History and Cultural Significance:
One of the most common things you will see in bakeries in Spain during the Christmas holidays is a large bagel-shaped cake, usually cut in half long-ways and filled with whipped cream or other sweet fillings. This cake is called a Roscón de Reyes—roscón is the large bagel shape of the cake itself and the Reyes refer to the Three Kings that Christians recognize as the Three Wise Men who brought the baby Jesus gifts on the 6th of January. And, for any true Spanish celebration of the Epiphany, you should definitely have a Roscón de Reyes on your table.
Like many traditions, the Roscón de Reyeshas many potential origins. While some people believe that it has always been part of a Catholic celebration, others tie the sweet cake with candied fruit to similar traditions carried out by the Romans celebrating Saturn where a comparable cake was made. Despite the oficial origins, this Roscón has been part of the celebration of Reyes from around the 12th century as we can see its appearance is several written works by different authors around the Iberian Peninsula. Although the celebrations had different names in different regions of Spain (and can even be found in other countries such as France), today they have commonly come together to represent the celebration of the Epiphany.
The cake is a pretty plain bagel-like cake- plain or chocolate whipped cream or other sweet fillings although you can also find ones with more unique fillings such as truffle flavored filling or sweet spaghetti squash known as cabello de ángel. It is said to be made into the shape of a crown and oftentimes it also has dried fruit baked into the dough or sprinkled on top like the jewels on a kings crown.
The most important thing about the cake are the different little figures or objects that are baked inside as each one has significance to the family/region. Normally, at least two different objects can be found in the cake—a black bean (or an haba) and something that represents the king. The person who eats the slice of cake with the king is the ‘king for the day’ whereas the person who gets the haba has to pay for the cake the following year. In addition, in some places or families, additional objects such as coins can also be baked into the cake.
Interestingly, in striking contrast with Christian traditions in North-Eastern Europe where the Santa Claus brings gifts for children on Christmas Eve, in the Spanish world the “Gifts-Giving” day is traditionally associated with Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar (Magi) bringing the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. During the traditional parade of Tres Reyes on the evening of 5th January, the “rain of candies” literally falls from the sky on children (well, from the carriages of Kings and their lavish entourage). Then, the custom is followed in private rituals at homes and the kids open the packages of presents in the morning of 6th January. This ceremony is followed by a breakfast consisted on Roscon de Reyes and hot chocolate.
-90 gr -2/3 cup flour (Mine was buckwheat flour)
-50 ml warm milk
-7 gr dry bakers’ yeast
-1 coffee spoon (cs) granulated sugar
-120 ml ( 1 cup) milk
-1 cinnamon stick
– Peel of ½ orange and ½ lemon
– Aromatized milk
– 3 cups wheat flour 0r 3,5 cups glutenfree flour mix for bread. (Mine was 2 cups flour mix and 1,5 cups buckwheat flour. As the flour mix already contains physllium husk I fdid not add more but if your mix dooes not contain it, add 2 tablespoon physllium husk)
– 2 eggs
– 90 gr – 1 cup granulated sugar
– Zest of ½ orange and ½ lemon
– 60 gr -2 ts butter
– 14 gr dry bakers’yeast
– 3 ts orange blossom water (agua de azahar)
– 1 pinch of salt
-2 egg yolk
-2 ts almond flakes
-6-8 maraschino cherry
-8-10 slices of orange
-1 ts granulated sugar
– Prepare the polish at least a night before you bake the Roscon.
– Mix dry yeast and warm milk. Add flour and knead the dough. Cover it with cling film. Leave it in a warm place for 2 hours, then keep it in the fridge.
-Add cinnamon stick ,orange and lemon peels into the milk. Heat it until it boils. Then tap it and leave it sit for 1 hour. Drain it at the end of 1 hour.
– Add yeast and sugar into aromatized milk. Set it aside for 10 minutes.
– Add the poolish in pieces into the milk-yeast mix as it is shown in the video.
– Add eggs, zest, sugar, salt, orange blossom water and mix them well.
– Add flour and knead the dough.
– Spread the dough on the countertop, add butter in pieces and knead the dough again.
– Place the dough in a bowl, cover it with cling film, leave it sit in a warm place until its volume doubles. (Around 2 hours)
-Put the dough on the countertop, shape it as a ball. Open a hole in the middle of it with your fingers, extend the hole until it gets the form of a bagel. ( See the video)
– Put a small bowl into the hole so that it would not close during the fermentation. Blanch the surface of the Roscon with egg yolk. Leave it sit in a warm place for half an hour.
– Take the small bowl from the center of the Roscon out. Blanch it with egg yolk once more time. Hide a black bean and a white bean inside the Roscon ( As I mentioned at the history section. The one who finds the white bean will be the king, the one who finds the black bean will pay for the Roscon)
– Pour some drops of water on 1 ts of granulated sugar to humidify it. Spread this humidified sugar on top of roscon. Decorate with orange slices, maraschino cherries and almond flakes.
– Bake in pre-heated oven (180 Celsius without fan) for 20-25 minutes.
– Serve it plain or you can stuff it with whipped cream or pastry cream.