Rosca de Reyes — Three Kings Bread for Epiphany

A Classic Mexican Recipe

Recipe for Three Kings Bread — Rosca de Reyes,
a Traditional Mexican Bread

I thought I was finally done with holiday baking, but I had forgotten that today is Three Kings Day, the last day of Christmas in Mexico. Also known as Epiphany, this is the day the Three Kings bring gifts to good little Mexican girls and boys. Traditionally Rosca de Reyes, a yeast bread, is served with a plastic baby Jesus hidden in the dough. The lucky person who finds the baby Jesus in their slice hosts La Dia de la Candelaria in February and serves tamales. The very first time we were invited to a Three Kings dinner in Mexico, guess who found the baby Jesus in her slice. Yup, so the next month, we ordered five dozen tamales from our local tamaleria. And here I thought La Dia de la Candelaria had something to do with candles.

My roscas are in the oven right now, not with a plastic baby, but with an almond in each one. I could not bring myself to use plastic as an ingredient in bread.

I used an egg and yeast bread recipe which I found on the internet and of course made my own changes, primarily decreasing the sugar and using part whole wheat flour. It was easy to mix and knead with the Kitchen Aid and its dough hook but, like any bread machine recipe, it can be mixed and kneaded by hand. The twinkling stars designate holiday recipes.

Rosca de Reyes makes 2 loaves

  • 2 cups (280 grams) all purpose white flour, more if needed
  • 2 cups  (250 grams) whole wheat flour, more if needed
  • 1/2 cup  (100 grams) sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 5 lightly beaten eggs (250 grams, weighed without shells)
  • 4 oz.  ( 114 grams) soft butter
  • 1/4 cup (60 grams) warm milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon anise seed
  • 4 oz. (116 grams) raisins
  • 1 or 2 almonds
  • Mexican ate (see glossary on right), or assorted dried fruit
  • 1 beaten egg
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. (180 C.)
  2. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook, or in a large mixing bowl if mixing by hand, mix beaten eggs, milk, butter, flour, salt, sugar, yeast, vanilla, cinnamon and anise seed. Since the water content of flour can vary widely, you may need to add more flour if the dough is too wet (or more water if it is too dry). Add flour gradually until the dough comes together in a ball. Knead with the dough hook or by hand for five minutes.
  3. Add the raisins and knead just until incorporated, either with the dough hook or by hand.
  4. Turn dough onto floured surface. Divide the dough into two portions, form each into a ball, flatten with your hands, and punch a hole through the center. Gradually stretching the dough, increase the size of the hole until you have a ring or oval.
  5. Place rings on a greased baking sheet. Arrange strips of dried fruit or ate decoratively on the surface of the ring and put in a warm place to rise until double in size.
  6. When the dough has doubled in size, brush with beaten egg and bake for about 40 minutes.
  7. The bread is done when it is a nice, golden color and you can hear a hollow thump when you tap the bottom of a rosca with your fingers. Slice and enjoy, hoping you are not the one who gets the almond.


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Mini Roscas with Frangipane (Cooking in Mexico)

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10 thoughts on “Rosca de Reyes — Three Kings Bread for Epiphany

  1. Pingback: Happy Epiphany! «

  2. Pingback: Mini Rosca de Reyes with Frangipane « Cooking in Mexico

    1. This is too funny! Readers, you must go to Evelina’s blog to see the photos (Just click on her name in blue by her comment). It must be the only baby Jesus ever found in a rosca that has a crocheted outfit.
      Thank you for the photo, and yes, please come back. And thank you so much for including a link to Cooking in Mexico.

  3. I am glad that, El Día de Reyes, is still the same date as before. A friend of mine named, Clara, celebrated all her life her Saint’s Name Day, on August 12 th, but now the calender shows this Saint on August 11 th, So I was afraid ithad happened the same to, The Three Kings’ Day.

    I am from, San Luis Potosí, Mexico, and there, they do put a ring and a thimble in the bread. We never baked one at home, and didn’t know anyone who did, as you mentioned, it was/is expensive to bake with propane. We got our “rosca” from the bakery. How I miss the Mexican bakeries! We used to eat “La Rosca” con chocolate de ” La Frontera” a chocolate factory in the city of San Luis Potosí. (on Pascual Hernández Street)

    I still have two pink plastic babies, (Jesús), one with straight legs, and one in the fetal position. I took a photo of them, and might post them later in my blog. Believe it or not, my aunt crocheted a cape and hood for the straight legged baby. ( about 1 inch tall) I think she found it in the cake, and it was special for her.

    I remember, that, the babies were sold by the dozen, and there was a time, that, they were in different colours, pink, green, dark blue, and made of eraser material. I used to have some, but they got sticky with age, and I threw them away.

    Here is a link about the tradition of, La Rosca de Reyes, where they mention the ring. I had forgotten about the thimble.

    Happy New Year, and enjoy your rosca.

    Your blog makes me nostalgic of México and its food. Thank you!

    1. I, too, have noticed that the saint’s days can vary, depending on which calendar you look at. Customs are different from one region to another — perhaps that is why I don’t see rings in the roscas here, but it sounds like a nice custom. So many traditions are falling by the wayside, sadly. I laughed to read of your aunt crocheting clothing for the baby Jesus. Thank you for including the link. As I start making roscas today, I will be glad to read this and learn more. Please check back on Cooking in Mexico for a new post on roscas.

      ¡Feliz Año Nuevo!

  4. Wow! I knew that the church had fiddled around with the calender, and that many of celebration dates of “Día del Santo” (Your Saint’s Day”)had been changed, but I thought something as ” The Three Kings Day” had been left intact. Blimey!

    Epiphany, used to be celebrated on January 6 th, not the 4 th.

    Do they still put a ring in La Rosca de Reyes? It used to mean, that whoever found the ring, will be next to be married. ( single person, of course). As teenagers, we used to prod the bread with a fork, to find where it was…

    The ring and the plastic baby are not baked in the cake; they are pushed under “La Rosca”, after it is baked and cooled down. I can’t imagine the face of the “lucky one”, biting onto a glob of pink plastic.

    1. I wrote this post in 2010, one year ago. I wrote it on Jan. 6, the day of Three Kings Day, which remains January 6 in Mexico, and all the world as far as I know. In our part of Mexico, it is a plastic baby Jesus that is found in the breads. It used to be a ceramic baby, but for some reason, these are not common any more. The bread doesn’t seem to bake hot enough to melt the plastic. I have read that a ring is inserted into the dough in France, but I have never heard of this in Mexico. Our part of Mexico seems to use only little babies in the breads that are baked commercially, and I don’t know of any home bakers who still bake Rosca de Reyes.

    1. If you are a bread baker, rosca de reyes is not difficult at all — I hope you try it. It takes a little longer to form the hole in the center and arrange the dried fruit, but the time is well worth it to have a beautiful, and unusual, loaf of bread.

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