Revelers, Mardi Gras is almost here (actually, the season begins on 12th night and ends on Fat Tuesday). One very important part of the celebration is the Mardi Gras King Cake. If you haven’t yet, you still have time to make yours–but you better hurry, they take a while!
For many years when I lived with my good buddy, Ginny, I was very lucky because Ginny’s birthday falls during the season and her wonderful mother would send
us her a King Cake each year. Ginny and I also taught ourselves how to make these delicious cakes, because we weren’t sharing the one her mom sent with our coworkers! But since we are from Louisiana, we always wanted to celebrate with the office too. We found a good recipe online (it is no longer there so I can’t give you the link) and we figured it out.
Sadly, Ginny and I don’t live together anymore, so this year when I needed a little help with my King Cake baking, I called on the services of my trusty bread machine. I modified the recipe Ginny and I used to use for the machine (and tweaked to my tastes) and it turned out to be just as scrumptious. So if you want to give it a try, here it is (note: this recipe makes 2 cakes):
Ingredients for Cake:
1/4 cup butter
1 16.0z carton sour cream
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup warm water (105 to 110 degrees)
2 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast (or if you are doing your own kneading you can use a package)
6 cups all-purpose flour
Ingredients for Filling:
1 1/2 packages 8.oz cream cheese
1 1/2 cups powdered (confectioners) sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
teaspoon or so of milk
nutmeg to taste
cinnamon to taste
Ingredients for Icing:
3 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons butter, melted
3 – 5 tablespoons milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
To Top the Icing:
1 – 1 1/2 cups sugar
Red, Blue, Green, Yellow Food Coloring
To Make the Cake:
Dissolve the one tablespoon of sugar into the warm water (I never measure temperature but just use water that is a little warmer than lukewarm). Then, add the yeast to the water and let sit for five minutes. Stir afterward to mix, move to a warm, draft-free place, and let sit for 10 minutes–it should look a little puffy after this time (yeast will bubble and double).
In the meantime, combine butter, sour cream, sugar, and salt in a saucepan. Heat (don’t boil) until butter melts and all creams together, stirring occasionally. Let this cool slightly. In a separate bowl, crack the eggs and beat together.
Once this is all done, you are ready for the bread machine. Add sour cream/butter mixture, yeast mixture, eggs, flour, and sprinkle in a dash (maybe a 1/2 teaspoon) of nutmeg and cinnamon, depending on how much you like them!
Select the dough cycle and leave it alone for the next hour and a half! (If you want to do it by hand, you can – place on a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes until elastic and smooth. Then, place well-greased bowl and turn to grease the top, cover with a dish cloth and place in a draft-free, warm area for an hour until it doubles. Then follow recipe from here.)
Just before the dough is ready, place all the filling ingredients into a mixer to whip up the filling. I used low to medium-low speed. Also, preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Once the bread machine has done it’s job, take out the dough and separate into two. Take the first half and place on a lightly floured surface (I use wax paper with flour on top). Use a rolling pin to flatten and shape into a rectangle, 24″ x 12ish”. Use a little flour if the dough is sticking to the rolling pin.
Once rolled into shape, take half the filling mixture and spread over entire rectangle. Then slowly roll dough lengthwise until you have a very long rolled-dough. Take one end and begin twisting, and turn as well until the ends meet. (You don’t have to twist if you don’t want to. I just think it looks nicer.) Use a little filling to glue, and a little water to pinch the dough together where the ends meet.
Carefully move to a slightly-greased baking sheet and place in oven for about 20 – 25 minutes. (I made the mistake of cooking one too long so be careful here.)
Repeat with remaining dough. (Note: You can take egg yolk and brush on the top to add a little golden crispness before popping in the oven.)
While the cake is baking, mix together all ingredients for the icing.
Once the cakes are finished, remove and let cool for 5 minutes. At this point, you may want to place the plastic baby, if you have one, into the cake. I recommend doing this after baking by punching a little hole in the bottom and placing the baby through it. If you don’t have a baby, you can use some sort of chewy candy–something that someone will recognize as “not cake” but that isn’t a choking hazard. (I used a bubble gum ball but baked it and it was not good!)
Then, ice each cake with icing mixture. I iced the tops and drizzled the sides.
For the finishing touch, you will want to sugar with the colors of the Mardi Gras season – purple for justice, green for faith, and gold for power. Place 1/4 – 1/2 cups of sugar in three jars. For purple, use one drop blue and one drop red coloring, screw on the lid, and shake the jar until sugar is nice and purple. Do the same with remaining two sugars – two drops of yellow in one, two drops of green in the other. Sugar the cake by using pinches of each colored sugar and make little triangles of color bands around the cakes.
And voila! You have two beautiful, delicious King Cakes to celebrate the end of the season! One for you, and one for your coworkers…