Christmas/ Dessert/ Recipes

Bolo Rei – Portuguese Christmas Kings Cake

03/12/2019

Hailing from Portugal, Bolo Rei or Portuguese Kings Cake, is a light and fluffy traditional Christmas cake filled with fruit and nuts. Super easy to bake at home, get ready to make your Kings Cake “crown” this holiday season!

Bolo Rei or Kings Cake on a wooden block ready for Christmas.

Why We Love This Recipe

Bolo Rei just screams Christmas, from the smells of the port-infused fruit to the glace cherries on top.  We love that it also tastes as good as it looks. It’s definitely a standout on the table at Christmas – just like an edible wreath!

The great thing about Kings Cake is the lightness of the cake, it’s not heavy like a traditional English fruit or Christmas cake, it’s more on the side of a sweet bread with delicate spiced flavour.

A close up of Bolo Rei - Portuguese Christmas Fruit Cake.

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What is Bolo Rei (Portuguese Christmas Fruit Cake)? 

Bolo Rei or Portuguese Christmas Fruit Cake is, as the name states, a popular cake made during the holiday season. The cake is most popular between Christmas Day (December 25th) and Kings Day (January 6th) in Portugal. 

A fun fact about Bolo Rei is traditionally there were two other things included within the cake – a fava bean and a small prize (usually a toy). If you got the fava bean it meant you had to supply the Bolo Rei at Christmas the following year. The small prize was usually a toy a child could ‘find’ within their slice. This is similar to the English tradition of hiding money in Christmas pudding to find.

A slice of traditional Christmas fruit cake in Portugal.

What You’ll Need For Bolo Rei

How to make Portuguese Kings Cake

Place the chopped candied fruit and raisins in a bowl with the port to infuse. Set aside.

Bowl of fruit soaking in Port.

 

Mix the yeast with warm milk and let rest in a warm place for 5-10 minutes until slightly frothy on top.

Yeast mixture activating in warm milk.

In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, lemon zest, butter, whole eggs and salt. Then pour in the yeast mixture and knead together. Once mixed, add in the port and fruits mixture and the chopped nuts. Knead together until well combined.

Bolo Rei mixture ready to rise.

 

 

Mould the dough to be rounded or in a ball shape within the bowl, scraping down the edges and slightly sprinkle with flour before covering it over with cling wrap and a cloth. Allow to rise to double the size. This should take around 1.5 hours, depending on your climate.

Bolo Rei mixture ready to rise.

Portuguese Kings Cake after rising in a bowl.

Line a baking tray with paper and a light sprinkling of flour. Place the dough onto the tray, forming a ring or “crown”, without handling the dough too much. Place a cup or dish in the centre to keep the ring from closing up. Allow to rise for another 30min – 1 hour. Pre-heat oven to 180°c. Baste with egg yolk mixture and garnish with remaining nuts, dried fruit slices and icing sugar.

Bolo Rei with fruit and nuts placed on top ready to bake in the oven.

Pop in the oven and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, and you’re done!

 

A full 'crown' of a Portuguese Christmas Kings Cake on a wooden block.

Tips

  • Place a bowl or cup in the middle ring to prevent the hole from closing while baking.
  • Sprinkle extra icing sugar over a slice when serving to make it look extra special and add just a little extra sweetness with every bite.

FAQs

What’s the difference between Portuguese Kings Cake and Queens Cake?

The biggest difference is on the topping. Kings Cake (Bolo Rei) is layered on top with dried fruit and nuts, while Queens Cake (Bolo Rainha) omits the fruit (and sometimes the nuts too!). 

While Kings Cake is the more popular recipe on the table during the holiday season, the lesser known Queens Cake is starting to rise in popularity due to the fact a lot of people don’t like the fruit on top of the cake.

Can Portuguese Christmas Kings Cake be made in advance?

You can make this one or two days in advance (especially if you wanted to have it on Christmas Day). The best way to store the cake is in a sealed container to keep the cake from drying out.

If it does feel a little dry, pop it in the microwave for 10 seconds a slice or 30-45 seconds for the whole cake.

Can you freeze Portuguese Christmas Kings Cake?

Yes! Once it’s cooked and cooled, if you won’t eat it in the next 3-4 days, pop it in the freezer and store for 2-3 months. When you’re ready to thaw it out, just pop it in the oven for 10 minutes on 180°C (350°F).

Variations & Substitutes

  • Leave off the fruit on top of the cake and you’ve just made Bolo Rainha or Portuguese Queens Cake.
  • Customise the flavour by substituting different fruit and nuts to suit your taste.
  • Substitute port with any other spiced liquor such as brandy, sherry, frangelico or cointreau.

A full 'crown' of a Portuguese Christmas Kings Cake on a wooden block.

Need other Christmas recipe ideas? Try these:

★ Did you make this recipe? Please leave a star rating below!

