Feb 28, 2011

Mardi Gras Eats #4: King Cake

When the weather is nice, I walk to work.  It only takes about 8 minutes.  I enjoy it. 

Something has happened in South Louisiana over the past two weeks.  Something to make my walk more enjoyable.

Spring has started peeping out from brown lawns and skeleton trees. 

My Bridal Wreath (Spirea sp.) is covered in flower buds.  A million little secrets waiting to be revealed.

Chloe wants in on these secrets too

Bright yellow daffodils, pansies, and dandelions everywhere.

Fresh, new green leaves, still velvety to the touch.

Purple flowers on Japanese Magnolias catch my eye from blocks away. And I'm just waiting for the purple flower buds on the Redbud trees to open (my favorite Spring blooming tree).
I think it's fitting that Mardi Gras is a Spring celebration.
Sure, there's a link between Mardi Gras and pagan fertility rituals.  Spring is known for that, you know.  But as I walk, I can't help think about how even Mother Nature is wearing her purple, green, and gold.

So what's the deal with purple, green, and gold?  There's a lot of symbolism to Mardi Gras.  These colors are no different.

Purple stands for justice.  Green represents faith.  Gold symbolizes power.

This year's King Cake...blueberry

To me, King Cakes are the ultimate display of purple, green, and gold!

Ghosts of King Cakes Past:
Cream Cheese Filled and Mardi Gras history

Hazelnut Praline Filled

I used to be the type of person who thought filled King Cakes were an abomination.  Blasphemy.  An outrage.  But over the past several years I've mellowed and have experimented with the whole filling thing.

This year's experiment involved blueberries.  While eating blueberry focaccia, The Boy told me it tasted like Mardi Gras.  He's a smart little booger.  The focaccia dough is really brioche--what is traditionally used for King Cakes.  And the focaccia has lemon zest--another traditional component of King Cake. 

I had plans to make a wonderful blueberry filling.  Which I would work on while my yeast proofed.

And my dough rose.

But King Cake making is a lot of work.  In the end I settled for scattering blueberries on rolled out dough.

To make up for my poor, lazy attitude I decided to take more time...put more of an effort into shaping my cake.   

Every year I end up with a cake that's wonky.  Oh, but not this year, baby!  This was the most symmetrical King Cake I've made.
But don't be too impressed.  I did have oozy blueberry guts.  (Well, not me personally)

It was still good.

This will give you step-by-step pictures for making a King Cake.

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Printable Recipe

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
milk as needed
lemon juice (if desired)

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 bluegreen food coloringyellow 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. The dough will be sticky.

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 to form a ring, pinching ends together. Cover and set aside to rise again, about 45 min. Baking instructions below.

Method 2: Cream Cheese Filled King Cake

(Any filling you like can be used.)

6 oz cream cheese, softened

1/3 c sugar

1-2 T flour

1 small egg

Combine the filling ingredients. Add additional flour if filling is runny. Cinnamon can also be added.

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 thin 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. Place on baking sheet to form a ring, pinching ends together. Cover and set aside to rise again, about 45 min. Baking instructions below.

Method 3: Blueberry King Cake:

1 ½ c blueberries

Juice from ½ lemon for the icing

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. Scatter the blueberries down the 30” length of the dough, leave a 1” border. Fold the edge over the filling, then slowly roll the dough into a cylinder, like rolling a jelly roll. Place on baking sheet to form a ring, pinching ends together. Cover and set aside to rise again, about 45 min. Baking instructions below.

Baking Instructions:

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 in the cake (through the bottom).

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.

For Blueberry King Cake, mix the powdered sugar, vanilla, and the juice of ½ lemon. Add milk until icing is smooth.

For the 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. very nice!! I love all colors on your cake!!

  2. I've never had king cake but am dying to try it. I'm just too lazy to make it! I love all the colours though, it's so pretty!

  3. Very nice detailed recipe...ya had me at blueberry foccacia!

  4. Congrats on an absolute perfect circle! I always go to a Mardi Gras party and pray hard that I don't end up with the baby. If I do, I'm coming back here for your recipe. Still praying that I don't have to attempt this work of art though!

  5. Look at you go! That is one perfectly round King Cake and I love, love, love the blueberry filling. Looks gorgeous.

  6. Had King Cake for the first time 2 yrs ago. I like the thought of blueberries in it.

    Your pics make me long for spring. Unfortunately here in Ontario, we still have a few months to wait.

  7. What a beautiful King Cake - I love the idea of celebrating Mardi Gras before Lent! Thanks for sharing this with us at the Hearth and Soul Hop!

  8. What lovely photographs, and I love the pretty King Cake! The blueberry filling sounds wonderful too. Thank you for sharing your recipe!

  9. I love your cake! I'm jealous that it's spring where you are -- it's chilly here, but that has nothing to do with how amazing and beautiful your King's Cake looks! Can't wait to try it at Friday Potluck :)

    Hope you'll swing on over to www.ekatskitchen.com and enter the CSN Giveaway I'm hosting this week.

  10. Thanks for the comments everyone!

    Already thinking about what the twist will be on next year's cake. (One per year is my limit--for making, not eating!)

  11. Do you think you could send some of that spring this way? We could use some of it over here. Or you could just send that gorgeous cake. We could use that too.

  12. MM what fun! This so reminds me of Pasque cake which we make in Greece with Easter eggs baked into the edges, but I think they are both on opposite ends of Lent! What a lovely cake and thanks for sharing the traditions with us! Enjoy your Mardi Gras! Thanks for sharing on the hearth and soul hop! All the best, Alex

  13. I am sooo jealous!! Of your spring.
    The King cakes looks awesome. I like Cajun cooking much better than German...that sour beef was GROSS. :0)
    Have a good day!

  14. shared a link of this post on my blog your cake looks grand

  15. This is amazing! What a festive looking cake and it sounds so delicious!

  16. Alex-I never knew about the Greek Pasque cake. Thanks! There are other similarities between Greek and Cajun Easter/Lent. We "paque" eggs--tap them together to see whose egg breaks and whose remains intact (the winner). I've read that Easter egg battling is a common practice in Greece too.

    shopannies-thanks for linking me. I appreciate it!

  17. What a wonderful cake/bread. It is a great deal of work but the end result is gorgeous and sounds delicious. I'm relatively new to your blog and don't often comment. I just wanted you to know that I really appreciate the food and recipes you share with your readers. I always enjoy my visits here. I hope you have a great day. Blessings...Mary

  18. I finally posted your milk punch on cocktail puppy with a link back to you. Thanks for sharing!

  19. Wow! Your cake looks great and I'm sure it tastes really good! Looking forward to trying it! I already bookmarked the recipe. Thanks for sharing! :)

  20. I love the way you've described your skeleton trees... I always get the same feelings when it gets to be spring. I have a few more months to wait, but happy Mardi Gras and happy Spring to you in the meantime. :) Thanks for linking up to Friday Potluck.

  21. King cakes are definitely one of my most favorite things about Mardi Gras

  22. Hi there! first time on your blog - That's a cheery, colorful cake - I am having an event on my blog this month which you might want to consider sending this or any other entry too
    Please get the dope about it from here - Look forward


    Cheers, Priya

  23. Just stopping back by to give a big thank you for submitting your gorgeous cake to Cookbook Sundays. I hope to see you next month and have a great week!

  24. Your King Cake looks like a work of art, and delicious too!


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