Rosca de Reyes, or Three Kings Bread, is a soft orange-flavored sweet bread that’s traditionally made in Mexico to celebrate Three Kings Day, or Epiphany. Enjoy a slice with a cup of champurrado or café de olla!
What is a Rosca de Reyes?
A Rosca de Reyes, or Three Kings Cake, is an ornate sweet bread that’s soft, buttery, and has a hint of orange flavor. It’s often round or oval in shape and decorated with red and green candied cherries, strips of guava or quince paste, and a sweet streusel-like topping.
It’s traditionally made to celebrate the Christian feast day of Epiphany, also known as Three Kings Day, on January 6th, when the three wise men arrived in Bethlehem to visit the Baby Jesus and present him with gifts.
In Mexican tradition, 1 to 3 baby figurines representing Baby Jesus are hidden inside of the bread. Families gather together on the day of Epiphany and share this delicious bread, where everyone cuts a slice. If your slice of Rosca de Reyes has a Baby Jesus inside, you have to cook tamales for the whole family on February 2nd for Día de la Candelaria, or Candlemas.
Ingredients You Need
How to Make a Rosca de Reyes
Step 1: Start by making the yeast mixture. Mix warmed milk (between 110°F-115°F), active dry yeast, and sugar together inside a bowl. Lightly cover and allow to sit for 5 minutes. It should be bubbly and frothy to indicate the yeast has bloomed.
Step 2: In the bowl of a stand mixer, lightly combine bread flour, all-purpose flour, remaining sugar and salt.
Step 3: When the yeast mixture is ready, add the eggs, melted butter, orange zest, and yeast mixture to the bowl and mix using the dough hook attachment for 6-8 minutes.
The dough should be smooth and pull away from the bowl. If it’s still sticky, add 1 tbsp of flour at a time until it reaches this consistency.
Step 4: Place the dough inside a well oiled bowl, cover, and allow it to rise for 60-90 minutes, until it has doubled in size.
Step 5: Divide the dough in half, and roll each halve into a ball. Place your fingers in the middle of the ball and gently create a hole. Lightly stretch the dough to create a large oval wreath shape. Repeat this process with the other dough ball.
Step 6: Transfer the shaped doughs onto two separate baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Then cover and allow it to rise for an additional 45 minutes.
Step 7: While the dough is rising, make the sugar paste by beating together the egg yolk, all-purpose flour, confectioners sugar, and butter until well combined. Divide it into 16 pieces, refrigerate and set aside.
Step 8: Once the dough has risen, it’s time to decorate! Make the egg wash by whisking egg and milk until combined. Brush the egg wash on each rosca. Then take the sugar paste topping out of the refrigerator and shape it into thin strips before placing it on the roscas. Each Rosca should have 8 strips dispersed evenly. Then cut some guava or quince paste into strips and place on the Rosca. Lastly, top the dough with some candied cherries to your liking.
Step 9: Bake for 25 minutes, swapping the location of the baking sheets halfway through, until the tops are golden brown and the bread is fully cooked through. Allow to cool for at least 30 minutes.
Step 10: Once cooled, add 1-3 Baby Jesus figurines inside the Rosca by pushing them through the bottom of the bread. Serve and Enjoy!
- Rosca de Reyes can also be topped with candied orange peels or candied citron, but you can use what you can find
- I highly recommend using orange zest rather than orange extract! It helps give the bread a stronger and better orange flavor.
- While baking, swap and rotate the two baking sheets halfway through to ensure they bake evenly.
What does it mean to get the Baby Jesus in the Rosca de Reyes?
It’s tradition that if you slice your piece of bread and find a Baby Jesus inside, you’re designated to make tamales for the whole family on February 2nd for Dia de Candelaria, or Candlemas.
When is Rosca de Reyes supposed to be eaten?
A Rosca de Reyes is meant to be eaten on January 6th to celebrate Epiphany, also known as Three Kings Day.
What’s the difference between Rosca de Reyes and King’s Cake?
While the tradition is very similar, King’s Cake comes from primarily French origin, and Rosca de Reyes from a Spanish and Mexican origin. King’s cake is topped with icing and decorated with the traditional Mardi Gras colors, yellow, purple, and green.
For the bread
For the sugar paste
- 1 egg yolk
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup confectioners' sugar
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
For the decoration
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon milk
- candied cherries
- guava or quince paste, cut into strips
- 1-3 small Baby Jesus figurines
- Make the dough: In a cup or bowl, heat the milk in the microwave in 15-second increments or on the stove until it's just warm to the touch. A thermometer should read around 110°F-115°F.
- Stir in the yeast and 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Stir to combine, loosely cover with plastic wrap, and let it stand for 5 minutes until it gets very foamy.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the bread flour, all-purpose flour, remaining sugar, and salt.
- Attach the dough hook to the mixer and add the melted butter, eggs, orange zest, and yeast mixture. Mix on medium-low speed for 6-8 minutes, until the dough becomes smooth and elastic and pulls away from the bowl. If the dough is still sticky, mix in 1 tablespoon of all-purpose flour at a time until it’s just right.
- Coat a large bowl with oil and transfer the dough to the bowl, shaping it into a ball. Cover it with a kitchen towel and let it rise for 1 to 1 ½ hours until doubled in size.
- Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
- Divide the dough into two equal pieces and shape each into balls. Working one at a time, use your fingers to create a hole in the middle of the ball. Then gently pull and stretch the dough all around to create a large oval-shaped ring that’s about 10 ½ x 7 ½ inches in size. Repeat the process for the other dough ball.
- Transfer the shaped dough to the prepared baking sheets. Lightly cover with a kitchen towel and let rise for 45 more minutes.
- Make the sugar paste: While the dough is rising, make the sugar paste topping. In a medium bowl, add the egg yolk, beat together the egg yolk, all-purpose flour, confectioners sugar, and butter until well combined.
- Divide the paste into 16 small pieces and shape them into strips. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- Make the egg wash for the decoration: In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and milk until combined.
- When ready to decorate, preheat the oven to 350°F and arrange the oven racks in the middle and top positions.
- Uncover the dough and brush the egg wash all over both of the roscas.
- Decorate each rosca by laying 8 sugar paste strips evenly spaced across the dough. Arrange the guava or quince paste strips and the candied cherries in the empty spaces to your liking.
- Bake the roscas for 25 minutes, swapping the location of the baking sheets halfway through, until the tops are golden brown and the bread is fully cooked through. Allow to cool for at least 30 minutes.
- Insert 1 or 2 Baby Jesus figurines into each rosca from the bottom once it has cooled. Serve.