Rosca de Reyes Recipe (Three Kings Bread)

Rosca de Reyes is a sweet and soft bread traditionally prepared to celebrate the Epiphany in Mexico. Learn how to easily make it with our step-by-step recipe and serve it with hot chocolate or champurrado.

Rosca de Reyes, Mexican Three Kings Bread.

About

Rosca de Reyes is a traditional sweet bread with a buttery and orange taste and a soft-pillowy texture. In Mexico, this sweet bread is traditionally shared among families and friends on January 6th to celebrate the arrival of the Reyes Magos (Three Wise Men).

Inside the bread, some plastic figures that represent baby Jesus are placed. Whoever ends up with the baby figurine in their slice of bread must host a gathering on February 2nd, Dia de Candelaria (Candle mass day), and provide tamales and atole for his guests.

The tradition of Día de Reyes made its way from Spain to Mexico and Latin America, where according to the Christian faith, on January 6 the Three Wise Men (Reyes) arrived with gifts for baby Jesus.

The meaning of the name of this sweet bread comes from its round shape. Rosca means wreath and Reyes translates into Kings, so it would something like “King’s Wreath”.

The three kings’ bread shape represents the love from God, and the fruit decorations resemble the jewels of the Wise Men’s crowns and are also supposed to be distractions to protect baby Jesus from the danger of being discovered. Last, the knife to cut the cake could be Herod the Great trying to reach Jesus.

Mexican Rosca de Reyes with two mugs of hot chocolate in the background.

Texture & Flavor

Rosca de Reyes has a soft and spongy texture inside. The topping is made with sugar, butter, and flour, which adds a crumbly and delicious texture to every bite.

The decorations are made with candied fruit, adding an extra soft and gummy texture to the bread.

The flavor is delicate with some fresh citrus hints. Since the traditional recipe for this Three Kings bread is made with orange and/or lemon zest.

Close-up of a slice of Rosca de Reyes.

Making Rosca de Reyes at home is something many families still do, while others prefer to buy it at the local bakery.

As a kid, I remember anxiously waiting for Three Kings Day to receive a gift from Los Reyes Magos. A day filled with celebration, joy, and magic. Just like Christmas!

Ingredients

For pan rosca:

  • Flour: Use all-purpose flour.
  • Yeast:
  • Sugar: Use white sugar.
  • Eggs: You will need 3 medium eggs at room temperature.
  • Milk: Use whole milk and make sure is lukewarm, not cold.
  • Butter: Use softened unsalted butter.
  • Aroma: Vanilla extract and orange zest, you can also use lemon zest for an extra flavor and aroma.
  • Salt: Just a pinch of fine salt.

For the decoration:

  • all-purpose flour
  • confectioner’s sugar
  • lard or butter (or a combination of both)
  • egg
  • milk
  • candied fruit (orange, figs, cherries, ate de guayaba, etc.)

How To Make Rosca De Reyes

Make the starter

  • In a medium mixing bowl place 2 tablespoons of flour, yeast, and 1 tablespoon of sugar.
  • Add 1/2 cup lukewarm milk and mix until you will have a runny mixture.
  • Cover with a clean kitchen towel and leave it to rest for 30 minutes.
  • After the resting time, the mixture should have a spongy and bubbly texture and have doubled in size.
Collage with starter preparation for rosca de reyes dough.

Make the dough

  • Now, place the remaining flour, sugar, and salt in a stand mixer bowl with the hook attached. Mix to combine.
  • Add the spongy yeast mixture and set the mixer speed to low.
  • Mix one by one the eggs and yolks until everything is combined.
  • Add the softened butter, vanilla extract, and orange zest.
  • Mix at medium-low speed for 3 minutes until a sticky dough forms.
Collage with preparation of rosca de reyes dough.

Set the mixer to medium-high speed and knead for about 10 minutes or until the dough is soft, elastic, and only slightly stick to the bowl.

Sticky Rosca de Reyes dough in a mixing bowl.

