A Cake Fit for a King: A King Cake for Mardi Gras

Yes – I am fully aware that Mardi Gras was this past Tuesday. I am fully aware those who celebrate this time of the year have been doing so since the end of January and ends on Mardi Gras. But what’s a working mama to do but to celebrate the weekend after? We decided to have a little impromptu dinner party with a few close friends and make some foods traditionally found in the South. Our original menu was going to consist of Shrimp étouffée, Shrimp and andouille sausage over grits, corn macque choux, and, for dessert, a King Cake. Due to a cold, TJ and I decided to scale back the menu just a touch and opted to leave out the shrimp and grits.

If you’re not familiar with a King Cake, it’s a traditional cake associated (in some parts of the world) with the pre-Lenten celebrations before Mardi Gras. The cake is traditionally round or oval, like a crown, and has a little baby hidden inside or underneath (whoever gets the slice with the baby is the ‘King’ or ‘Queen’ of the party. It is also said whoever gets the baby will have good luck. It may also mean that you’ll have to bring the next King Cake to the next party). Why is it called a King Cake, you ask? I’m about as knowledgeable about religious matters as I am about car engines (which means I barely know anything), but from my understanding, Kings Day is the date when the three kings or Magi supposedly arrived at the manger with those gifts for Jesus. That explains the King Cake name as well as the baby.

The modern-day King Cake comes in a variety of fillings and flavors now and can often be found outside of the traditional King Cake ‘season’. King Cakes are delicious, but I must warn you – – when I say cake, I think it conjures up images of light, fluffy cake, like the kind you’d get at a birthday party. But King Cake tends to be on the denser side.

TJ and I had seen a ready-made King Cake at our local Whole Foods for sale and decided we’d try and make our own. For our first attempt, I must say, it turned out lovely. Definitely not perfect, but not too shabby, I must say. If you’d like to try out the recipe, well, get ready, becomes here it comes.

What You’ll Need:

Cake
3/4 cup warm milk
2 1/4 teaspoons of dry yeast (one packet)
1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon of sugar
1 stick of butter, melted and cooled
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Filling and topping
1 stick of butter
8 ounces cream cheese
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
1 plastic baby
2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons milk
Sanding sugar or other decorations in yellow, green, and purple

What You’ll Do:
Combine the warm milk, yeast, and 1 teaspoon of sugar. Let it proof. What you’ll see after a bit is that the yeast will start to activate and get bubbly in the warm milk. While you’re waiting for this mixture to get frothy, whisk the butter, egg yolks, and vanilla extract together. In a large bowl, combine the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, flour, nutmeg, and salt.

Once the yeast mixture is foamy and frothy, add it to the dry ingredients along with the butter mixture. Knead the dough on a floured surface, working it for about 7 minutes. Transfer the dough to a greased bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let the dough rise for 2 hours (until it has doubled in size).

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As the dough begins to rise, make the filling. Melt together the butter and cream cheese in a large saucepan.

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Stir in the brown sugar and mix it until the mixture starts to bubble. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the pecans. Set aside the mixture to cool while the dough finishes rising.

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Once the dough has risen, transfer the dough to a large piece of parchment paper. Roll out the dough to about a 9×13 size.

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Spread the pecan filling evenly onto the dough, leaving an inch along the sides so the filling doesn’t ooze out.

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Starting on the long opposite side, gently roll up the dough and filling. If you’ve gotten yourself a little baby, feel free to hide it inside somewhere at this point (or once it is done, just slip it underneath the cake).

Grease an empty and clean 28-oz can and place it in the center of a large baking sheet that’s been lined with parchment paper. Gently wrap the dough around the can (put the seams of the dough on the baking sheet) and pinch together the ends well. Let this rise for another 30 minutes.

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Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Once the cake has finished rising for the additional 30 minutes, pop the cake in the oven for about 30-40 minutes, until cake is a beautiful brown color. As soon as your cake comes out, carefully remove the can from the middle of the cake. Let the cake completely cool before you glaze it.

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To make the glaze, simply whisk together the powdered sugar and 3 tablespoons of milk. Add a bit of more milk to the glaze mixture if it’s too thick for your taste. Pour the glaze onto your cooled King Cake and go crazy with your decorations.

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And there you have it! Certainly not low-calorie. Certainly not super low sugar. But it’s a treat you’re likely getting about once a year and I strongly believe in moderation is key. So, while I cannot say that this is low-calorie or low in sugar, I can guarantee you it Tastes Oh-So-Good!

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