Three Kings Bread For New Year’s Day (Or Around There)

In Mexico, January 6 is Three Kings Day. To mark the traditional holiday, Rosca de Reyes–or Three Kings Bread–is served along with chocolate caliente. (That’s hot chocolate.) There’s also a special surprise inside: a small porcelain figurine representing the baby Jesus. The person who finds the figurine is responsible for providing the tamales for El Dia de la Candelaria–aka  Candelmas–on February 2.   [photo via flickr]

Of course, this will all sound familiar to anyone who’s ever had a King’s Day cake in New Orleans–or several other places where this cake has become a New Year’s tradition. It’s fun to go with this twist, though. The recipe comes from, using traditional ingredients for this Mexican round bread that celebrates the Three Wise Men visiting Jesus at his birth.


1/2 cup of warm water

2 Envelopes (4 1/2 teaspoons=14 grams) of dry active yeast
4 cups (20 ounces) all purpose flour plus more for dusting
1/2 cup of sugar
3 large whole eggs
4 egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 Tablespoon orange extract
1 1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened (equals 6 oz. or 3/4 cup) Plus more for bowl and plastic wrap.
Freshly grated orange zest from one orange

Ingredients for the topping

1 egg yolk
3/4 cup of all purpose flour
6 Tablespoon margarine
1/2 cup of confectioner sugar
Dry fruit like figs, candied orange or cherries.
1 egg beaten for glazing the bread
1 Tablespoon heavy cream or whole milk
White sugar to sprinkle on top of the bread

2 or 3 plastic baby dolls

Note: Insert the dolls into the dough from the bottom before baking.


Pour warm water into a bowl, and sprinkle with yeast. Stir with a fork until yeast has dissolved, then let stand until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup of the flour, and cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let stand in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix the flour, eggs, sugar, orange extract, orange zest, salt and butter in a large bowl. Mix until crumbly.

Add yeast mixture to the bowl and mix. It will be very sticky. Place into a floured surface and start kneading until you dough is smooth. It will take about 15 minutes to get this result.

Once your dough is smooth and elastic, place in a buttered bowl and cover with buttered plastic wrap. Let dough stand in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 and 1/2 hours. Make sure your kitchen is warm to help your dough to rise.

 While the dough is resting, mix the following ingredients for the decoration: margarine with the confectioner’s sugar until creamy. Then add in the flour and egg yolk. Until you have a smooth paste.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees, with rack in lower third. Turn dough out onto a floured surface, and knead a few times, then shape into a round cushion and making a hole in the middle shape into a large ring. Push doll into the bottom of the ring. Transfer to a greased rimmed baking sheet, and loosely cover with buttered plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place for 45 minutes. Gather all your decorations and the egg wash. For the egg wash, whisk remaining egg with cream.

Brush the dough with the egg wash. Form strips with the confectioner’s sugar paste and decorate the dough. Place some of the dried fruit pressing them gently into the dough. Sprinkle with sugar and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for 10 more minutes until bread is a nice golden brown color. Depending of your oven it will require more time.

Transfer the bread to a wire rack to cool.

This recipe yields one large bread ring for 16 servings.