Catholic Culture Resources
Catholic Culture Resources

Catholic Recipe: Twelfth Night Bread of Lady Carcas


  • 1 teaspoon grated orange peel
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons warm water (105-115 degrees)
  • 2 1/2-3 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened 


  • 1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon milk


Yield: 1 loaf

Prep Time: 2 hours

Difficulty:  ★★☆☆

Cost:  ★★★☆

For Ages: 15+

Origin: France


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Since Twelfth Night concludes the Christmas holidays, people traditionally have marked it with a big party closing the season. The Twelfth Night revels in many countries feature parties, dancing, and feasting. At the feasts, people often eat a special bread or cake with a bean, coin, or figurine baked in it. The person getting the piece with the good luck token becomes the Twelfth Night King or Queen, leading revelers in their merrymaking.

The holiday also carries solemn religious overtones. It is one of the three major Christian holidays, along with Christmas and Easter. The name Twelfth Night simply reflects its occurrence twelve days after Christmas. But in some places it is known as Feast of the Three Kings because the Three Kings (also known as Wise Men or Magi) are believed to have reached the Christ Child on January 6. And, with emphasis on the religious character of the occasion, Epiphany notes that the holiday marks a special revelation of Jesus's divine nature - the arrival of the three Magi as the first manifestation of Jesus to the Gentiles.

This orange flavored bread honors the thwarting of Charlemagne's siege of Carcassonne by Lady Carcas more than a thousand years ago. But the bread also is featured in French celebrations of Twelfth Night. Try it for an especially elegant treat. -Kathy Cutler


1. Combine orange peel and orange juice. Set aside. Dissolve yeast in warm water. Set aside for 5 minutes.

2. Combine 2 cups flour, sugar, and salt in mixing bowl. Add yeast mixture, 1 egg yolk at a time, and butter. Mix thoroughly.

3. Add orange juice mixture and enough remaining flour to make a soft dough. Knead on lightly floured surface until smooth - about 10 minutes.

4. Make a ball of dough and cover with inverted mixing bowl for 30 minutes.

5. Make a ball and flatten to about 2-inch thickness with hands. Place on greased baking sheet.

6. Cover; let rise for 35-45 minutes. Make glaze and brush on loaf. Pierce dough completely through about 8-10 times with a skewer or something similar.

7. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven about 25-35 minutes or until done. Cool on wire rack.

Recipe Source: Festive Bread Book, The by Kathy Cutler, Barron's Educational Series, Inc., 1982