The Christmas season is ending, and it’s time to dismantle the tree and eat the last piece of ‘’bolo-rei’’ (king’s cake) or ‘’bolo-rainha’’ (queen’s cake) for those who don’t like candied fruit. Do you know the story of this sweet treat which is never forgotten on the Portuguese table during the season?

Imagem: Reprodução Cleofas

Imagem: Reprodução Cléofas

The ‘’bolo-rei’’ tradition is not Portuguese and it has more than 2000 years old of existence. The legend tells us that the cake represents the Three Magi offerings to Baby Jesus when he was born. The cake’s crust represents the gold, the candied fruits symbolize myrrh and its sweet aroma is the incense. Its round shape with a hole in the middle has the shape of the crown. Its ingredients are simple: white and soft dough with many dried fruits mixed, dried grapes and for decoration the candied fruits.
Some years ago it was common to add in the ‘‘bolo-rei’ a broad bean and a small gift. Whoever found the bean had to pay the next cake. However, the European Union ended with this tradition for security reasons and we can eat the cake without loosing a tooth or getting choked with a bean…
The ‘‘bolo-rei’’, contrary to what many believe, appeared in France during the Louis XIV reign for the New Year’s Eve festivities and Kings’ day. With the French Revolution the cake was forbidden because of its name. No longer king’s cake for you ! Vive la Republique!
Fortunately, as it was quite profitable and popular among the most greedy the cake didn’t disappear, changing its name to gâteau des san-cullottes.
The ”bolo-rei” in Portugal was created in Confeitaria Nacional, in Lisbon around 1870, influenced by the French recipe. But the same happened with the Republic Revolution in October of 1910. The cake must change the name, as ‘’rei’’ (king) is a symbol of the defeated monarchy. The pastry-cooks obeyed, changed its name but time made it come back. We still call it ‘‘bolo-rei’’ and we managed to find a ‘’bolo-rainha’’ (queen’s cake) which dismisses the candied fruit sweetness.
Source: As Nossas Voltas

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