King’s cake is a traditional Christmas dessert that can be found in any bakery or pastry shops in Portugal, and it’s commonly eaten between Christmas and the Kings Day on 6th of January. It’s a sweet bread, filled with various nuts and dried or candied fruits. Around this time of the year I use to eat it for breakfast, dessert or with tea and I never get tired of it. But to be able to fit in my clothes all year round I only eat this at Christmas time, like I do the same with the Rabanadas, which I will talk about in another post soon. I think that makes it more special and forever linked to the season’s celebrations.
Besides that reason, it’s a time consuming recipe and requires some dose of patience. But you’ll feel rewarded at the end and maybe feeling a bit more wisdom and stress relieved. Just what you need to escape the craziness of holiday shopping.
I made this cake with whole wheat flour but you can use all-purpose flour instead if you prefer the white version.
Whole Wheat Christmas King’s Cake (Bolo-Rei)
Preparation time: 5 hours
Cook time: 45 minutes
4 cups white whole wheat flour
2 tbsp active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm milk
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
4 eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
1 tbsp lemon rind
1 tbsp orange rind
1/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup pine nuts, plus 1 tbsp for decoration
1/3 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped, plus 6 for decoration
1/3 cup almonds, chopped, plus 6 for decoration
1/3 cup dried fruit cut in small squares (apricot, papaya, pineapple or whatever you prefer)
1 cup Port Wine
2 dried apricots and other dried fruit you like for decoration (optional)
fruit jelly for decoration
icing sugar for decoration
Soak the raisins, cranberries and the rest of dried fruit (less the ones for decoration) in 1 cup of Port Wine until ready to use.
Add yeast to warm milk, let stand for 10 minutes and stir to dissolve completely.
Sift the flour with salt in a large bowl, make a well in the center and pour the dissolved yeast, folding the surrounding flour into the pool of yeast.
In another bowl, mix the softened butter, sugar, lemon and orange rind until fluffy using the flat beater of the mixer. Add the 4 eggs, one at a time, beating well.
Incorporate the flour mixture into the butter mixture and continue to mix until start forming a soft and shiny dough and starts to get unattached from the sides.
At this point, change the flat beater to a spiral dough hook and beat at medium speed for about 20 minutes. The dough will be soft, elastic and super sticky.
Sprinkle some flour on top of the dough, cover with a towel, put the bowl in a warm, draft-free place and allow to rise until double in size, for about 2 or 3 hours. In the meantime, wash the spiral dough hook for the next step.
Once the dough has doubled, punch down and let rest for more 20 minutes.
Put the bowl back in the mixer with the spiral dough attached and deflate the dough. Add all the nuts and the dried fruit that were immersed in the Port Wine together with the wine in the mixture and mix to divide all evenly in the dough.
On a lightly floured counter top, transfer the dough and with dusted hands shaped the dough into a long log.
Line a large baking tray with parchment paper and transfer the dough making it into a circle with a wide hole in the middle and attach the ends of the log. Cover it with a towel and allow to rise in a warm place for an hour or until double in size.
Pre-heat oven to 350 F with rack in the middle. When ring is ready, mix the egg yolk with a little milk and cinnamon to make an egg wash and brush the top and side of the ring. Decorate with the whole nuts and fruits strips (optional) and bake for 45 minutes until golden brown.
Put the cake on a cooling rack and spread the fruit jelly diluted in some water with a brush to give a shiny finish.
Allow to cool completely and dust with icing sugar.