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A Spanish Culinary Tradition: the Roscon de Reyes

My Night as a Spanish Pastry Chef


Last week, while in Southern Spain, I had the wonderful opportunity to work in a bakery for an evening. Luckily it wasn't just any night: It was Jan. 5, the night that the Reyes Magos — the three wise men — bring Spanish children presents. The typical Spanish pastry that coincides with the holiday, called roscón de reyes or King's Cake, is consumed in mass quantities on the following morning.

I arrived to find the bakery, Confiteria La Piedra Escrita, crowded with people waiting to pick up their roscónes. Pascual, my pastry chef friend, quickly escorted me to the kitchen where his family was hard at work mass producing over 1000 cakes! The rest of the night was a whirlwind of rolled dough and whipped crema.


With spongelike layers and fluffy filling, this cake is a delicious dessert excellent for any occasion. There are four options for filling — whipped cream, chocolate whipped cream, meringue, and crema (a thick sugar-flour custard) — but my favorite is whipped cream. If you ever have one, you should pair with either coffee or champagne. To take a look at a gallery from my adventures in Spanish baking, and for a recipe to experiment in your own kitchen, read more.



Roscón de Reyes
From The Cuisines of Spain: Exploring Regional Home Cooking by Teresa Barrenechea

1/2 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
Minced zest of 1/2 lemon
Minced zest of 1/2 orange
2 1/2 tsp. (1 envelope) active dry yeast
2/3 cup milk, heated to lukewarm (90°F to 100°F)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 eggs
3 tablespoons orange-flower water
1/2 tsp. salt
3 cups unbleached all purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
olive oil for preparing pan
1/2 cup candied fruits, finely chopped, optional
whipped cream, chocolate whipped cream, meringue, or pastry cream optional for filling

  1. In a food processor or blender, combine the 1/2 cup sugar and both citrus zests and process on high speed until you have a mixture of fine particle. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm milk and let stand for about 5 minutes, or until foamy.
  3. Add sugar-zest mixture, the butter, 2 of the eggs, the orange flower water, and the salt and stir with a wooden spoon until all the ingredients are well mixed.
  4. Add half the flour to the milk mixture and mix with your hands until well blended. Add the remaining flour and continue mixing until all the flour is incorporated.
  5. Knead the dough in the bowl for a few minutes until it is smooth, flexible, and no longer sticky.
  6. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let the dough rest in a warm spot for about 1 hour, or until it has roughly doubled in size.
  7. Preheat the oven to its lowest setting and brush rimmed baking sheet with olive oil.
  8. Punch down the dough. On a floured work surface, using your palms, roll the dough back and forth until it forms a log about 30 inches long and 2 1/2 inches in diameter. Place it on the prepared baking sheet and bring the ends together to form a circle with a hole in the center 4 to 5 inches in diameter, forming a "crown." Alternatively, divide the dough in half and form 2 logs each 15 inches long and 2 1/2 inches in diameter. Form the logs into 2 crowns on the baking sheet.
  9. Fill an ovenproof bowl with water and place it at the rear of the oven.
  10. Place the baking sheet with the dough crown in the oven. Let the dough rise for about 1 hour, or until nearly doubled in size.
  11. Remove the pan from the oven and increase the oven temperature to 400°F. Break the remaining egg into a small bowl, beat until blended, and brush it onto the crown(s). Scatter the candied fruits evenly over the top(s), if desired, and sprinkle evenly with the sugar.
  12. Bake the cake(s) for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool on the pan.
  13. Transfer to a serving plate and serve at room temperature.
  14. If desired, carefully slice the cake in half lengthwise. Spread the inside with the filling of your choice and top with the other half of cake.

Makes 1 15-inch or 2 8-inch coil cakes.

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