The famous Bolo Rei is one of the best known Christmas traditions in Portugal. There is hardly any Portuguese family that does not respect this tradition. Round, with a hole in the middle and filled with candied fruits and nuts, they are the delight of the whole family.
Until a few years ago, this typical cake brought a metal object that was, however, prohibited in 1999 for safety reasons – and still a broad bean (which also came out of its composition). According to Portuguese tradition, the person to whom the slice of cake was served with the broad bean was the person responsible for, in the following year, buying the Bolo Rei.
Over time, this tradition has also been adapted, and there are now several variants of this traditional Christmas candy, such as Bolo Rainha for those who don’t like candied fruit, Chocolate King Cake and even the Bolo of Rei de Gila or with apple.
The story goes that the son of Baltasar Castanheiro, owner of the National Confectionery in Praça de Figueira, during a trip to Loire, France, tasted the galette des rois for the first time and, in love with the cake and the tradition of the bean, who decided who bought the cake the following year, imported the tradition in Lisbon. Nowadays, we can try this cake more or less between November and February at Confeitaria Nacional where, on December 23, the queue shows the importance of this tradition.
In Porto, the recipe is introduced by Confeitaria Cascais, which imported the tradition directly from Paris.
With the proclamation of the republic, the cake was in danger of disappearing because of the name “king”
Other names were proposed: national cake according to the National Confectionery or ex-king cake. Republicans proposed Bolo Presidente, Bolo Republicano or even Bolo Arriaga in relation to the first president of the Republic
But the tradition of this Christmas cake, besides being Portuguese, is found in different ways in many other countries:
– Galette des rois in France in brioche version or frangipane version with almond cream
– Dreikönigkuchen (the cake of the three kings) in Switzerland
– Roscón de reyes (galette des rois) in Majorca, much like the Portuguese version
– Brioche des rois in the Provencal Alps
– Rosca de Reyes in Mexico
– King Cake in New Orleans, official Mardi Gras (Carnaval) cake with colored sugar.
– Tortell of kings in Catalonia that can be simple or filled
And what will be your Christmas cake?