Proof

  1. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and form a ball.
  2. Then, generously butter a large bowl (your stand mixer bowl is fine) and place the dough inside.
  3. Cover with cling film and allow to rest from 2 to 3 hours, depending on the temperature in your kitchen.
  4. After resting time, the dough should have doubled in size.
Collage with Rosca de Reyes proofing dough.

Shape the pan rosca

Transfer the dough onto a floured surface. Gently knead it for a couple of seconds to knock out the air bubbles. Lightly flour your hands and make a long rope about 3 inches thick.

Making a long rope with the dough.

Transfer the rope to a parchment-lined cookie sheet and form a ring by connecting the endings to each other. Finish shaping the rosca with your hands.

Shaping the rosca shape with hands on a baking tray.

Loosely cover with cling film and allow to proof for about 1 hour in a warm place environment until the rosca almost doubled in size.

Rosca de Reyes after 1 hour of resting.

Make the topping

  • Place the butter, flour, and the confectioner’s sugar in a bowl.
  • Work the ingredients with a fork to combine them, then use your hands to knead them into a smooth sugar-paste dough.
  • Now, flour a working surface or use two sheets of plastic to roll the sugar paste into a rectangle.
  • Using a spatula, divide it into 7-8 narrow rectangles.
Collage with preparation of the sugar paste.

Decore

Make the egg wash by whisking the egg and milk together, then brush the rosca with it.

Place first the sugar paste rectangles. Then, add the candied fruits in the spaces in between.

unbaked Rosca de Reyes with the decorations on.

Bake

Bake the Three Kings Bread for about 25 minutes or until nicely golden brown and when inserting a skewer it comes out clean.

Freshly baked Rosca de Reyes.

Remove Rosca de Reyes from the oven and place the baking tray on your countertop. Let it cool for 10 minutes, then carefully transfer it onto a cooling rack and let it cool completely.

Notes

  • Use a Kitchen scale for best results.
  • You can use your oven turned off with the lights on to create a warm environment to proof the bread’s dough.
  • If you want to hide plastic figurines in the Rosca de Reyes, do it after the bread has cooled down, inserting the pieces from the bottom.
  • If you want to decorate your rosca with guava paste or ate de membrillo chances are that will melt a bit when baking. To avoid this, place them only once the rosca is baked. You can use a little bit of marmalade to help the pieces stick to the bread.
  • Make sure all your ingredients are not cold. Milk should be lukewarm, eggs at room temperature, and butter should be softened.

Recipe Variations

  • Topping: You can also make the topping with mazapán candy.
  • Fillings: Modern recipes include fillings with chocolate or Nutella, Cajeta de celaya, and even ricotta cheese.
  • Decorations: Besides candied fruit, you can also decore your Three Kings bread with pecans, hazelnuts, or almonds.

How To Serve

Rosca de Reyes is traditionally eaten with Mexican hot chocolate, which is the perfect drink to serve. Dipping a slice of this soft bread into a sweet, and aromatic chocolate caliente is one of the best Mexican eating experiences!

Other hot beverages that pair well are café de olla, corn atole, and champurrado.

Dipping a slice of Rosca de Reyes in Mexican hot chocolate.

How to store

Homemade Rosca de Reyes lasts up to 4 days at room temperature. Just make sure to wrap it tightly with cling film or place it in an airtight container.

You can also place it in a resealable bag and freeze it for up to 3 months.

If you want to gift this Rosca de Reyes to someone, you can place it in a cake box or bag. Or you can use a cellophane bag and tie it with baker’s twine. Add a nice sticker and you’ll have a wonderful homemade gift.

Video

Rosca de Reyes Recipe.

