The month of brutally cold weather (except this year has been unseasonably warm most places), Valentine’s Day and if you live down south… MARDI GRAS!!
Being from Louisiana, I grew up celebrating Mardi Gras. There are parades, masquerade balls, beads, Doubloons, masks and feathered costumes!!!
There is also, of course, the food. Which includes TONS of crawfish (sooooooo much yum!) and the ever festive, King Cakes!!!!!
King Cakes are usually a huge thing in the South, and Louisiana in particular, fromTwelfth Night (or Jan 6) through Mardi Gras (or Fat Tuesday, which falls on Feb 28 this year). The cake which is much like a coffee cake, was brought to New Orleans from France in 1870.
The Kings Cake is extremely colorful and festive! It is ALWAYS decorated in Green, Gold and Purple… Green for Faith, Gold for Power and Purple for Justice… and is baked in honor of the three kings that visited the Baby Jesus in the story of Christmas.
Each King Cake should have a tiny toy baby or bean inserted inside after baking. The person who finds the baby (or bean) in their piece of cake is the “King” or lucky person and had to supply the next King Cake to keep the tradition going all season.
You can also play with the fillings of the King Cake. The recipe I have today has a simple cinnamon and sugar filling, but you can add, cream cheese, chocolate and fruit fillings! I LOVE the ones with cream cheese!! Soooooo yum!!!
And now my confession… as you know, I really pride myself on being from Louisiana and being able to cook traditional Louisianan food… but… I HAD NEVER MADE A KING CAKE!! Like… never! I’m not sure why. I think because usually baking bread intimidates me and I was afraid of ruining it. There is nothing more depressing (not to mention embarrassing) as being from a place so full of culture and history and totally jacking up something so iconic! So I never tried. I just always bought and shipped from the AHHHHMAZING bakeries in New Orleans that have perfected the King Cake. That is… until last night.
After interrogating all of my friends who still live in “The Boot”, I narrowed it down to a recipe that had all the ingredients that I already had in my pantry. It’s super easy and (almost) fool proof!
It is a pretty traditional King Cake recipe… the only thing I didn’t do was add the baby! Couldn’t get one on short notice and I didn’t have any large red beans on hand to add a bean. But if you want the complete experience, you should definitely add one!!!
You have 3 more days to make your King Cake! Try it!! It takes about 5 hours from start to finish but it’s totally worth it!
King Cake (adapted from The Kitc’n)
1/4 Cup Water
2 Teaspoons Active-Dry Yeast
1 Stick Unsalted Butter (Very soft)
2 Large Eggs
1/4 Cup Whole Milk
2 Tablespoons Sugar
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Nutmeg
3 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour
2/3 Cup Light Brown Sugar
2 Teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
4 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, softened
Dried Bean (optional)
2 Tablespoons melted butter
3 Cups Sifted Confectioner’s Sugar
2 Teaspoons Vanilla
4 Tablespoons Whole Milk
2 Cups Super Fine Sugar (regular sugar also works)
Green, Yellow and Purple Food coloring
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the yeast and water and let dissolve.
Add the butter, eggs, sugar, salt, milk and Nutmeg. Stir until combined.
Add 3 Cups of the flour and stir until s “shaggy” dough forms.
With your dough hook attachment, knead the dough until it forms a ball and is the stretchy. ABOUT 5-7 MINUTES. The dough shouldn’t stick to the bowl or hook. If that happens add a little of the extra 1/2 Cup of flour until it stops sticking.
Once kneaded, take the dough out of the bowl. Clean the bowl and lightly oil it with vegetable oil. Shape the dough in a ball with your hands and place inside of the bowl. Cover the bowl with a clean cloth and place in a warm place. Let dough rise for 1 hour until doubled in volume.
While dough is rising prepare filling. Combine the cinnamon and sugar in a bowl and set aside.
Scrape dough from bowl onto a lightly floured surface. Shape the dough into a rectangle. Then roll it out with a rolling pin using that rectangle as a guide. Roll until dough is fairly thin and large.
Spread the dough with the softened butter, leaving a 1/2 inch border.
Take your cinnamon, sugar mixture and sprinkle into dough. Lightly press the mixture into the butter with your hands. This is where you should add the bean (DO NOT ADD A PLASTIC BABYST THIS POINT! If you use the baby insert it through the bottom of the cake AFTER it’s been baked)
Take the long end of the rectangle and roll the dough into a long, tight log.
Shape the log into a circle (or in a spiral, like I did). Pinch the ends together so that they connect. Move circle to a parchment lined baking sheet, seam side down.
Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for 45-60 minutes. Let rise until puffy and slightly larger.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees while the dough is rising.
Once the rising is done, bake cake for 35-45 minutes, or until cake is golden brown.
Let cake cool completely at room temperature.
While cake is cooling. Make the icing and sugars.
Combine the confectioner’s sugar, butter, vanilla and milk in a small bowl. Whisk together until it’s a thick but pourable consistency. If it’s too runny, add more sugar. Too thick?? Add a Teaspoon more milk.
Divide the super fine (or granulated) sugar evenly into three small bowls. Add eight drops of Green food coloring to one of the bowls. Stir the sugar and coloring together, pressing the food coloring into the sugar as you go. Add more food coloring if need be to adjust vibrancy.
Continue with other sugar bowls and colors.
Once cake is cool, move cake to cake plate and line strips of parchment underneath to catch runaway icing…
Decorate the cake as you see fit by pouring the icing over the cake letting it drip a little (you can also tint the icing with corresponding colors if you want). Sprinkle with the colored sugars. Remove the strips of parchment.
To store cover loosely with plastic wrap. King Cake is best eaten within a couple f days of baking.