Growing up, I always thought King Cake, or King's Cake, was called King Cake because New Orleans Mardi Gras was jam packed with royalty. Each Krewe has a king, queen, and court of dukes, maids, pages and so on. More royalty than you can shake a scepter at. More royalty than necessary because everyone knows the royalty floats hardly throw anything.
But this ultra sweet treat is so named because it honors the three wise men--as in those "we three kings of orient are" dudes. Twelve days after Christmas (that's Twelfth Night, yall), three kings brought gifts to the Christ Child. They get a fancy-schmancy cake in honor of their travels and generosity.
Though they are now available well before carnival season, when I was a child fancy-schmancy King Cakes could not be had until January 6th. Twelfth Night is the start button for the carnival season.
Being backwards like I am, every year I like to end my Mardi Gras posts with a King Cake.
I know what you're thinking.
She uploaded the wrong picture.
She's been hit in the head by too many Mardi Gras beads.
She's been drinking too much of that Praline Pecan Liqueur.
This year's final Mardi Gras trivia is that what you see above is a King Cake.
Not a traditional New Orleans style King Cake.
It's a traditional French style King Cake...Galette des Rois. Made with puff pastry and often filled with almond paste, this type of King Cake has a more subdued look. But with puff pastry, Praline pastry cream filling, and praline topping, it's anything but subdued in flavor.
The first step is to make your filling so it can chill and set. I made a pastry cream flavored with Praline Pecan Liqueur and vanilla. The idea for the flavor comes from a recipe for Galette des Rois found in Cooking Up a Storm: Recipes Lost and Found from The Times-Picayune of New Orleans. That recipe spiked marshmallow creme with the liqueur. I really wanted to make my own cream filling.
Next, it's time to work on that puff pastry. You'll need both of the sheets that come in the box.
Thaw as the package recommends. On a floured surface, lay out one sheet. Place the other sheet on top.
Roll out to about 11 x 15. Yes, I use a ruler.
Cut into an oval shape. Yes, I freaked out because I had to "free form" it. When the words "free" and "form" are smooshed together, I really can't comprehend. (See the use of a ruler above.)
Cut a smaller oval from the middle so that the width of the pastry is 3". Uh huh. Ruler again. The recipe instructs that the scraps can be frozen and used at a later time.
I had The Husband cut out a rockin' puff pastry crown to decorate the cake.
Bake your oval of puff pastry dough until golden.
Let it cool enough to handle, and slice in half horizontally with a bread knife.
The top of the cake is baked again with a mixture of brown sugar, pecans, and Praline Liqueur.
Which melts then hardens into a delicious praline topping.
When the cake has cooled, spread your filling on the bottom half. Sink the baby into it.
Which will make you feel kind of weird.
But the praline topping and filling will make you forget all that.
I found this style of King Cake much easier and faster to make than a New Orleans style since there is no waiting for dough to rise, making icing, or making colored sugars. Although the original recipe suggests an (optional) step of decorating with icing and purple, green, and gold sugar, I felt that this would take away from the overall look of the cake. Not to mention it would also be entirely too sweet.
Praline Galette des Rois
adapted from Cooking Up a Storm
1 (17.75 oz) package of frozen puff pastry--thaw according to package
for the filling:
1 cup milk
1/4 cup Praline Pecan Liqueur
1/4 c white sugar
3 egg yolks
1/8 cup flour
4 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp vanilla
for the topping:
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp Praline Pecan Liqueur
Heat the milk and liqueur in a saucepan over low heat until it begins to steam. In bowl, whisk the sugar, egg yolks, flour, and cornstarch together while the milk mixture warms. Whisk until there are no lumps.
Add half of the warmed milk mixture to the egg mixture, whisking as you do. Add this milk and egg mixture to the pot of warm milk and stir or whisk for 3-4 minutes, until the mixture thickens. (Aim for a temperature of about 170 F.)
Remove from the burner and add in the vanilla. Chill before using.
Preheat oven to 400 F.
Grease a large cookie sheet or use a silpat. Flour your counter top and rolling pin. Lay out 1 sheet of puff pastry on the floured counter. Place the second sheet on top of it. Form the pastry sheets into a rectangle using the floured rolling pin. Flatten until your rectangle is about 11" x 15".
Cut an oval shape from your rectangle. Then, cut out the center so that the pastry will be about 3" wide all around. The scraps can be cut into various shapes to decorate the cake, or can be frozen for another use. We used the center scrap to form a crown.
Place your oval on the prepared baking sheet. Place in the oven and bake for about 17-20 minutes, or until puffed and golden.
Remove from oven. When cool enough to handle, slice the cake in half horizontally with a sharp bread knife (serrated). Lower the oven to 375 F.
While the cake bakes, make the topping. Mix together the pecans, brown sugar, and liqueur.
Place the top of the cake cut side down on your baking sheet. With your hands, place the pecan mixture on the top of the pastry oval. Return to oven and bake for about 5 minutes, until the sugar melts and is bubbly. Remove from oven to cool.
Spread the filling on the cut side of your bottom oval. Place a plastic baby or dried bean in the filling. Use a spatula to remove the top layer from the pan and place on top off the layer with filling. Slice and serve.
A parade of King Cakes:
Hazelnut Praline Filled
|Blueberry King Cake
||King Cup Cakes|