Bolo Rei – King’s Cake and Lisbon

Bolo Rei, or King’s Cake, is a traditional Portuguese cake usually eaten around Christmas, from 25th of December until Epiphany, 6th of January (This reminded me of my Kutia, Ukrainian Christmas Eve Pudding.)

Bolo Rei is a sweet rich fruit bread – rather than a cake – baked with raisins, various nuts and crystallised fruits. Also included is a dried fava bean, and the tradition dictates that whoever finds the fava has to pay for the cake next year. (Wikipedia)

As you can easily imagine from the name of and fève in Galette des Rois for Epiphany, Bolo Rei is originally from France although it looks like Frankfurter Kranz. (Click here to learn more about Boro Rei from a video.)

I didn’t know anything about Bolo Rei, but a Postcrosser in Lisbon gave me a recipe on the web, and it has stood by to be posted here since last August!!

My Bolo Rei with postcards from Postcrossers in Lisbon and my Portugal postcard collection.

The first try didn’t work out that much – the dough turned out to be hard rock buns 😀 so I changed plain to strong flour. Also altered some ingredients, quantities and process but I basically followed the recipe.


For the dough
85 g assorted crystallised fruits, to chop if necessary
35 g raisin
2 tbsp port wine
1 tbsp rum

35 ml lukewarm water
1 tsp caster sugar
½ tbsp dried yeast
50 g strong white flour

50 g butter, room temperature
50 g caster sugar
1 egg and 1 egg yolk, whisked

100 g strong white flour
100 g plain wholemeal flour
25 ml lukewarm milk
½ tsp lemon zest
½ tsp orange zest
20 g sliced almond
20 g walnut, chopped
10 g pine nuts
(optional: a dried broad/fava bean)

For the topping
1 egg white
crystallised fruits of your choice

For the glaze
50 g icing sugar
25 g honey (I used orange blossom honey)
2 tbsp water


  1. Soak the crystallised fruits and raisins in the port wine and rum for 1-2 hours. Drain well and set aside.
  2. Dissolve the sugar and yeast in the lukewarm water, and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Tip the 50 g strong flour into a bowl, and pour in the yeasty water to mix. Knead by hand for 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Pour in some more water a little at a time if required. Shape the dough into a ball, place in a bowl, and cover with a damp tea towel or clingfilm. Allow to rise in a warm place for 60 minutes or until it has doubled in size. Remove the dough from the bowl, and punch down gently to degas. Shape into a ball, place back in the bowl and cover again and sit for 10 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg a quarter at a time, beating well after each addition. Fold in the flours until just combined and stir in the milk to mix well. Then add the yeast mixture to the dough making sure it is evenly blended together, using your hand and create a sticky dough. Put in the zests, nuts and soaked fruits (and a fava bean). Lightly mix until all the fruits and nuts are evenly covered by the dough. Cover with a damp tea towel or clingfilm and leave to rise in a warm place for about one hour or until it has doubled in size.
  4. Preheat oven to 190 C.
  5.  Knead the dough for about one minute. Scrape the dough on to a greased baking tray, shape into a round loaf (about 20 cm in diameter) , and make a hole in the centre. Brush it all with the egg white. Bake for 20 – 30 minutes. Cover with aluminium foil if the surface becomes too brown. Remove from the oven, brush the top surface again with the egg white and decorate with cristallised fruits. Put back into the oven, and bake for a few minutes (Do not burn the fruits!). Carefully lift out and place on a wire rack.
  6. To make the glaze, put the icing sugar, honey and water in a small pan over low heat. Stir until completely melted and slightly thickened. Remove from the heat and spoon over the cake.
So far I have received two postcards from Lisbon, which are my faves.

Thank you so much for the wonderful recipe, dear Postcrossing friend in Lisbon. I’m sure to make this again whether it’s Christmas/Epiphany or not!

I have been wishing to revisit Lisbon…. Night Train to Lisbon, both the novel and the film, added fuel to the wish. Once I planned train journeys from Nice to Lisbon via San Sebastian but it hasn’t come off yet.

What I enjoyed most in Lisbon are:

city views from above



and steep slopes of narrow streets and alleys. Above all, the slopes up to the B&B I stayed at. Whichever the labyrinthine alleys I took, I could go back to the place, which was really fun!


Casa Costa do Castelo is located at the foot of Castelo de São Jorge, or Saint George’s Castle, which offers gorgeous views by day and night.

A Room with a view


I happened to find Fonte das Sete Bicas when exploring Alfama. It is a small family run restaurant  like a trattoria, and many locals were in for lunch. You can enjoy dishes at reasonable price – I paid 8 – 9 euros for one course with bread and salad, a glass of wine, dessert and coffee (as of 2009)!

Cozido à Portuguesa, Portuguese stew with several kinds of meats and vegetables.
pudim flan

According to Tripadvisor reviews, their fish dishes look also nice.

At another restaurant, Sardinhas Assadas, Vinho Verde and Vinho do Porto satisfied me a lot…. Must go back to Lisboa!!


21 thoughts on “Bolo Rei – King’s Cake and Lisbon

  1. This bread sounds so good! It’s the first time I’ve seen dried fava beans mentioned as an addition to a sweet bread. Very interesting.

    Haven’t been to Lisbon yet, so it’s great to have your description and suggestions. I think you’d like the movie Lisbon Story by Wim Wanders. On top of being a wonderful movie (in my opinion) it also has wonderful Portuguese music. Worth looking for. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Thank you Ronit, I enjoyed the film – the views and “sounds” of Lisbon, the beautiful songs/music, the film director’s (Wim Wender’s) ambivalence, thoughts/philosophy etc. First I thought, Friedrich didn’t exist and everything was just Winter’s dream or imagination like one of my favourite films/novels!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It’s my pleasure to share this wonderful film. It is a unique one, and not to everyone’s liking, so I’m glad you’ve enjoyed it.
        My first impression too was that Winter’s journey may be just a dream, and Friedrich is only a symbolic character. It was very cleverly done.
        I also loved the sublime music. What a voice this singer has…
        It’s been a while since I’ve last watched it, so now that your post brought it back to mind, I plan to watch it again soon. Thank you for that! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I haven’t been to Lisbon in ages, but your pictures make me think it hasn’t changed too much, which is a relief to me as I loved it so much when I was there. Your bread looks delicious!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This Bolo Rei looks so delicious! I haven’t been to Portugal and love to go there sometime … However, the person who gets fava bean has to pay for next year’s? Surely it should be a luck not the punishment?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Mutsumi-san. Do find cheap Ryan or Easyjet flights and visit the country!
      Yeah, it sounds like a punishment or Russian Roulette 😀 Maybe the person is supposed to share his/her luck to others like a person who won a Takarakuji!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Another bear! I’ve been to Bern too! Some more cities I’ve visited appear in the novel, and that’s another reason I was attracted. I saw Bern in Christmas time, so good to know it in beautiful summer – love to swim in the river!! Thank you for sharing!
      Next time in Lisbon, I will take the ferry and go across the river like Raimund in the film. When you stay at Casa Costa, make sure to book a city view side room!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for the nomination! I am honoured and appreciate it but I’m afraid I’m not sure if I could nominate others as I don’t have enough regular followers…. Anyway, thank you for your concern!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Rotwein, You don’t have to nominate a lot of other, just anyone you find interesting would be good. Even one or two is okay. As you can see, I did not nominate 15 :).


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