Rosca de Reyes Recipe

author Maricruz
14 servings
Learn how to make traditional pan dulce Rosca de Reyes, a soft, sweet, and delicious pillowy bread to celebrate the Mexican Epiphany.
prep 25 minutes
cook 25 minutes
Resting time 2 hours 30 minutes
total 3 hours 20 minutes

Ingredients 

For the starter

  • 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 ¼ tsp instant dried yeast
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • ½ cup milk (lukewarm)

For the dough

  • 3 ⅔ cup all-purpose flour
  • cup butter (softened)
  • cup sugar
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 orange zest
  • ½ tsp salt

For the decorations

  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup confectioner's sugar
  • 2 Tbsp lard (or butter)
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbsp milk
  • candied fruit (orange, figs, cherries, ate de guayaba, etc.)
  • 5 baby plastic figurines (optional)

Instructions
 

Make the starter

  • Place flour, yeast, sugar, and milk in a medium bowl. Mix to combine.
  • Cover with a clean kitchen towel and allow to rest for 20 minutes.

Make the dough

  • Place flour, sugar, and salt in a stand mixer bowl with the hook attached.
  • Mix to combine. Add the yeast mixture (starter) and set the mixer to low speed.
  • Start mixing while adding one by one the eggs and yolks until everything is combined.
  • Add the softened butter, vanilla extract, and orange zest.
  • Mix at medium-low speed for 3 minutes until a sticky dough forms.
  • Set the mixer to medium-high speed and knead for about 10 minutes or until the dough is soft, and elastic, and only slightly sticks to the bowl.

Proof

  • Transfer the dough to a floured surface and form a ball.
  • Generously butter a large bowl and place the dough inside.
  • Cover with cling film and allow to rest in a warm environment for 1 to 2 hours or until the dough doubles in size (read notes).

Shape

  • Transfer the dough onto a floured surface. Gently knead it for a couple of seconds to knock out the air bubbles.
  • Lightly flour your hands and make a long rope about 3 inches thick.
  • Transfer the rope to a parchment-lined baking sheet and form a ring by connecting the endings.
  • Finish shaping the rosca with your hands.
  • Loosely cover with cling film and allow to proof for about 1 hour in a warm place.

Make the sugar paste

  • Place butter, flour, and confectioner's sugar in a bowl.
  • Work the ingredients with a fork to combine them, then use your hands to knead and form a smooth sugar-paste dough.
  • Now, flour a working surface and roll the sugar paste into a rectangle.
  • Using a spatula, divide it into 7-8 narrow rectangles.

Decore

  • Make the egg wash by whisking the egg and milk together, then brush the rosca with it.
  • Arrange first the sugar paste rectangles. Then, add the candied fruits in the spaces between the sugar paste decorations.

Bake

  • Pop the rosca into the preheated oven at 375°F/190°C and bake for about 25 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Remove the bread from the oven and place the baking tray on a countertop.
  • Let it cool for 10 minutes, then carefully transfer it onto a cooling rack and let it cool completely.

Notes

  • Use your oven turned off with the lights turned on to create a warm camera where you can place the dough for proofing.
  • If you want to place plastic figurines into the bread, do it after the bread has cooled down, inserting the pieces from the bottom.
  • If you using ate de guayaba or membrillo chances are that will melt a bit when baking. To avoid this, place them only once the rosca is baked and cooled.
Nutrition Information
Calories: 312kcal | Carbohydrates: 45g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 48mg | Sodium: 226mg | Potassium: 76mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 540IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 27mg | Iron: 2mg
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4 Comments

  1. Delicious and you have nicely put this recipe together. You have put a lot of effort into writing this blog. Will try to cook for my hubby as he is very particular to taste.

  2. I want to try and make Rosca de Reyes this time at home but I am really scared of the results. Anyway, your recipe makes it looks like is very simple to make and I will give it a try :)

  3. 5 stars
    Not only was this my first time making Rosca de Reyes bread, but it was the first time I ever even tried the sweet bread. In case of disaster, I did make two simultaneously. Accidentally getting a ruby red grapefruit to zest along with one orange was a very nice mistake. Additionally, roasting and slicing raw almonds for decorating made for a very aromatic home. This was incredible.

    1. Nice additions Rebecca! I’ll try adding red grapefruit juice and zest next time I’ll make a Rosca, thanks! :)