In my book, there’s nothing more New Orleans than King Cake, ok maybe Crawfish Etouffee, and Jambalaya.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE KING CAKE
The King Cake is one of the most important items associated with Mardi Gras celebrations, both in the city and wherever Mardi Gras parties are held, that most Mardi Gras rookies will overlook in theirpreparations. This is a shame since the King Cake is one of the most delicious and culturally significant items that have been associated with Mardi Gras celebrations from the very beginning.
A traditional King Cake is traditionally an oblong or oval shaped cinnamon dough cake, glazed with frosting and sprinkled with colored sugar. What colors you ask? Purple, Green, and Gold, of course! King Cakes are available in all sorts of colors and flavored fillings such as cream cheese, strawberry, and apple.
But unlike other ordinary cakes the fun with a King Cake isn’t simply limited to its taste. Hidden on the underside (after baking) of each King Cake is a small plastic figurine in the shape of a baby. Whoever finds the baby is officially the King or Queen of the party and gets the honor of supplying the next King Cake or throwing the next Mardi Gras Party. A few Superkrewes in New Orleans, the ones who organize the larger parades, even use the King Cake as determining who will be their King or Queen for that year’s float based on who finds the baby. In New Orleans slang, it is referred to as “Who got da baby?”
The King Cake season officially opens on King’s Day, January 6, the feast of the Epiphany. Many people in the New Orleans area will start having King Cake parties in the weeks leading up to Mardi Gras. It is not uncommon for offices and schools in Louisiana to have King Cake on a nearly daily basis. Many people attach such cultural significance and importance to the King Cake that it is regarded as just as an important tradition as the Mardi Gras parades. This was especially the case in 2006, the first Mardi Gras season following Hurricane Katrina, as the bakeries in Louisiana were flooded with King Cake orders from both within and outside of the state. Having lost so much in the hurricane but not willing to sacrifice tradition many displaced Louisianans turned to the King Cake to give them that taste of home.
In honor of Mardi Gras, I’m going to share a couple of recipes of this delectable treat with you.
Total Time: 4 hr 0 min
Prep: 3 hr 30 min
Cook: 30 min
Yield: 10-12 servings
- 1/2 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
- 2 packages dry yeast
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 4 to 5 cups flour
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
- 1/2 cup warm milk (105 to 115 degrees)
- 1/2 cup melted unsalted butter, cooled
- 5 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup finely chopped candied citron
- 1 pecan half, uncooked dried bean or King Cake Baby
- 2 cups sifted powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons water
- Purple, green and gold sugar crystals
Preheat the oven 350 degrees. Combine the warm water, yeast and 2 teaspoons sugar in a small bowl. Mix well and set aside to a warm place for about 10 minutes. Combine the 4 cups of flour, 1/2 cup sugar, salt, nutmeg, lemon rind and add warm milk, melted butter, egg yolks and yeast mixture. Beat until smooth. Turn dough out on a lightly floured surface. Knead in enough remaining flour until the dough is no longer sticky. Continue kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes). Place the dough in a well-greased bowl. Turn once so greased surface is on top.
Cover the dough and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk (about 1 1/2 hours). Punch the dough down and place on a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle with the citron and knead until the citron is evenly distributed. Shape the dough into a cylinder, about 30 inches long. Place the cylinder on a buttered baking sheet. Shape into a ring, pinching ends together to seal. Place a well-greased 2-pound coffee can or shortening can in the center of the ring to maintain shape during baking. Press the King Cake Baby, pecan half or dried bean into the ring from the bottom so that it is completely hidden by the dough. Cover the ring with a towel, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove the coffee can immediately. Allow the cake to cool. For the glaze: Combine the ingredients and beat until smooth. To assemble, drizzle cake with the glaze. Sprinkle with sugar crystals, alternating colors. Cut into the cake and hope you do not get the baby.
EASY KING CAKE
by Eat At Home
- 1 Can of Pillsbury Grands! Cinnamon Rolls
- Purple, Green, and Gold colored sugars
Grease a 9″ round cake pan. Carefully unroll a roll and then fold it in half. Here’s a picture of what I mean.
I know that’s a really strange picture, but hopefully it shows what I mean. After you fold the roll over, twist it a bit and put it in the pan. Do 2 more rolls, to make a circle around the outer edge of the pan. Repeat with the last 2 rolls, laying them in the pan to make an inner circle. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes.
If you’re going to eat them right away, you can ice them while they’re still warm and decorate with the sugar.
If you want to serve it later, cool the roll completely, then ice and decorate.
Mmmmm… now I want some King Cake and a cafe au lait.
HAPPY MARDI GRAS!