A Christmas cake wreath topped with fruit and nut known as Bolo Rei.

Bolo Rei (Portuguese Christmas Kings Cake)

Hailing from Portugal, Bolo Rei or Portuguese Kings Cake, is a light and fluffy traditional Christmas cake filled with fruit and nuts. Super easy to bake at home, get ready to make your Kings Cake "crown" this holiday season!
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Resting Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Course: Christmas, Dessert
Cuisine: Portuguese
Servings: 1 Cake
Calories: 3544kcal
Author: Wandercooks
Cost: $10

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp yeast (around 14g dried yeast)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 75 g butter softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 egg whisked - for basting
  • Pinch salt
  • lemon zest from 1 lemon
  • 100 ml warm milk
  • 100 ml port wine or brandy or sweet sherry
  • 80 g candied or dried fruit chopped for filling, sultanas okay
  • 50 g mixed nuts unsalted and chopped (walnuts, almonds, pine nuts)

Garnish

  • 50 g dried fruit slices
  • 30 g mixed nuts unsalted and halved (walnuts, almonds, pine nuts)
  • Sprinkle icing sugar
  • 1 tsp strawberry jam (jelly)
  • 2 tsp hot water

Instructions

  • Place the chopped candied fruit and raisins in a bowl with the port to infuse. Set aside.
    Bowl of fruit soaking in Port.
  • Mix the yeast with warm milk and let rest in a warm place for 5-10 minutes until slightly frothy on top.
    Yeast mixture activating in warm milk.
  • In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, lemon zest, butter, whole eggs and salt. Then pour in the yeast mixture and knead together.
  • Once mixed, add in the port and fruits mixture and the chopped nuts. Knead together until well combined.
    Bolo Rei mixture ready to rise.
  • Mould the dough to be rounded or in a ball shape within the bowl, scraping down the edges and slightly sprinkle with flour before covering it over with cling wrap and a cloth. Allow to rise to double the size. This should take around 1.5 hours, depending on your climate.
    Bolo Rei mixture ready to rise.
  • Line a baking tray with paper and a light sprinkling of flour. Place the dough onto the tray, forming a ring or "crown", without handling the dough too much. Place a cup or dish in the centre to keep the ring from closing up. Allow to rise for another 30min - 1 hour.
    Portuguese Kings Cake formed into a crown shape for baking.
  • Pre-heat oven to 180°c.
  • Baste with egg yolk mixture and garnish with remaining nuts, dried fruit slices and icing sugar.
    Bolo Rei with fruit and nuts placed on top ready to bake in the oven.
  • Pop in the oven and bake for 35 to 45 minutes.
  • Optional: Brush the top with the jam and hot water mix to add a finishing shine before serving.

Notes

Tips

  • Place a bowl or cup in the middle ring to prevent the hole from closing while baking.
  • Sprinkle extra icing sugar over a slice when serving to make it look extra special and add just a little extra sweetness with every bite.

FAQs

  • What's the difference between Portuguese Kings Cake and Queens Cake? The biggest difference is on the topping. Kings Cake (Bolo Rei) is layered on top with dried fruit and nuts, while Queens Cake (Bolo Rainha) omits the fruit (and sometimes the nuts too!). While Kings Cake is the more popular recipe on the table during the holiday season, the lesser known Queens Cake is starting to rise in popularity due to the fact a lot of people don't like the fruit on top of the cake.
  • Can Portuguese Christmas Kings Cake be made in advance? You can make this one or two days in advance (especially if you wanted to have it on Christmas Day). The best way to store the cake is in a sealed container to keep the cake from drying out. If it does feel a little dry, pop it in the microwave for 10 seconds a slice or 30-45 seconds for the whole cake.
  • Can you freeze Portuguese Christmas Kings Cake? Yes! Once it's cooked and cooled, if you won't eat it in the next 3-4 days, pop it in the freezer and store for 2-3 months. When you're ready to thaw it out, just pop it in the oven for 10 minutes on 180°C (350°F).

Variations & Substitutes

  • Leave off the fruit on top of the cake and you've just made Bolo Rainha or Portuguese Queens Cake.
  • Customise the flavour by substituting different fruit and nuts to suit your taste.
  • Substitute port with any other spiced liquor such as brandy, sherry, frangelico or cointreau.

Nutrition

Calories: 3544kcal | Carbohydrates: 517g | Protein: 81g | Fat: 123g | Saturated Fat: 51g | Cholesterol: 662mg | Sodium: 813mg | Potassium: 2245mg | Fiber: 32g | Sugar: 180g | Vitamin A: 2749IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 528mg | Iron: 26mg
Hey hey – Did you make this recipe?We’d love it if you could give a star rating below ★★★★★ and show us your creations on Instagram! Snap a pic and tag @wandercooks / #Wandercooks

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