King Cake(s)

I wonder how many King Cake recipes will be posted this week since Mardi Gras  is February 21 this year?

Last year at my husband’s office, he found the baby in his piece of King Cake.   As tradition holds, this meant that it was up to him to bring the King Cake for next year’s celebration.   Next year is here.

I can’t for the life of me find that little plastic baby to put into this year’s cake, but I did read that a dried bean (or even a pecan)  can also be used.   Good thing!

Again, I went to my cookbooks for this recipe and not the internet.    I found an authentic recipe in Jambalaya (15th Edition).  

This is a collection of “Cajun & Creole Favorites from The Junior League of New Orleans.”   I picked it up on a trip to New Orleans in 1998.  (I absolutely adore all of my JL cookbooks.   The Angel Biscuits from the last post came from an old Dallas JL Cookbook.)

It sounded a bit daunting as I am not very artistic when it comes to braiding bread but I decided to give it a shot.

King Cake
I have tweaked the directions a bit.

Makes 2.  (One for my office, one for his.)

Cake Dough
1 stick plus 1 T. butter, divided
2/3 c. evaporated milk
1/2 c. sugar, divided
2 t. fine sea salt
4 1/2 t. dry yeast
1/3 c. warm water
4 eggs
1 T.  lemon zest
2 T. orange zest
5-6 c. flour

In a small sauce pan, melt 1 stick of the butter.   Stir in milk, 1/3 c. sugar, and salt.   Heat and stir until sugar is dissolved.  Cool to lukewarm.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment,  combine remaining 2 1/2 T. sugar, yeast and warm water.   Let stand 5-10 minutes.   Beat eggs into yeast mixture.   Add milk mixture and zests and continue to beat.

I used the zest of one whole lemon and the zest of one whole blood orange.

Add flour, 1/2 c. at a time.   When the dough becomes more than cake-like, change out to the dough hook.  Also, remember you may not need all this flour.   I ended up using about 5 1/4 cups.   Knead using dough hook until smooth (about 5 minutes).

Grease a large mixing bowl with the remaining tablespoon of butter.   Place dough in greased bowl, turning to coat dough on top.

This is a smooth dough. You can see the flecks of the blood orange zest.

Cover and let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour (or until doubled).

While dough is rising, make filling.

1 stick butter, melted
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
3/4 c. sugar
1 T. cinnamon

Melt butter and set aside.   Combine the sugars and cinnamon and set aside.

After dough has risen, punch down and divide in half.   On a floured surface, roll one of the dough halves into a 15″ x 30″ rectangle.   Brush with half of the melted butter (from filling recipe above).  Cut this dough half into 3 lengthwise strips.

Sprinkle half of the cinnamon-sugar mixture on strips, leaving a 1″ lengthwise edge free for sealing.  Fold each strip toward the center, sealing the seam.   You will now have three (30″) strips with a sugar filling enclosed in each.

Braid the strips together and make a circles by joining the ends.   Repeat with other half of the dough so you will have two King Cakes.

It’s not the most beautiful braiding job, but I was pleased.

Place each ring on a 10″x15″ baking sheet.   Cover with a damp cloth and let rise 60 minutes or until doubled.  (I had leftover melted butter so I brushed the tops of the cakes  with the remainder before I popped them in the oven.)

Bake at 350 F for 20 minutes.     Remove from pan immediately  and insert the plastic baby or bean (or nut)  in each cake from underneath.  Let cool.

The original recipe has an egg wash and sugar sprinkles.   I wanted a frosting so I came up with this.

Frosting and topping
1 1/2  c.  powdered sugar
3 T. fresh lemon juice
2-3 T. of water
Purple, gold (yellow) and green sparkling sugars

Combine the sugar and lemon juice together in a mixing bowl and beat until smooth.  Add water until the icing reaches desired consistency.  Use more water to thin as needed, or conversely, more powdered sugar for a thicker glaze.

When cake is cooled a bit, frost and decorate with sparkling sugars.

According to Jambalaya:

In New Orleans, this cake is served during Carnival season from the Feast of Epiphany (January 6) until Mardi Gras (the day before Ash Wednesday).   The person receiving the plastic baby is considered lucky.   By custom, that person must also supply the next King Cake.

I did attempt to braid one cake, but for the other one, I just rolled it up like I was making cinnamon rolls, which is an excellent idea and use for this dough.   Also, a safety tip here, make sure your oven is set on Convection Bake and not Convection Roast before you pop them in!!!!   (One cake got a bit brown before I realized what I had done.)

Good lookin’ from this angle.

However, from this angle it looks kind of pitiful.


With sprinkles.

Unbraided cake.

Confession:   I did go to the internet for a lighter version of this traditional fare.   Check out Claire Gallam’s recipe for a   Lighter King Cake recipe at She Knows.   (I even decreased the amount of sugar in the filling and it was still delicious AND it is much easier to make!)  This may be my new recipe for Mardi Gras.

This is Claire’s recipe that was baked in a bundt pan.

I hope everyone enjoyed Carnivale  this year.

(For last year’s Mardi Gras cupcakes, click here.)


Don’t think that I am ignoring my pantry/freezer Clean Out.   I collect all sorts of cupcake sprinkles and sparkling sugars.   The purple, yellow, and green sugars definitely got used on this cake (as did my surplus pounds of sugar that I bought on sale before Christmas).  I also am proud to say that I did not have to go to the store for any of these products.   So, the pantry is minus one can of evaporated milk, and some coconut and whole wheat flour (from Claire’s lighter recipe at She Knows.)

I am also making gumbo to take to work tomorrow.   We have another long day tomorrow—there until 7:30 p.m.   So, the freezer is minus two pints of Okra Gumbo Freezer Mix and a bag of frozen chicken breasts.   The pantry is minus one quart or tomatoes and some rice.

With Gumbo and a King Cake, we will have our own celebration!

Laissez les bon temps rouler!




19 comments to King Cake(s)