Sunday, January 12, 2014

How to Make King Cake (and What Is It?)

King cake season is from January 6th (the Catholic holiday called the Epiphany or Three Kings Day) and goes until the start of lent. This festive sweet bread traditionally has a plastic baby baked inside (which represents the baby Jesus). The legend changes depending on who you ask, but some versions are: whoever finds the baby has to buy the next king cake; host the next party; has good luck. Either way, you'll be lucky to eat this traditional Cajun sweet bread!

There's lots of good info on what king cake is and the traditions behind it and the baby on Wikipedia.  But just know that King Cake is a yeast bread usually with a filling and drizzled with icing in traditional Mardi Gras colors (purple, gold, and green), and you should definitely eat some.

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Ingredients

Servings: 12 
Yield: 1 braided ring shaped loaf
PREP: 1 hour RISE: 3 hours COOK: 30 Minutes READY: in ~ 4.5 hours

Cake:
  • 4 1/2 tsp instant yeast
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup warm milk (120F)
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 4 cups bread flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg (I don't like cinnamon, but feel free to use it)
Filling:*
  • 1 (8 oz) package cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 3T melted butter
  • 4oz chopped pecans
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
Baby:**
    King Cake from Becky's Blog of Fun Schtuff
  • A plastic baby 1" long
  • Or a dry red kidney bean
Sugar glaze:
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 2 T melted butter
  • 2 T milk (as needed)
  • green, yellow, red, blue food coloring

Colored Sugars:

  • 3 T (x 3) white sugar
  • green, yellow, red, blue food coloring
Directions
  1. In large bowl, dissolve yeast and white sugar in warm milk. Let stand until creamy, ~10 minutes.
  2. Temper*** egg yolks into the melted butter. Stir egg/butter mixture into the milk mixture. Add lemon zest.
  3. In separate bowl, combine the flour, salt, and nutmeg.
  4. With dough hook, add the flour mixture to the milk/egg mixture 1 cup at a time. When the dough has pulled together, knead with mixer until difficult. Turn it out onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Place dough in lightly oiled bowl, turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in warm place until doubled ~2 hrs.
  5. Filling: combine cream cheese and 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar. Mix well. Mix butter, pecans, and brown sugar*
    Braiding King Cake Dough
  6. Turn dough onto floured surface. Roll dough out into a 12"x40" rectangle. Cut dough into three, long, even strips (if not braiding, do not cut). Spread cream cheese filling across center of dough. Top with pecan mixture. Fold dough in half lengthwise sealing in filling.
  7. Carefully, braid dough into a wreath. (It's ok if some of the filling oozes out.  You don't have to braid it; you can just shape into a ring.). 
  8. Press the "baby" into dough from bottom. (Mark the area with a knife so you remember where the baby is!)
  9. Cover with non-stick-sprayed plastic wrap and place in a warm area to rise until doubled in size, ~45 minutes.
  10. Preheat oven to 350F.
    King Cake from Becky's Blog of Fun Schtuff
  11. Bake in preheated oven until golden brown, ~30 minutes.
  12. Allow the bread to cool to the touch.
  13. Glaze: combine lemon juice, butter, and 2T milk.  Slowly add to the remaining 2 cups powdered sugar until it's the right consistency.  You may have leftover liquid; that's ok. Divide frosting into 3 batches, tinting 1 green, 1 yellow, and combining red and blue food coloring for purple frosting.
  14. Colored sugars: Into zip-top bag, add 3 T white sugar and 1 drop green food coloring. Mix vigorously
  15. Repeat for yellow and purple (1 drop red + 1 drop blue).
  16. Drizzle glaze, then sprinkle with colored sugar.

King Cake from Becky's Blog of Fun Schtuff
Enjoy, but don't forget about the baby!


*There's lots and lots and lots of different kinds of fillings.  Pretty much anything you'd fill a doughnut or pie with and beyond.
**Make sure to tell your guests that there's a baby/bean in the cake so they don't choke or break a tooth.
***Temper egg yolks by whisking them while slowly adding the melted butter.  This keeps the eggs from turning into scrambled eggs.

1 comment:

linda bollich said...

Beautiful cake/bread! Cream cheese filling is your Uncle Mikes' FAVE!!! Thank you for the recipe! Love ya!!!

 
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