Roscón de Reyes

January 06, 2008 By: erik Category: Food, Photos, Religion, Spain 1,343 views

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CircularI think the roscón de reyes is a Spanish tradition that I have yet to mention on this blog. Traditionally, the second most important day of the winter holidays (the first being Nochebuena) in Spain is January 6, the Dí­a de los Reyes Magos, or the Epiphany, as it’s known in English. This is the day when children, traditionally (less and less so with the intrusion of American culture), receive their presents. Clearly the most logical way to tie present giving to the Christian theology would be to do it on the day that Jesus received his gifts from the three wise men.

The typical food for this day is the roscón de reyes, a cake that is eaten either for dessert or breakfast (or both). The toric cake is cut in half and filled with cream. Somewhere in the cream filling is placed a little plastic figurine. The person who gets the slice with the figurine, if he doesn’t choke to death, is said to have good luck for the entire year, ending with the bad luck of having to buy the roscón de reyes the following year.

I have a very vague recollection of a similar practice from my elementary school French class. I seem to recall a “chew these muffins carefully because one of you could choke to death” party we had. Can someone confirm similar practices in other parts of Europe?In the box

In the box from the local bakery.

Open box

The unboxing.


Creamy goodness.

Extra creamy!



Sweet, sweet torus.


My slice.

Cake Tortoise

Marga was the unlucky cake eater this year. This is what she found. Talk about a choking hazard!

Cake Turtle is angry!

Cake Turtle looks a little angry. Note he’s still got a little cream and cake on his face.

Just to be clear on the sequence of events, as celebrated by Spaniards…

December 24 – Nochebuena
Joseph and a very pregnant virgin arrive to Bethlehem, can’t find a place to stay, and spend the night in a manger.
December 25 – Navidad
Jesus is born. Yay.
December 28 – Dí­a de los Inocentes
King Harrod orders the slaughter of all children in Bethlehem under 12 months of age, but only after hearing that the Magi were going to see the newborn King of the Jews and having them, upon having already seen Jesus and headed back east, deny Harrod the child’s location. Baby Jesus is okay, though, because his mother and the man who didn’t inseminate her took him to Egypt after being advised by an angel of King Harrod’s diabolical plot.
January 6 – Dí­a de los Reyes Magos
The Magi arrive to the manger where Mary and her sexually frustrated husband are still staying with their 12-day-old baby among the livestock.
January 7 – The Bonnie Situation
Jules and Vincent arrive to Jimmy’s house in a car with a severely stained back seat. Jimmy makes some gourmet coffee and Jules gets Marsellus to call The Wolf.

Makes perfect sense to me! Amen.

  • Interesting. Reminds me of the Mardi Gras King Cake. Dig that little plastic baby Jesus!

  • Jane, yes, I suspect that the muffins I had with my French teacher as a kid were Mardi Gras related. I recall the choking hazard being humanoid.

  • Heather

    That is some yummy yummy cake right there………… When we lived there, the kids always got more presents on El Dia Del Los Reyes than they did on Christmas….

  • Betsy

    When I went to France in January 1971 I arrived on the 5th. The next day, still dopey from the trip and shocked at how little French I remembered, I was taken to a party where we had Gí¢teau de Roi or King cake. I was warned, I think, not to chomp down on the ring hidden in the pastry. Luckily I didn’t find it so I didn’t have to act happy and honored for the day.

  • “Luckily I didn’t find it so I didn’t have to act happy and honored for the day.”

    Awesome. That is exactly what my reaction would have been.

  • We have the “Galette du Roi” in Belgium, with the same hazardous figurine inside.

  • Betsy

    Yes, that was it, Simon. I knew “gateau” wasn’t the right word but I couldn’t come up with “galette”. One less nagging half memory to deal with. Merci.

  • I’m pretty sure that there’s a Brit tradition about finding the “lucky” sixpence hidden in the figgy pudding, too.

  • So all Europeans are mad. Glad we got that settled. 🙂

  • Josh

    The “avoid death by choking” tradition comes from the Roman Saturnalia season raffle of “king for the day” via the placement of a bean in a pastry. The slave (or comparably low level) person who found the bean would (assuming he hadn’t choked to death) get to be the master of the household for the day. As they say on Fark, hilarity ensued.

    Betsy, I think that “gateau du roi” is the phrase in Provence (maybe all of southern France?) Whereas “galette” is used in the north. Strangely enough, the “galet” is the special, snail shell shaped pasta used by the Catalans (northeastern Spain) in their traditional Christmas soup.