FRENCH RECIPE: KING’S CAKE
Carnival and Mardi Gras are holidays unlike any other. No matter what your personal favorite festivities are, King’s Cake is always a necessary part of the day. For those who have not had it, this cake is golden, puffy, sweet, delicious pastry with a tangy cream-cheese frosting or sometimes is rolled in a buttery cinnamon sugar mixture. But the real fun of this cake is what is hidden inside!
In different parts of the world there are many differing traditions for the type of cake, the filling, and the trinkets inside. For example, in France, they call the trinket inside a fève (translates to ‘fava bean’, which is what was originally hidden in the cake). The inside can have anything from ceramic dolls, small beans, chocolate coins, or little glass figurines.
In the US, a little plastic baby (which represents baby Jesus) is hidden inside the cake. Whoever gets the slice with the baby wins! And thus, you are dubbed the king of the day. The prize is often the honor of hosting the next King Cake party (prize, burden, whatever you decide to call it…). This is our all time favorite recipe for a perfectly decadent King’s Cake to share with your friends and family!
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- 3/4 cup warm milk
- 2 1/4 teaspoons or one packet of dry yeast
- 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, marzipan circles, or other decorations in yellow, green, and purple
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- Combine the warm milk, yeast, and 1 teaspoon of sugar and let proof. While yeast is proofing, whisk together the butter, egg yolks, and vanilla extract. In a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, combine remaining 1/4 cup of sugar, flour, nutmeg, and salt.
- When the yeast mixture is foamy, add that and the butter mixture to the dry ingredients. Mix to combine. Using a dough hook, or kneading by hand on a floured surface, work the dough (adding flour as needed) for 5 to 7 minutes until you have a smooth dough. Transfer dough to a greased bowl, cover with a damp towel, and let rise for two hours, until doubled in size. Begin making the filling as soon as the dough begins rising.
- In a large sauce pan, melt together the butter and cream cheese. Stir in the brown sugar and continue stirring until the mixture starts to bubble. Remove it from heat, stir in the pecans, and then set it aside to cool while the dough finishes rising.
- When the dough is finished rising, transfer it to a large piece of parchment paper and roll it out to a 9- x 13-inch rectangle. Spread the filling on evenly, leaving an inch along one of the long sides so that the filling doesn’t ooze out. Starting opposite of that end, roll up the dough like a jelly roll, sticking the baby in somewhere in the middle.
- Grease an empty 28-ounce can and place it in the center of a large baking sheet that’s been lined with parchment. Gently wrap the dough roll around the can, seam side down, and pinch the ends well. Let rise for another half an hour.
- Preheat oven to 375° F. Once the cake has gone through its second rising, bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the cake is a nice brown color. Remove the can as soon as the cake comes out of the oven. Let the cake cool completely before decorating.
- To make the glaze, whisk together the powdered sugar and milk. If the consistency is too thick for your taste, add more milk a little bit at a time until it reaches the desired consistency. Once the cake is out of the oven and cooled, pour on the the glaze and then decorate as you wish. For my decoration, I kneaded liquid food coloring into marzipan, rolled it out, and then cut out circles. If you’d like to go the traditional route and use standing sugar, you can either use store-bought or make your own by placing a few tablespoons of white sugar in a ziploc bag with a few drops of food coloring and shaking it up.
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