Bolo Rei – King of Portuguese Cakes

Bolo Rei is Portugal’s king of cakes. It’s traditionally eaten throughout the Christmas season, but mostly on January 6, the twelfth day of Christmas, which is known as King’s day.

The date is when the three kings arrived in Jerusalem to greet the newborn baby Jesus.  The legend is that the three kings were disputing which one of them would be the first to give their gift to Jesus. Upon their travels they met a baker who baked a cake with a bean inside it.

Which ever one of them got the slice of cake with the bean would give their gift first. Through the years coins and trinkets were added to the cake instead of the bean which would bring good luck upon the bearer. The cake without the fruit on top is often called Bolo da Rainha! My recipe inspired by Enjoy!

The cake was introduced to Portugal by the Confeitaria National bakery run by the Casteneira family for over 100 years.

Visit the website for the history of the origin of the recipe at
Watch the video of the famous bakery at:

Find the recipe in my Taste Portugal More Easy Portuguese recipes cookbook. Order on Amazon below:



2 tbsp active yeast
2 tsp granulated sugar

1 tablespoon flour
1/3 cup warm water


1 cup finely chopped assorted crystallized fruit NOTE: (I used dried apricots, dates, and raisins in my cake)
1/2 cup seedless raisins
1 teaspoon  finely grated lemon rind
1 teaspoon finely grated orange rind
2 tablespoons port wine
2 tablespoons rum

1 teaspoon salt

1 and 1/4 stick butter (10 tablespoons)
1 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
2 egg yolks
5 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup warm milk

1/4 cup chopped almonds
1/4 cup chopped walnuts


crystallized fruit of your choice, such as pineapple, cherries, or figs
1 egg for egg wash
confectioners sugar


Prepare the yeast mixture

In a small bowl mix together the yeast, sugar and flour and warm water. Stir and let sit for a few minutes for yeast to dissolve and activate.

For the Dough

In another bowl add the chopped crystallized fruit, raisins, grated lemon and orange peel, port wine and rum. Leave the fruit to soak up the liquid while you prepare the dough.

In a large bowl beat the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy. Beat in the eggs and egg yolks one at a time. Gradually beat in the flour and the milk. Then add the yeast mixture to the dough.

Add the almonds, walnuts and pine nuts and the crystallized fruit mixture.

Lightly mix in more flour as needed to create a sticky bread like dough.

Cover and leave to rise in a warm place for about one hour or until it has doubled in size.

Take the dough and knead for about one minute, then shape into a round loaf and place on a greased baking tray.

Using your thumbs, open up a hole in the middle of the dough so that you are left with a wreath shape, or crown. I used a greased and floured ramekin and placed it in the middle of the wreath to form the wreath.

Note: To add the surprise: Make a hole with a knife on one side of the wreath and push the wrapped broad bean into the dough. Choose another spot on the wreath, make a hole with the knife and push the wrapped coin into the dough.


Decorate the wreath with a few crystallized fruits. Beat the egg and brush over the wreath. Cover and let rise in a warm place for about one hour or until it has doubled in size.

Remove ramekin and bake in a preheated over at 375 degrees F for about 40 minutes or until golden brown. Cool and dust with powdered sugar.




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2 Responses

  1. Jack couto says:

    Great site. Cong

  2. Tia Maria says:

    Thanks for great feedback Jack. You have a wonderful selection of wines.
    Tia Maria…………