So this year, we made our first ever attempt at making a King Cake for Mardi Gras. For those of you not from New Orleans, King Cake is a traditional dessert served during the Mardi Gras season (from the Feast of Epiphany, January 6, to Mardi Gras Day – the day before the beginning of Lent). Inside the King Cake is a small plastic baby – the origins of which are somewhat murky but it probably represents the Baby Jesus as King Cake is a Christmas tradition in some other coutries. Point being: one person will find a plastic baby in his or her piece of cake, and the tradition is: that is the person who must throw the next party, or bring the next King Cake. Yes, it’s weird. Yes, it’s a little creepy. But that’s New Orlean’s for you.
As it turns out, making King Cake is quite involved. It involves lots of kneading, and then letting rise, and then kneading, and then letting rist, and then braiding, and then letting rise. That sort of thing.
Recipe (Makes 2 King Cakes)
You will need:
- 1 stick plus 1 tablespoon butter
- 2/3 cup 99% fat free skim evaporated milk
- ½ cup sugar
- 2 teasppons salt
- 2 packages dry yeast
- 1/3 cup warm water
- 4 eggs
- 1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
- 2 tablespoons grated orange rind
- 6 cups flour
- In a saucepan, melt 1 stick butter, milk, 1/3 cup sugar and salt. Cool to lukewarm.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine 2 tablespoons sugar, yeast and water. Let stand until foaming, about 5 to 10 minutes.
- Beat eggs into yeast then milk mixture and rinds.
- Stir in flour, ½ a cup at a time, leaving 1 cup aside to flour kneading surface. We did this part in an electric stand mixer, on low, using the bread hook to mix.
- Knead dough until smooth, about 5 to 10 minutes.
- Place in a large mixing bowl greased with 1 tablespoon butter; turning dough over once to grease top; cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 ½ to 2 hours.
- ½ cup dark brown sugar, packed
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 1 stick butter, melted
Mix sugars and cinnamon, set aside.
Back to the cake!
- Once the dough has doubled, punch down and divide in half.
- On a floured surface, roll half into a rectangle 30 inches by 15 inches. Ours never actually got that big. but we did our best.
- Brush with half the melted butter, then cut into 3 equal strips lengthways.
- Sprinkle half the sugar mixture (filling) on strips, leaving a 1 inch strip lengthwise bare for sealing.
- Fold each strip lengthwise towards the center, sealing the seam. You now have 3 30 inch strips with sugar mixture enclosed in each.
Now for the hard part.
- Braid the 3 strips and make a circle by joining the ends.
- Repeat with the other half of the dough.
- Place each cake on a 10×15 baking tray, cover with a damp cloth and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 cup sugar, colored (1/3 cup each of yellow, purple and green)
- 2 plastic babies
- Brush each cake with egg.
- Sprinkle with sugars, alternating colors.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Bake 20 minutes.
- Remove from pan immediately so sugars do not harden.
- While still warm, place 1 plastic baby in each from underneath.
YUM! Ours was a little over crispy, but still delicious.
Recipe from: “Jambalaya” published by the Junior League of New Orleans, copyright 1983. Page 206-207.