Recipe summary

Hands-on time:
60 mins. to 1 hrs 30 mins.
Baking time:
25 mins. to 30 mins.
Total time:
2 hrs 55 mins. to 3 hrs
Yield:
1 loaf, 16 slices
Three King's Cake (or bread) is closely allied with the traditions around the Epiphany (January 6th). This date commemorates the visit the Three Wise Men made to the baby Jesus in Bethlehem. In Mexico, the day is a gift-giving holiday. Tradition states this bread be served, garnished with the "jewels" of fruit and nuts. Usually a small clay or porcelain doll is baked inside. The custom is that whoever finds the doll must give a party on Candlemas (February 2nd). To get candy orange peel like the pieces you see in the photograph, go to our Candied Orange Peel recipe.
Volume Ounces Grams

Dough

Filling

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts
  • 3/4 cup dried mixed fruits or Favorite Fruit Blend
  • 1 tablespoon lemon, orange, or lime zest

Garnish

  • candied red cherries and/or orange peel
  • toasted sliced almonds, pecans, cashews, or walnuts

Directions

  1. 1) For the dough: Heat the milk to a simmer in a small saucepan or at medium power in your microwave. Pour the hot milk over the butter, sugar, and salt, and stir occasionally until the butter melts. Cool the mixture to lukewarm.
  2. 2) In a mixing bowl combine the milk mixture, eggs, and yeast. Add the flour 1 cup at a time, and mix until a soft, smooth dough forms. You can also use your bread machine, set on the dough cycle, for this step.
  3. 3) Place the dough in a greased container, cover it, and set it in a draft-free place to rise until doubled (about 1 to 1 1/2 hours). Or let your bread machine complete the dough cycle.
  4. 4) After the first rise, deflate the dough, cover, and let it rest for 10 minutes. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface; roll into a 20" x 12" rectangle.
  5. 5) For the filling: Brush the surface of the dough with melted butter, leaving a 1/2" strip bare along one of the long edges. Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Add the nuts, mixed fruits and zest, and stir to coat. Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the buttered section of the dough.
  6. 6) Assembly: Starting with the garnished long edge, roll the dough up jelly-roll style, working toward the edge with no butter on it. Pinch the seam together to seal it firmly, then bring the ends together to form a ring. To keep the bread round, grease the outside of a small bowl or custard cup and put it on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Place the ring, seam side down, around the bowl and tuck one end inside the other, pinching it together to seal it.
  7. 7) Flatten the ring slightly, and using a pair of scissors, make cuts in the dough at 1 1/2" intervals around the outside edge. Hide a doll or candy inside the bread. You can place strips of candied orange peel in the cuts to create the look in the photo at the top of the recipe. Cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise until nearly doubled (about 30 to 40 minutes).
  8. 8) To bake: Once the dough is shaped and is rising for the second time, preheat the oven to 350F. When the dough is risen, remove the plastic wrap, and brush the top with beaten egg. Place the candied cherries (cut in half) in the spaces between the slits in the dough, and decorate with nuts as desired. Combine the glaze ingredients and drizzle over the top.
  9. 9) Bake the bread for 25 to 30 minutes, covering the loaf loosely with foil after the first 15 minutes, as it will brown quickly. Remove the bread from the oven when the inner parts of the slits look cooked and the interior measures 190F when measured with an instant-read thermometer. Cool the bread on a rack.
  10. Yield: 1 loaf, 16 servings.

Tips from our bakers

  • If you don't have a little doll to hide inside the bread, put a whole blanched almond inside with the filling, before you roll the bread up.
  • If you want to use the glaze that the blog story shows, combine 1 tablespoon of sugar with 2 teaspoons of water and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Stir to combine, then drizzle over the bread for the last 20 minutes of the baking time.