough with the ingredients onto a lightly floured baking sheet.
18) Dust your hands with flour and shape the dough into a long log.
19) Make the dough into a circle leaving a wide hole in the middle and attach the ends of the log.
20) Put the lined cookie cutter in the middle of the circle so the cake doesn’t close in the center as it cooks.
21) Cover the cake and let it rise for about an hour or until it has doubled in size.
22) Pre-heat the oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit with the rack in the middle.
23) Decorate the cake with the halved walnuts, the cherries and the strips of candied pear and let it bake for 30 minutes.
24) Remove the cookie cutter from the center and continue baking another 10 to 15 minutes until golden brown.
25) Allow to cool completely and dust with the icing sugar. Serve.


Recipe from Easy Portuguese Recipes. Images courtesy of Pinterest.