With my sister and sister-in-law immigrating, also with dad gone we are so few now, and although there have been many changes over the last Christmases (missing tree) not a lot has changed around the dinner table (except for some sad moments) the food traditions have remained the same, they have stayed and lived on for years…..
I don’t like cooking, don’t care much about the kitchen but if I’m baking then the kitchen is a happy place. This was my mom or sister-in-law’s job a few years ago, now it is my duty to bake the Christmas cake.
Bolo Rei or King’s Cake or King’s Crown (not sure what they calling it now-days) -everyone in our family loves this, my mom used to bake for orders and for us at home, she moaned a lot too about the work involved and the expense of the cake. It is a lot of work with all the resting periods and allowing the cake mixture to rest, fold in fruits and rest again and grow. You basically spend the whole day in the kitchen and you’re left with 3 cakes, that’s it! So if the family is huge and you want more cakes, then it’s another one or two days in the kitchen. This is nothing like the English fruit cake or mince pies, a light delicious cake with a bit of fruit, lots of pine nuts and pretty glazed fruit to decorate. It is my favorite.
Christmas Tradition # 3 this is my Bolo Rei
1 kg of flour
250 g of margarine
300 g of sugar
6 eggs + 6 egg yolks
200 ml of milk (2 dcl)
Pinch of salt
1 active yeast cube
Dried and crystallised fruit and nuts
Crumble the yeast in a bit of warm water and add 250 g of flour and mix well. Let it rest and double up in size.
Generously sprinkle the dried fruit with good port wine and let it just sit and get happy
Mix the flour, sugar, margarine and add the eggs and milk and knead this well together. Add the yeast mixture to this and work the dough with your hands. Add another two handfuls of flour and let it rest in a warm room and double up in size. Room has to be warm, draft-free. Wrap it up in warm blanket.
Carefully mix in the fruit and knead with hands, it’s messy, be patient. You might need more flour for dusting. Make and shape the 3 ring cakes (a circle). Some people roll dough and add fruits and roll it up, I just mix mine as is. Decorate with fruits (candied pear, candied fig, pineapple, pine nuts, pecans) on the outside let the cakes rest and grow once more. Sprinkle with icing sugar. Bake in pre-heated oven.
While warm brush with fruit jelly (smooth peach jam + bit of water and boiled in sauce pan) just to make it shiny. Add a little more icing sugar if needed. I always add the food glitter for the festive happy look.
It’s Yum! Enjoy! 😀
Now there’s a beautiful reason for the shape of the cake, it is supposed to represent the crown of the three wise men, the beautiful fruits are the jewels on the crown. The gifts of gold, myrrh and incense are represented in the cake as the ‘gold’ in the colour of the cake, the fruits are the myrrh and the incense is that beautiful smell of the cake baking. Traditionally the cake used to be baked with a small silver charm or gift inside. If you receive the slice with that charm then it is your turn to return the favour and bake the cake for next year.
I looked in old boxes and secret places in my room and found two charms for my cakes, so someone owes me a cake next year *I wonder who?*
With a story like that, which is as old as the hills, you must know the cake is divine and the process of baking it is worthwhile, it will teach you patience every time you check on the resting dough and need to wait a little longer, it will teach you love for you must have loads of love to go through this process, and it will teach you faith, you need to build on faith to complete anything in life. Those are my three gifts to you – patience, love and faith.
PS: Maybe with the patience comes a part of reading the recipe carefully and not forgetting to add the milk — oh no huge mistake!!