Never having visited New Orleans did not stop me from longing for a King Cake. In case you are not familiar with the history of the King Cake, I borrowed this explanation from King Cakes.
The King Cake is believed to have originated in France around the 12th century. These early Europeans celebrated the coming of the three wise men bearing gifts twelve days after Christmas calling it the Feast of the epiphany, Twelfth Night, or King’s Day. The main part of the celebration was the baking of a King’s Cake to honor the three Kings. The cakes were made circular to portray the circular route used by the kings to get to the Christ Child, which was taken to confuse King Herod who was trying to follow the wise men so he could kill the Christ Child. In these early King Cakes a bean, pea, or coin was hidden inside the cake. The person who got the hidden piece was declared King for the day or was said to have good luck in the coming year. In Louisiana, Twelfth Night also signifies the beginning of the carnival season which ends with Mardi Gras Day. The bean, pea and the coin have been replaced by a small plastic baby to symbolize the Christ Child. The person who gets the baby is expected to carry on the carnival festivities by hosting the next King Cake party.
I waited too long to order a King Cake so I decided to make my own. I had to improvise on the baby. There are no party supply stores in our area. I went to the local drug store and found a package of small farm animals. I decided that a baby chick would have to suffice. It seemed a fitting substitute for the Buck ‘n Run Ranch King Cake. I tucked the baby chick into the unbaked cake right alongside the little plastic hen. I was afraid whoever got the little chick might swallow it if it wasn’t alongside the bigger chicken.
This cake was two days in the making. I used the recipe from the Food Network. Some commenters said it wasn’t authentic but it seemed pretty close to me. The entire process from starting the dough to finish the decoration takes about fourteen hours, including an eight hour rest for the dough in the fridge. I started the dough yesterday, let it sit overnight then finished the cake this morning. I ordered a selection of sanding sugars from Amazon. Traditional colors are green, gold, and purple.
This is how the cake looked this morning after its final rise.
And after it finished baking:
And finally, after decoration:
Here is the recipe, directly from the Food Network website. I didn’t change a thing. All the pictures on this post are mine.
For the Cake:
- 1/3 cup milk
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 2 1/2 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting
- 2 large egg yolks, plus 2 eggs
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for greasing the bowl
For the Filling and Glaze:
- 1/2 cup golden raisins
- 1/4 cup bourbon
- 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 2/3 cup toasted pecans, chopped
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons grated orange zest
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 dry bean or plastic King Cake baby (available at party-supply stores or mardigrasday.com)
- 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
- Purple, green and gold sanding sugar, for decorating
Make the cake: Heat the milk in a saucepan until scalding; transfer to a food processor, add the yeast and pulse to combine. Add 1/2 cup flour and the egg yolks; process to combine. Pour the remaining 2 cups flour evenly over the yeast mixture; do not process. Put the lid on; set aside for 90 minutes.
Add the 2 whole eggs, granulated sugar, lemon zest, salt and nutmeg to the food processor; process to make a slightly textured dough, about 1 minute. With the machine running, slowly add the butter to make a smooth, sticky dough. Transfer the dough to a lightly buttered bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap; let rise in a warm place for 3 hours. Turn the dough out onto a clean surface and knead briefly; form into a ball and return to the bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.
Make the filling:
Plump the raisins in the bourbon in a small saucepan over medium heat. Remove from the heat and add the brown sugar, pecans, vanilla, cinnamon, orange zest, salt and the bean or plastic baby; mix until combined and set aside.
On a floured surface, roll the dough into a 20-by-7-inch rectangle, with the long edge facing you. Spoon the filling in an even layer over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border along the top and bottom. Fold the bottom and then the top edge over the filling to make a tight roll; pinch to seal. Transfer the roll seam-side down to a parchment-lined baking sheet; tuck one end into the other to form a ring. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place until the roll doubles in size, about 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the cake until firm and golden brown, about 40 minutes. Cool on a rack.
Make the glaze:
Mix 3 tablespoons water with the confectioners’ sugar; brush 3 tablespoons glaze over the cake. Sprinkle with bands of colored sugar; drizzle with more glaze.
Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/king-cake-recipe2/index.html?oc=linkback
Let me finish with a review of the cake. It was good, but not spectacular. I thought the dough-to-filling ratio favored the dough too much. That being said, the dough is delicious and I plan to use the recipe as a cinnamon roll dough. I am glad I made the King Cake. It was a fun project but time consuming.