I am itching to make my very first King Cake. I was recently at the party supply store and noticed Mardi Gras ornaments for sale, and it got me thinking about King Cake. I've never tasted it, or even been anywhere that it was served. I read about it for the first time a year or two ago, and also saw it on display at my local grocery store, King's (oddly enough). I read a bit about the history (click here), and retained this: it's got something to do with the time between Christmas and Mardi Gras, or maybe twelfth night, and something regarding the three kings. It's often decorated with the colors of Mardi Gras: purple, yellow, and green. And often, a baby representing the baby Jesus is baked (hidden) into the cake, otherwise, they use a bean or a pecan. The person who gets him in their piece has a year of good luck, and is responsible for baking the cake the following year.
"There are as many King Cake recipes as their are bakers," wrote one of the bakers who reviewed a King Cake recipe on foodtv.com. Now I am a baker, for sure, but the King Cake recipes make me nervous. They all require making your own dough with yeast, and then kneading or rolling out the dough. I just don't know.
I want to try and make the King Cake. I've even found the plastic baby to put inside, but can I really make this dough? All that work, is it worth it? Is the King Cake really that good? If it is, then I am happy to try and make it. I love a good recipe from scratch, but if it's just eh, well then it'd serve me just as well to make it Sandra Lee's way.
I can't believe I just said that. Sandra Lee. The throw-it-together-and-call-it-handmade celebrity chef (and girlfriend of Governor Cuomo) Sandra Lee. Making a Sandra Lee recipe is like popping some slice and bake cookies in the oven and then saying you baked them. Um, no. You didn't. You stuck them in the oven. That sort of faux baking horrifies me, but with this recipe I am tempted.
Emeril Lagasse should be my go to guy, I mean he did write the book, Emeril's New New Orlean's Cooking. But his recipe is hard. Like, hard hard. Do you have a recipe you are willing to share with me?
The more I think about it, the more I realize that I just can't make that Sandra Lee recipe. It's cheap, and it's cheating. I have to keep looking. Something deep inside me will not let me cheat on this one. If I'm going to make a King Cake, just because, and for the very first time, I should actually make the damn cake. I've just found an easier Emeril recipe for King Cake, listed just below the super hard one on the Food Network website. It looks like it's worth a try. It's made mostly in the mixer with the dough hook attachment, which seems like a good thing. I thought it would be more like a cinnamon bun, but this seems to be the right recipe. I mean, Emeril would know, and the reviews are spectacular. I am adding 2 t cinnamon -- stole that from another recipe -- to sprinkle on the dough just before shaping it into a ring, and swapping the cream cheese (blech!) for mascarpone. W likes cinnamon rolls so these changes will make the recipe taste more like them. I will be making mine the day before Fat Tuesday, which falls on March 8th this year. I've posted the recipe for you, with my modifications noted with a DG, below.
Oh, and just because I've found this doesn't mean I'm stopping here. Please send me your favorite King Cake recipe, and I will be sure and blog about it for you.
- 2 packages dry active yeast
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 5 egg yolks
- 1 cup warm milk (110 degrees F)
- 4 to 5 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 t cinnamon (my addition, DG)
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- Vegetable oil
- 8 ounces cream cheese (I will use mascarpone, DG)
- 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- Juice of one lemon
- 2 tablespoons milk
- Purple, green and gold sugar sprinkles
- Plastic baby toy
Preheat the oven 350 degrees F.
Combine the yeast, sugar, butter, and egg yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the milk. With the mixer on low speed, beat the mixture for about 4 minutes to dissolve the yeast. If the yeast mixture doesn't begin to foam after a few minutes, it means it's not active and will have to be replaced. In a separate large mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt, nutmeg, and lemon zest. Add this mixture to the yeast mixture. Mix on low speed until it lightly comes together, then increase the speed to medium and beat until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the bowl, forms a ball, and climbs slightly up the dough hook.
Remove the dough from the bowl. Coat the dough with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl and turn it to oil all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, set in a warm, draft-free place, and let rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the cream cheese (I will use mascarpone. DG)cream cheese filling across the center of the dough. Bring the two long edges together and seal all sides completely.
Using your hands shape the dough into a long cylinder and place on a greased baking sheet, seam side down. Sprinkle dough with 2 t cinnamon. DG Shape the dough into a ring. Place a well-greased 2 pound coffee can or shortening can in the center of the ring to maintain the shape during baking. Press the plastic baby toy into the ring from the bottom so that it is completely hidden by the dough. Cover the ring with a towel and place in a warm, draft free place. Let the dough rise for about 45 minutes or until the dough doubles in size. With a sharp knife, make several slits around the top of the ring. Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. After baking remove the coffee can immediately. Allow the cake to cool. Drizzle the cake with the sugar glaze. Sprinkle the cake with sprinkles, alternating colors. Cut the cake into individual pieces and serve.