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Bolo Rei (King's Cake): A Holiday Treat

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Learn how to bake a delicious king's cake for the holidays.

Learn how to bake a delicious king's cake for the holidays.

Bolo Rei Recipe

Many variations of this Christmastime treat have been developed throughout several countries, but originally, bolo rei was created in France. In the case of Portugal, bolo rei became popular in the 19th century when the monarchy's official bakery (Confeitaria Nacional) opened in 1829.

Traditionally, it was made from a soft, white dough similar to bread, then shaped into a ring in order to resemble a crown. The top was liberally decorated with colorful candied fruit, which represents the glittering jewels of a king's crown. A dried fava bean was hidden within the dough, and whoever found it is obliged to pay for the bolo rei the following year. A small prize, usually a metal toy, was also baked inside the cake (for children), but that is no longer the case since it could easily be a choking hazard.

While the original recipe was more bread-like in its consistency, the version I've posted below was passed down to me from my mother and has the texture of cake. It's festive-looking and the perfect accompaniment to coffee, tea, cordials or prosecco (or any other bubbly of your choosing).

I recently made this cake for a tree-trimming party and it was a great success. For those of you with a sweet tooth, one cup of sugar may be added instead of three-quarters of a cup. I like using less sugar since the raisins and candied fruit add their own sweetness. I recommend serving it on a colorful holiday plate or garnishing it with holly. Enjoy and happy holidays! Thank you for reading.

A freshly cut slice of my bolo rei

A freshly cut slice of my bolo rei

Cook Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

20 min

50 min

1 hour 10 min

12–14 servings


  • 3 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup butter
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup candied fruit, chopped
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg


  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Mix flour, raisins, nuts, candied fruit, and salt together. Set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, cream together butter, eggs, sugar, and vanilla until smooth.
  4. Add flour mixture gradually into butter mixture and blend until batter is smooth. Add baking powder last. Blend.
  5. Pour into a greased and floured funnel cake pan. Tap the bottom of the pan on the counter to release any air bubbles and level the batter before placing in the oven.
  6. Bake for 50 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool thoroughly prior to serving.
Happy holidays!

Happy holidays!