Twelfth Night Bread - BC20 style

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Twelfth Night bread is not the same as Twelfth Night cake. The former is most certainly a bread; the latter is, in the UK, a dense and rich fruit cake. 

Twelfth Night bread, often eaten on the Feast of the Three Kings, or January 5th, has its roots in Christianity and marks the twelfth day of Christmas. 

There are many variations. In Spain and Latin America, it's known as La Rosco de Reyes. 

Back in Medieval and Tudor England, Twelfth Night marked the end of the winter festival that started on All Hallow's Eve (October 31st). On All Hallow's Eve, the king would become the peasant and the peasant the king...symbolising the Lord of Misrule. The Festival would end on 5th January when a 'cake' (actually more of a bread than a cake) containing a dried bean (later to become a small silver coin), would be baked and he who found the bean ruled the feast. 

The concept of the reversal of roles dates back to the pagan festivals of Samhain and Saturnalia. In Shakespeare's 'Twelfth Night', Viola dresses as a man and Malvolio imagines he could become a nobleman. So, their natural roles are reversed. 

By the time of the Elizabethans, the 'cake' contained a large bean and a small bean - those that found them in their portions took on the role of the King and Queen of the Feast. 

Our Twelfth Night cake is rich - almost a brioche-style. It is baked in a 26 cm bundt pan. 


450 gms strong white bread flour

10 gm dried yeast / 25 gms fresh yeast / 7 gms instant active yeast

70 gms warm milk

70 gms warm water

75 gms warm unsalted butter

75 gms caster sugar

½ teaspoon crushed sea salt

2 eggs

10 gms grated lemon rind

10 gms grated orange rind

15 gms orange flower water OR 10 gms finely pared orange peel mixed in 15 gms tepid water

1 tablespoon brandy

1 dried bean or a silver coin (WARNING - choking hazard) THIS IS OPTIONAL

for glazing

1 egg white

for decoration

glacé fruit pieces

flaked almonds


1. Prepare the bundt pan. Measure the circumference of the pan. 

2. Mix the flour and the salt together

3. If you're using fresh or dried yeast, prepare the test using the water and milk mixture.

4. Cream the butter and the sugar together. 

5. Add the yeast mixture or the instant yeast to the flour/salt and then add the eggs, brandy, citrus rinds, orange flower water (or peel if using) and mix and then knead to a smooth dough. 

6. Place in a lightly-oiled bowl, cover and leave in a warm place for about 1½ hours or until the dough has doubled in volume. 

7. Tip the dough out onto a lightly-floured board and knock back

8. Roll the dough out into a long rectangle. It should be about 5 inches wide by to whatever length is the circumference of the bundt pan. 

9. Roll the dough from the long side into a long 'sausage'. 

10. Place the seam side downwards and then form a circle in the bundt pan, sealing the ends carefully. 

11. Cover and return to the warm place until it has doubled once again in volume. This may take an hour, it may take longer. 

12. Preheat the oven to 180⁰C.

13. Brush the dough with egg white and decorate it with almonds and candied fruit. Push both the fruit and the nuts slightly down into the dough.

14. Bake for 30 - 35 minutes until risen and golden. 

15. Cool on a wire rack. 

Happy baking...


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