Appears in

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

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Introduced to Portugal via France in the nineteenth century, bolo rei (king cake) is the ubiquitous Portuguese Christmas cake. Traditionally round with a hole in the middle (resembling a crown), the brioche-like cake is packed with raisins, nuts, and crystalized fruits. Bolo rei customarily contains a small metal charm—an owl, a key, a heart—and a dried broad bean; the one who finds the charm is cheered, and the one who finds the bean buys next year’s cake. See twelfth night cake. However, most modern versions of bolo rei have since eliminated both the charm and bean, in the interest of food safety.