This “cake,” which more closely resembles a rich, sweet bread, is decorated in the traditional Mardi Gras colors: green (representing faith), gold (symbolizing power) and purple (denoting justice). King Cakes are a huge part of the Mardi Gras tradition. The cake’s origins date back to the Feast of the Epiphany, or Twelfth Night, which honors the three kings present at the Christ child’s birth, which is where the custom of hiding a tiny baby doll inside the cake started. In today’s Mardi Gras celebration, tradition calls for the person who gets the “lucky” piece of cake with the baby doll inside to throw the next party—or on a simpler note, buy or make the next King Cake. You can pick up the tiny plastic dolls at any cake decorating or novelty supply. Just be sure to warn your guests of what to expect as you don’t want anyone choking! Serves 12.
1/2 cup warm water (100-115 degrees Fahrenheit)
2 tablespoons yeast
1/2 cup sugar, plus 2 teaspoons
3 ½-4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 cup warm milk
5 egg yolks
1/2 cup Canna Butter*
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon milk, for egg wash
3 cups confectioner’s sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
3-6 tablespoons water
About 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
Yellow, green and purple food coloring
1 tiny (about 1-inch) plastic baby doll
Sprinkle yeast and 2 teaspoons sugar over warm water in a small, shallow bowl. Allow to rest for 3-5 minutes and then mix thoroughly. Set bowl in a warm, draft-free place until yeast starts to bubble up and mixture almost doubles in volume, about 10 minutes.
In a large mixing bowl, mix 3 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 cup sugar, nutmeg, lemon zest and salt. In the mixing bowl of a heavy duty electric mixer combine yeast, milk and egg yolks. Gradually add dry ingredients and softened butter, adding additional flour as necessary to achieve a medium-soft ball. Knead dough, again adding flour if necessary, until smooth, shiny and elastic, about 10 minutes. Place dough in a buttered bowl covered with a clean kitchen towel and place in a warm, draft-free place until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours. In the meantime, butter a large baking sheet and set aside. When dough has risen, remove and punch down. Sprinkle with cinnamon and form into a cylinder, then twist this cylinder into a circle. Pinch the ends together to complete the circle. Once again, cover and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Brush top and sides of cake with egg wash and bake for 25-35 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on wire rack completely before pushing the baby doll inside and icing and decorating.
Icing and Decorating:
Place 1/2 cup of granulated sugar in each of 3 small bowls. Take a toothpick and drop a few drops of green, yellow and purple food coloring in the bowls and mix well to make colored sugar. In a separate bowl, mix confectioner’s sugar, lemon juice and 3 tablespoons of water until mixture is smooth, adding more water as necessary to achieve a smooth, spreadable consistency. Spread icing over cake and immediately sprinkle colored sugar on top in alternating rows of green, yellow and purple.
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