Jan 27, 2010

Mardi Gras 2010: a King Cake Odyssey

Mardi Gras 2010 is February 16th.Last year I made a cream cheese filled King Cake.  This year I used the Hazelnut Praline I won from Love n Bake and The Foodie Blogroll as my filling.  I like to make a homemade King Cake every year.  I feel compelled.  It seems that everyone and their brother makes King Cake now and they aren't always that great.

Here's last year's King Cake post, including a recipe for cream cheese filled king cake and information on the history and symbolism of King Cake and the difference between New Orleans Mardi Gras and the rural Cajun Courir de Mardi Gras.

I used the same recipe I always use.  But this time there was that hazelnut praline to add.  When I first opened my prize box and saw it, I knew immediately that I was going to use it as a king cake filling.  It seemed like the praline part was fitting for that.  And the hazelnut part was different enough to shake things up.

And that's what Mardi Gras is about.  Shaking.  Things.  Up. 

The Husband and I thought the hazelnut praline filling was great.  It was defintely not something we'd find as a filling locally.  It was rich and nutty.  And the hazelnut praline behaved well--no problems spreading it or with it leaking out of the cake.

The Boy would prefer if I just stopped all this filling foolishness and made a traditional plain cake so he can enjoy pure, uninterrupted bready goodness.

Same as last year--my mise en place for King Cake:
warm water, yeast, flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, lemon zest, eggs, egg yolks, warm milk, butter

The steps I used to make the cake, glaze, and colored sugars are the same as last year.  Why type it all up again?  See the link above for the step by step.

After rising, punch down the dough and roll out to about a 30 x 9" rectangle.  Add a stripe of filling and roll jelly roll style.

Pinch the ends and seams to seal--don't want any filling to leak out!

Make a ring with the dough and pinch the two ends together.  Brush with an egg wash if you want.  I skip it--I don't like that eggy taste.  Bake at 375 for 25-30 minutes.

Let the cake cool completely.  Then poke in the baby.  Don't add the baby before baking unless you want melted plastic as part of your filling.

We always have a few King Cake babies hiding out in the house--I think most kids around here like to save them.  If you don't have King Cake babies hiding in your kitchen junk drawer, try looking in the baby shower section of a party store.  A large dried bean or coin (wash and dry both first) would also work. 
Drizzle with glaze, then quickly add the colored sugars before the glaze sets up.  Alternate purple, green, and gold.
  I still haven't perfected the symmetric King Cake.  And if you know me at all, you know that it bugs me greatly.Slice and serve. 

I always make sure The Boy gets the baby.  It makes him so happy.

King Cake
from Ms. enPlace, based on a recipe from Talk About Good II
Brioche dough:
½ c warm water (110-115 degrees F.)

1 T active dry yeast
½ cup sugar + 2 tsp, divided
4½-5 ½ c all-purpose flour
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 T cinnamon
2 tsp salt
1 tsp lemon zest
½ cup lukewarm milk (110 degrees F.)
3 eggs
4 egg yolks
½ c plus 2 T butter, softened and divided
1 King Cake baby, coin, dried bean, or pecan

½ lb powdered sugar

½ tsp vanilla

Sugars: (sugars can be colored ahead of time and stored in an airtight container)
¾ cup granulated sugar, divided in thirds
purple food coloring, or red and blue
green food coloring
yellow food coloring

To make King Cake dough:
Add warm water to a small bowl. Sprinkle in yeast and 2 tsp sugar. Stir. Set the bowl in a warm place for 10 minutes, or until the yeast bubbles and mixture almost doubles in volume.

Combine 4½ cups flour, ½ c sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the lemon zest. Make a well in the center and pour in the yeast mixture and warm milk. Add the eggs and egg yolks and gradually combine the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients. Cut in ½ c butter 1 Tbsp at a time and continue to fold and combine until the dough can be formed into a soft ball shape.

Place ball on a floured surface and incorporate more flour if needed, about 1 T at a time. Knead until smooth and elastic. Brush the inside of a large bowl with 1 T softened butter. Set dough in bowl and turn to coat with butter. At this point the dough can be refrigerated overnight. Bring up to room temperature when ready to continue.Cover bowl and set aside for 1 ½-2 hours, or until doubled in volume.

Choose one of the methods below and continue.

Method 1: Basic King Cake
Use remaining 1 T of butter to butter a baking sheet. Punch down dough on a lightly floured surface. Knead, then roll and shape the dough into a cylinder about 14 inches long. Place on baking sheet and form a ring, pinching ends together. Cover and set aside to rise again, about 45 min.

Method 2: Filled King Cake
Any filling you like can be used, just make sure it isn't runny. Use remaining 1 T of butter to butter a baking sheet. Punch down dough on a lightly floured surface. On a floured surface, using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough out to roughly a 30 x 9” rectangle. The dough will be thin. Spread filling in a line down the 30” length of the dough, keeping the filling away from the edges. Fold the edge over the filling, then slowly roll the dough into a cylinder, like rolling a jelly roll. Pinch the ends and seam to keep the filling in place. Place on baking sheet and form a ring, pinching ends together. Cover and set aside to rise again, about 45 min.

Baking:Preheat oven to 375. Bake cake on a rack placed in the middle of the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool cake to room temperature on a wire rack. Hide the baby, bean, nut, or coin into the cake (through the bottom or middle).

Icing:Mix the powdered sugar and vanilla together. Add milk, a small amount at a time, until icing is smooth. Drizzle over cooled King Cake using a fork or your fingers.

Colored sugars:Either mix in separate bowls or shake and knead in plastic bags. Add 3-4 drops of yellow food coloring to the sugar and mix to coat all of the sugar. Repeat with green food coloring. For purple, I like to use purple food paste to get a rich purple color. Red and blue food coloring can also be used.

Sprinkle the sugars over the King Cake while the icing is still wet. Sprinkle in alternating colors, purple, green, and yellow, in rows about 2-3 inches wide.


  1. It looks cute and delicious! Thanks for sharing :)

  2. Loved the bit about having the king cake babies hiding around the house and in drawers:D If I had some king cake babies they would be scattered about my house too! I plan on making a king cake this year and I love your hazelnut praline version (although I admit that cream cheese filling sounds AWESOME). Your posts always make me giggle. I'll try to remember not to put the plastic baby in until after I bake it:D

  3. Just got this link from the Love N Bake newsletter, perfect timing because I need to make my first king cake for an upcoming mardi gras party.

    I love the idea of the filling


Thanks for stopping by! I appreciate your comments.