I love the origin and traditions behind Mardi Gras and a King’s Cake and so I just knew this year I had to try my hand at making one, and I am so glad I did. The dough was soft and chewy with a slight sweetness and the filling was so good and I love the powdered sugar icing each layer completely complements each other. And looks like I will be making it again next year since I got the baby.
History behind the King Cake… taken from Mardi Gras New Orleans
As part of our Christian faith, the coming of the wise men bearing gifts to the Christ Child is celebrated twelve days after Christmas. We refer to this as the Feast of the Epiphany or Little Christmas on the Twelfth Night. This is a time of celebration, exchanging gifts and feasting. Today, the tradition continues as people all over the world gather for festive Twelfth Night celebrations. A popular custom was and still is the baking of a special cake in honor of the three kings called “A King’s Cake.”
Inside every cake is a tiny baby (generally plastic now, but sometimes this baby might be made of porcelain or even gold). The tradition of having King Cake Parties has evolved through time, and the person who receives the slice of cake with the baby is asked to continue the festivities by hosting the next King Cake party.
Originally, King Cakes were a simple ring of dough with a small amount of decoration. Today’s King Cakes are much more festive. After the rich Danish dough is braided and baked, the “baby” is inserted. The top of the ring or oval cake is then covered with delicious sugar toppings in the traditional Mardi Gras colors gold (for power), green (for faith) and purple (for justice).
In more recent years, some bakeries have been creative with stuffing and topping their cakes with different flavors of cream cheese and fruit fillings.
January 6, the Twelfth Night after Christmas, is also the day our Mardi Gras season begins. Mardi Gras Day is always 41 days prior to Easter Sunday (Fat Tuesday is always the day before Ash Wednesday).
So, in Louisiana especially, Mardi Gras season and King Cakes go hand in hand with literally hundreds of thousands of King Cakes consumed at parties and office lunch rooms every year.
Ingredients: 1/2 c. warm water, 2 packages active dry yeast, 1/2 c. plus 1 tsp. sugar, About 4 cups of flour, About 1 tsp. nutmeg I used freshly grated, 2 tsp. kosher salt, 1 tsp. orange zest, 1/2 c. warm milk, 5 large egg yolks, 1 stick plus 2 T. butter softened, 1 egg slightly beaten with 1 T. of milk, 1 tsp. ground cinnamon, 1 doll
Start off by activating the yeast add 1/2 cup water, 1 tsp sugar, and 5 tsp yeast (or 2 Packets)
Let rise in a warm spot for about 10 minutes
While yeast is rising sift, 3 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp salt, 1 tsp orange zest
and 1 tsp cinnamon
Create a hole in the center of the flour mixture and pour in yeast, 1/2 warm milk
add 5 egg yolks
slowly start combining mixture and adding in 8 T of butter one tablespoon at a time
Dough will be sticky, so add plenty of flour to surface and knead
Then butter a large bowl, and rotate dough until each surface is well buttered, cover and place in a warm place to rise for 1 1/2 hours
Cream Cheese Filling Ingredients: 1 8-ounce pkg. cream cheese, 1 c. confectioner’s sugar, 1 T. flour, 1 T orange juice, 1 tsp. vanilla extract and few drops of milk
Cream 1 package cream cheese, and 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
add 1 tsp vanilla, and juice from 1 half of an orange, beat until smooth
Once dough has doubled in size
flour a surface and roll the dough out
Spread a layer of cream cheese on the dough, and don’t go too close to the edges
Slowly roll dough, and pinch ends
Set on butter dish, cover with a towel and allow to rise another 45 minutes
Once dough have risen again
beat one egg with a splash of milk (or heavy cream) brush egg mixture over the rolled dough
Bake @ 357 for 20-25 minutes
Hide baby inside dough
Icing: About 2 cups powdered sugar, 1 tsp vanilla , juice of an whole orange.
Mix 2 cups powdered sugar, 1 tsp vanilla and the juice of one orange- if icing is still too thick thin with a splash of milk
Separate icing into 3 bowls, and color yellow, green and equal part red and blue for purple
Drizzle icing in equal parts over the cake and sprinkle with colored sugar
Enjoy! Happy Fat Tuesday!
Print This Recipe
1/2 c. warm water
2 packages active dry yeast
1/2 c. plus 1 tsp. sugar
About 4 cups of flour
About 1 tsp. nutmeg I used freshly grated
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. orange zest
1/2 c. warm milk
5 large egg yolks
1 stick plus 2 T. butter softened
1 egg slightly beaten with 1 T. of milk
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
Cream Cheese Filling:
1 8-ounce pkg. cream cheese
1 c. confectioner’s sugar
2 T. flour
1 tsp. vanilla extract and few drops of milk
cream all the above ingredients together with a mixer and spread onto the rolled-out dough before rolling it into a ring
Pour the warm water into a small shallow bowl and sprinkle yeast and 2 teaspoons of sugar into it. Allow the yeast and sugar to rest for several minutes, then mix thoroughly. Set yeast mixture in a warm place for 10 minutes.
Combine 3 and 1/2 cups of flour, remaining sugar, nutmeg and salt, and sift into a large mixing bowl. Stir in orange zest and cinnamon. Separate center of mixture to form a hole and pour in yeast mixture and milk. Add egg yolks, combine dry ingredients into the yeast and milk mixture. Beat in 8 tablespoons butter, 1 tablespoon at a time and continue to beat until dough can be formed into a soft ball.
Place ball of dough on floured surface and knead, coat a large bowl with softened butter. Place dough ball in the bowl and rotate until the entire surface is buttered. Cover bowl with a heavier kitchen towel and allow dough to rise in a warm place for about 1 and 1/2 hours or until it doubles in volume.
Coat a large baking sheet with one tablespoon of butter and set aside. After the first rising, place the dough on a floured surface and punch it down with a heavy blow. Roll dough out to form a square, smooth cream cheese mixture over dough and roll to form a long tube. Then form a ring . Place the completed ring on the buttered baking sheet, cover it with a towel and allow it to rise for 45 minutes or until it doubles in volume. Brush the top and sides of the cake with the egg and milk wash. Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for 25-35 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack .
About 2 cups powdered sugar, 1 tsp vanilla , juice of an whole orange.
Mix all this together, if it needs to be thinner us a little milk. Separate into thirds and color them: purple, yellow, and green food coloring. Decorate as desired.
Note: Tradition is, if you get the piece with the baby you have to make the cake the next year.