Mardi Gras King Cake
Last year I had the pleasure of spending Mardi Gras and the few days leading up to it in the Big Easy. The trip was absolutely wild, but I'm happy I stepped out of my element to take part in a once in a life time experience. Really though. ONCE in a life time because I don't think I could ever handle this craziness again. I was told over and over again "Mardi Gras is a marathon, not a sprint." What did I do? I sprinted my ass straight down Bourbon Street...
Although I took full advantage of the open container laws in New Orleans, I failed miserably at experiencing the regional food. Po Boy? Nope. Cafe Du Monde Beignets? Nah. Seafood??? Didn't happen. Missing out on the authentic southern cuisine is my biggest regret from the trip next to letting my friend drink a strawberry daiquiri flavored slushie (the worst). I also really wanted to eat a King Cake while in the area but sadly missed my opportunity. This year, I took it upon myself to make my own. Before getting out the sugar sprinkles, I first wanted to educate myself on what exactly a King Cake is..
King Cakes are traditional for Mardi Gras or Carnival in other countries. Usually a small plastic baby, trinket, or candied nut is placed somewhere inside the cake. Whoever finds the item becomes the "King" of the party or is obligated to host the next Mardi Gras party and make the next King Cake. Sometimes, New Orleans Krewes (Mardi Gras clubs of sorts) choose the king of their parade floats via King Cake. The cake is a ring of sweet bread and often filled with cinnamon, cream cheese, nuts, or strawberries. A glaze is drizzled over the cake then it is sprinkled with sugar of traditional Mardi Gras colors.
photo credit: Dana Burke
From: Judicial Peach
4 1/2 teaspoons (2 packages) active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (105-115° F)
2 teaspoons plus 1/2 cup sugar
4 tablespoons butter softened
1/2 cup 1% milk at room temperature
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 1/4 to 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 plastic baby, or other small trinket
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 cup Confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 to 3 tablespoons water
Green, Yellow, and Purple Sugar
1. In a large bowl, stir together the yeast, 2 teaspoons sugar, and water. Let it stand until foamy, about 5-10 minutes.
2. Add 1/2 cup sugar, butter, milk, egg yolks, salt, lemon zest, nutmeg and 2 cups flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough (the dough should be just a little sticky).
3. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough until smooth and elastic, about 6 to 8 minutes. Use more flour as needed until it barely sticks to your fingers. Place the dough in a large, greased bowl, turning once so that the dough is also greased. Cover the bowl with a dish towel, and let the dough rise in a warm place until it has doubled in size, about 1 hour.
4. Punch the dough down, and turn it onto a lightly floured surface. Roll into about an 18-inch x 10-inch rectangle. Combine the cinnamon and remaining 1/3 cup of sugar. Sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar mixture to within 1/4 inch of the edges. Place trinket somewhere on the dough. Roll up the dough, jelly-roll style, starting with a long side. Pinch the seems to seal. You can use a tiny amount of water to help.
5. Place seam-side down on a greased baking sheet. Very gently stretch the dough to form a ring. You can form it around an upside-down bundt pan or empty coffee cane to get ring to hold its shape. Cut slits 1/3 of the way into the ring every 1". Cover the dough again, and let it rise. After about 30 minutes, gently massage the dough into a slightly longer and thinner ring. Cover and let rise for another 30 minutes.
6. Preheat the oven to 375° degree. Brush the dough with the melted butter. Bake the king cake for about 23 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool completely on a wire rack.
7. For the glaze, combine the Confectioners’ sugar, lemon juice, and enough water to achieve the desired consistency. Pour the icing over the cake. Sprinkle with the colored sugars in a green, yellow, and purple pattern. Slice with a serrated knife, serve, and then anxiously wait to discover who will be crowned as your King!
photo credit: Dana Burke