Twelfth night

Twelfth night, or the twelfth day of Christmas, marks the end of the Christmas season. Celebrating the day when three magicians visited a stable in Israel, it is mostly observed in places with a strong Catholic presence. Sadly that excludes my home, even though I've tried repeatedly to get the breadwinner to swap a box of camel feed for a box of gifts. Luckily there are lots of food traditions associated with the day, including cakes.

The type of cake eaten for twelfth night varies from place to place. In my investigations I came across lots of sweet bread type recipes before finding the bolo des reis, or king's cake, which is eaten in Brazil. I'm not sure how authentic the recipe is, but it makes an extraordinarily sweet cake with a dense crumb, almost like a mud cake. It's delicious, but a little slice goes a very long way. I used dried apples, dried apricots, glace cherries, mixed peel and dried cranberries for the fruit.

Bolo des Reis

200 g butter
2 cups brown sugar
4 eggs
400g can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups plain flour
1 tbspn baking powder
1 1/2 to 2 cups dried fruit, chopped

2 1/2 cups icing sugar
2 tbspn milk
3 tbspn lime juice


Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius. Grease a 23cm ring tin. Separate the eggs and beat the whites until soft peaks appear. Cream the butter and sugar. Add the egg yolks one at a time. Slowly add the sweetened condensed milk, beating thoroughly to combine. Sift together the flour and baking powder. Add to the batter and mix well. Stir through the dried fruit, then add the egg whites and fold, being careful not to lose too much air. Bake for around 1 1/2 hours until a skewer inserted comes out clean. If the cake starts to brown too much too early, cover with foil. Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Remove from pan while still slightly warm. Mix together the icing ingredients and pour over the cake. Serve with a strong coffee.


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