Monday, February 8, 2010

Mardi Gras!

Just over a week from Mardi Gras so, of course, it is time for a King Cake!
King Cakes are a traditional Mardi Gras party treat. A small plastic baby jesus is baked into the cake and whoever gets the baby in their piece of cake is in charge of next year's cake/party.

I have to admit, I am not actually fond of King Cake. I typically opt for appropriately colored/decorated cupcakes.


½CupWarm water (110 degrees F.)
2PkgActive dry yeast
½CupSugar (plus 2 tsp)
CupsAll purpose flour, un-sifted
1TspNutmeg, ground or fresh grated
1TspLemon zest
½CupWarm Milk (110 degrees F.)
5EachEgg yolks
1StickButter, (plus 2 Tbsp) softened
1EachEgg and 1 Tbsp milk beaten (egg wash)

1.In a small bowl add the warm water and sprinkle in the yeast with 2 teaspoons of sugar. Allow the yeast and sugar to rest for 5 minutes then mix well. Set the bowl in a warm place for 10 minutes, or until the yeast bubbles and mixture almost doubles in volume.
2.Combine 3½ cups flour with ½ cup sugar, nutmeg and salt, then sift into a large mixing bowl. Stir in the lemon zest.
3.Create a “hole” in the middle of the bowl with the flour mixture on the sides of the bowl. Gently pour in the yeast mixture and the warm milk into the flour mixture. Add the egg yolks and combine the dry ingredients with the wet mixture. When the dough is smooth cut in the stick of butter 1 Tbsp at a time and continue to fold and combine until the dough can be formed into a soft ball shape.
4.Place the ball of dough on a lightly floured surface and knead adding up to another cup of flour in small tablespoon portions at a time. Continue to knead the dough until smooth, shiny and elastic, about 10 minutes or so.
5.Using a pastry brush, coat the inside of a large bowl evenly with 1 Tbsp softened butter. Place the dough ball in the bowl and rotate until the entire surface is buttered. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and place in a draft-free place for about 1½ hours, or until the dough doubles in volume. Using a pastry brush coat a large baking sheet pan with 1 Tbsp of butter and set aside.
6.Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a lightly floured surface. Using your fist punch down the dough with a heavy blow. Sprinkle cinnamon over the top and roll the dough into a cylinder or tube shape. (Fill and roll if you're so inclined) Twist the dough to form a curled cylinder and loop it onto the buttered baking sheet pan. Pinch the ends of the dough together to complete the circle.
7.Cover the dough with a kitchen towel and allow to rise again in a draft-free warm location for about 45 minutes or until the dough circle doubles in volume.
8.Brush the top and sides of the dough with the egg wash and bake on the middle rack of the oven for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool cake to room temperature on a wire rack. Now is the time to hide the bean or plastic baby.
Colored Sugars
CupsGranulated sugar
¼TspPurple food color
¼TspGreen food color
¼TspYellow food color

1.While the cake is cooling prepare the tinted sugars by taking three separate bowls with ½ cup of sugar in each. Then take the purple food color and slowly drop a dot or two at a time into the sugar. Using a spoon stir to mix and spread the color around until all sugar is tinted. Add more food color as needed. Repeat the process for the green and then the yellow in their own bowls as well. Set the tinted sugars aside.
3CupsPowdered confectioners sugar
¼CupFresh lemon juice, strained
3 to 6TbspWater

1.Combine the sugar, lemon juice and 3 tablespoons of water in a deep bowl whisking until smooth. If icing is too stiff whisk in 1 tablespoon water at a time until spreadable.
2.Place cooled cake onto a serving platter or heavy cake cardboard and coat the top and sides of the cake with the icing. I like to dip my fingers into the icing and then drizzle it over the top of the cake. While the icing is still fresh immediately sprinkle the tinted sugars in individual rows about 2 to 3 inches wide of the purple, green and gold (yellow).

If preparing in advance allow the icing and tinted sugars to set up a bit then cover with a plastic bag or plastic wrap. Typically a King Cake can last 2-3 days un-refrigerated.

Need a filling?

Cream Cheese and Fruit Filling
1CanCherry, apple or apricot pie filling (16-ounces)
8OuncesCream cheese, softened
2EachEgg yolks
1TspVanilla extract

1.Using a floured roller on a floured surface, roll out the dough into a 30-by-9-inch rectangle as thin as pie crust. Let dough rest.
2.If necessary, drain extra juice from pie filling. Mix the softened cream cheese with the sugar, flour, egg yolks and vanilla. Spoon an inch-wide strip of fruit filling the length of the dough, about 3 inches from the edge. Spoon the cream cheese mixture alongside the fruit, about 3 inches from the edge. Brush the exposed dough with egg wash.
3.Fold or roll one edge of dough over the cream cheese and fruit in jelly roll fashion, and continue to roll the dough to the end, then brush with a little egg wash. Gently place one end of the filled rolled dough onto the buttered baking sheet pan, and then ease the rest of the roll onto the pan, joining the ends to form the loop or circle. Add more egg wash to “glue” the ends together. And then pick up from step 7 in the dough procedures above.

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