No Mardi Gras celebration is complete without a traditional King Cake. And just what is a King Cake? A King Cake is a beautiful and delicious sweet yeast bread, sometimes containing a filling and sometimes not, which has a coin, bean, or ceramic baby baked inside. The dough for the cake is braided and formed into a circle (to represent a crown), then after baking, the cake is decorated with white icing and colored sugar in the Mardi Gras colors of gold (power), purple (justice), and green (faith). Rio de Janeiro in Brazil is the most famous worldwide destination to celebrate Mardi Gras; New Orleans is the most traditional place to celebrate in the US.
Mardi Gras participants take King Cake traditions very seriously. Early on, when French immigrants (who brought the King Cake with them in the late 1800s) settled in Louisiana, the lucky person who got the piece of King Cake which contained the coin, bean, or baby was crowned King of the celebration. However, over the years, the lucky recipient is the one who is required to plan and host the next Mardi Gras party, and furnish the next King Cake.
King cakes are readily available in local bakeries near cities that hold Mardi Gras celebrations, and also through mail order sources and online. The best ones, however, are homemade.
While the yeast dough for a King Cake can be made by hand or in a dough mixer the traditional way, it is easiest made in an automatic bread machine which automatically mixes and proofs the dough. The only hands-on time required of the cook will be to shape (15 minutes), bake (30 minutes), and decorate the cake (5-10 minutes).
Prior to preparing the King Cake, it is a good idea to visit a craft store and purchase a plastic baby 1-2 long. It is much easier to insert this plastic baby up through the bottom after the cake is baked. If you plan to insert a coin or bean, either may be baked inside the cake, however, since coins and beans are rather small and may not be immediately seen, one of the guests could easily break a tooth, which would ultimately ruin a perfectly good party!
1/2 cups warm water
3 1/2 tablespoons powdered milk
3 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons yeast
2 8 oz packages cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup softened butter
3 to 5 tablespoons milk
Gold, Green, & Purple sanding sugar
- Place all ingredients except egg yolk in the bread machine in the order listed.
- Set the machine to the dough setting.
- Check after 5 minutes to make sure the dough is forming a ball if it is too soft to hold its shape, add more flour; if its very stiff, add more water.
- When the cycle is finished, transfer the dough to a lightly floured pastry cloth or other floured surface and divide in half.
- Roll each piece to a 20" x 10" rectangle.
- Spread 1/2 of the cream cheese filling on each rectangle to within 1/2 inch of the edges of the dough
- Sprinkle with half of the streusel topping.
- Starting from the long edge, roll up tightly and pinch the edges to seal.
- When both are rolled, twist the rolls together and transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet, form into a circle, and seal the edges together.
- Let the cake rise in a warm place 30-45 minutes, or until very light.
- Brush the cake with the beaten egg yolk and bake in a preheated 400° oven for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown.
- Remove the cake to a cooling rack to thoroughly cool.
- Cover the cooled cake with the glaze, then sprinkle the colored sugars alternately over the cake in 3 sections.
Filling: Mix the cream cheese, sugar, and egg until smooth.
Streusel: Mix the sugar, cinnamon, and pecans.
Glaze: Mix the powdered sugar, softened butter, and enough milk to make a glaze that is thin enough to slowly run off the edges of the cake. Whisk until smooth.
Nutrition amount Per Serving
Calories 334 Calories from Fat 168
Percent Total Calories From: Fat 50% Protein 7% Carb. 43%
Nutrient Amount per Serving
Total Fat 19 g
Saturated Fat 10 g
Cholesterol 86 mg
Sodium 252 mg
Total Carbohydrate 36 g
Dietary Fiber 0 g
Sugars 0 g
Protein 6 g
Vitamin A 13% Vitamin C 0% Calcium 0% Iron 5%