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King’s Cake: The closing gastronomic tradition of Christmas celebrations

King's Cake close up


One of the most appreciated Portuguese Christmas sweet is a round-shaped crown, has a large hole in the middle, a hard dough with nuts and candied fruit. These are the king cake ingredients, a typical cake traditionally eaten between December and King’s Day, whose name refers to the three wise men.

According to legend, this sweet represents the gifts offered by the Magi to baby Jesus at his birth: the crust symbolized gold, the candied fruit the myrrh and cake aroma the incense.

According to tradition, the interior had a fava bean and a golden coin in the beginning. Those who found the slice with the fava bean would have to buy the next king cake, while the metal gift was a sort of signal. As time goes by, and because of the risk of biting a piece of metal, today the cakes no longer include toast, nor the bean, but eating a slice of king cake it’s an official Christmas tradition.

In Lisbon is very easy to find bakeries that sell king cake, but the most famous for the excellence of it’s King Cake is the Confeitaria Nacional at Praça da Figueira, which is proud to have been the first to sell the King Cake, in 1870.

The recipe, a closely guarded secret, was invented by the son of the founder in the mid-nineteenth century, inspired by the French Gallete des Rois. Because of its reputation, around the Christmas season there are often line up to buy the famous king cake!


King's Cake, typical Portuguese Christmas cake


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