The King Cake is a traditional treat served throughout the Mardi Gras season. Although you'll find many versions, (depending upon geographic area) most are yeast type cakes braided and formed into a ring. They may or may not contain a filling of some sort, but almost all are topped with a sweet icing and decorated with colored sugar in the very traditional purple, green and gold colors of the season.
The gaudier the better.
The cake is named for the biblical Three Kings and commemorates the visit of the Magi to the Christ child. Many versions of the cake contain a small plastic Christ child figurine or other bauble (such as a dried bean) and the person who gets the piece containing it is either given a designation of "King" or "Queen" of the day or the obligation to provide the next King Cake.
It just stresses me to no end that someone might bite into the Christ child (spare me) , though, so I just stick with a bean.
I decided to explore making my own King Cake because, honestly, I've had some really bad ones over the years. Not any disappointing ones from true Acadian bakeries mind you, but many other bakeries, to meet demand, just kind of throw together something that, while certainly gaudy enough, is often tough, flat, and just plain old bland.
This one, mais cher, is anything but blah...
All of the ingredients are probably in your pantry and trust me,this cake is something you need in your life.
4 ¾ c. flour (divided)
¼ c. sugar (plus additional for topping)
1 ½ tsp. salt
2 pkg. dry yeast
¾ c. milk
½ c. water
1 ½ sticks butter
Powdered sugar, milk and vanilla for glaze
Green, gold, and purple sanding sugars
1. In a large bowl, combine 1 1/2 c. flour, 1/4 c. sugar, 1 1/2 tsp. salt, and 2 packages yeast.
2. Heat 3/4 c. milk, 1/2 c. water and 1 1/2 sticks butter until very warm, about 120 to 130 degrees
3. Add to dry ingredients and beat for 2 minutes at medium speed with an electric mixer.
4. Add eggs and 1/2 c. flour. Beat on high speed for 2 minutes. Stir in remaining flour (2 3/4 c.) to make a stiff batter.
5. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours. (Or if you forget about it, 4 hours like me...)
6. Remove dough from fridge and punch down.
7. Move dough to a lightly floured surface and divide into 3 equal portions for one large King Cake, or into 6 portions for two smaller ones. Each small cake feeds about 10 -12!
8. Roll each portion out flat (if making one cake each portion will roll out to about 28x4 inches, and for two small cakes about 12x4).
Melt one stick of butter in microwave.
Have 1 cup sugar ready (and about 1 T. cinnamon). I decided not to use cinnamon this time...
9. Beginning at long end, roll each up tightly as for a jellyroll.
Brush each portion with melted butter, sprinkle evenly with sugar, and cinnamon (if you're using it)
10. Pinch the seams to form long ropes.
Braid, then form into an oval (or circle) Pinch the ends together to seal. Place on a greased baking sheet.
I brushed on the remaining butter, sprinkled on the rest of the sugar, cover and let rise for another hour (it was closer to 2 because I forgot to preheat the oven until the last minute...)
Bake at 375 for 25 to 30 minutes until lightly golden. Let cool on wire racks and then glaze with 2 cups powdered sugar mixed with 2-3 T. milk, 1/8 tsp vanilla, and a pinch of salt...
Then sprinkle with purple, green and gold sanding sugars and make it as gaudy as possible!