I am intrigued with the tradition of a King cake to celebrate Mardi Gras. The King Cake’s circular shape symbolizes the path the three kings took to find Jesus in Bethlehem. The sugar topping is in the traditional Mardi Gras colors of purple (Justice), gold (Power) and green (Faith). The colorful sugar topping also represents a jeweled crown in honor of the three Wise Men whom visited Jesus on Epiphany. A plastic baby is hidden in the cake, symbolizes the Christ child. The person who gets the baby is supposed to have good luck for a year and is to buy the next king cake, or in some cases, host the next king cake party.
I have never made a King Cake before yesterday. While I think it turned out well and tasted really good, I have never eaten the real thing! It tasted like a soft cinnamon roll. If you celebrate Mardi Gras with a King Cake—please give us some details!
First we had to find a baby King. My husband found them at the cake decorating store, but they probably could have been found at the party store also. It does seem wrong to hind something in a cake that clearly says choking hazard on the package!
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
2/3 cup evaporated milk
3/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 envelopes active dry yeast, regular or rapid rise
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
6 cups all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, melted
1 egg white, for glazing
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons whole milk
Melt the butter in the microwave in a medium mixing bowl Add the evaporated milk, 3/4 cup of the sugar, and the salt. Stir so that the sugar dissolves. Allow to cool.
Dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup lukewarm water and stir in the remaining teaspoon sugar. Allow to stand for 5 minutes, until foamy.
Add the yeast mixture to the butter and milk mixture. Add the eggs, nutmeg and lemon zest and whisk together vigorously, until well blended. (I did this in the food processor and then added the flour and continued on with next step.)
(I also did this whole step in my food processor. Once all the flour was added and dough started to come away from the sides I counted to 45 slowly and then stopped and removed the dough and continued on with the recipes.) Or you can whisk in the flour, 1 cup at a time, until you have a thick paste–about 3 cups flour. Then switch to a wooden spoon and continue adding flour and mixing well. Do not add more than 6 cups flour, or your cake will be too dense. When you have added all the flour, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured wooden board and knead it with your hands, which you have dusted with flour, until the dough is smooth and elastic, about a dozen turns.
Place the dough into a large bowl cooking spray. Turn the dough to coat all sides with spray. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and allow the dough to rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
Make the cinnamon-sugar filling: Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a small dish and stir well.
Punch the dough down and divide the dough in two. Roll out each half into a 10 by 15 inch rectangle. Brush each rectangle with half of the melted butter and then sprinkle each rectangle with half of the cinnamon-sugar filling mixture. Roll up along the long end like a jelly roll. Press the roll together at the seam, sealing with water if necessary. Wind the two rolls together, forming one thick piece. On a baking sheet sprayed with vegetable oil cooking spray, form the dough into a circle and seal the ends together.
Cover with a tea towel and allow the cake to rise in a warm place for about 1 hour, until it almost doubles in size.
Don’t forget to hide your baby Jesus!
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Whisk the egg white with 1 tablespoon water. Brush the top of the cake with the egg white. Bake the cake for 35 minutes, until it is browned and sounds hollow when tapped. I had to tent the cake with aluminum foil around the edges to keep from getting too brown before dough was baked in the center.
Make the white icing: Combine the sugar and milk in a small dish and whisk until smooth. If the mixture seems too thin, add a little more sugar. If it won’t drizzle, add a little more milk, 1/2 teaspoon at a time.
Allow the cake to cool for a few minutes on a wire rack. Drizzle with icing and sprinkle the colored sugar in random patterns over the white icing.
You can color your own sugar by adding two tablespoons of sugar along with some paste food coloring in a zip lock bag and mixing well with fingers.
I like to make bread and I always take the easy way out by using my food processor. If you wanted to make a really simple King Cake that kids can make why not make monkey bread (I would leave out the nuts and raisins) with refrigerator biscuits and hide the baby as you layer the biscuits.