Monday, February 04, 2008

Happy Mardi Gras!

King Cake Slice
Originally uploaded by watchjennybake.
I have been wanting to make a king cake for a while now, and almost missed my chance again this year. After all, it is a sacrilege to make king cake before Twelfth Night or after Mardi Gras, and Mardi Gras Day is on Tuesday! So if it is too late for you, just file it away until next year.

When looking for King Cake recipes, I found several versions. The biggest variation has to do with the filling. Ultimately, I had two deciding factors - I wanted one that looked reliable, and I wanted one that I could incorporate some of the lemon curd I still had left over from the last Daring Bakers challenge. The recipe I chose was from the culinary king of New Orleans - Emeril Lagasse.

King Cake
Courtesy of Chef Emeril Lagasse, found on Gumbo

* 2 envelopes active dry yeast
* 1/2 cup granulated sugar
* 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
* 1 cup warm milk (about 110°F)
* 5 large egg yolks, at room temperature
* 4 1/2 cups bleached all-purpose flour
* 2 teaspoons salt
* 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
* 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
* 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
* 1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
* 4 cups confectioner's sugar
* 1 plastic king cake baby or a pecan half
* 5 tablespoons milk, at room temperature
* 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
* Purple-, green-, and gold-tinted sugar sprinkles

Combine the yeast and granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the melted butter and warm milk. Beat at low speed for 1 minute. With the mixer running, add the egg yolks, then beat for 1 minute at medium-low speed. Add the flour, salt, nutmeg, and lemon zest and beat until everything is incorporated. Increase the speed to high and beat until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, forms a ball, and starts to climb up the dough hook. If the dough is uncooperative in coming together, add a bit of warm water (110 degrees), a tablespoon at a time, until it does.

Remove the dough from the bowl. Using your hands, form the dough into a smooth ball. Lightly oil a bowl with the vegetable oil. Place the dough in the bowl and turn it to oil all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 2 hours.

Meanwhile, make the filling. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese and 1 cup of the confectioner's sugar. Blend by hand or with an electric mixer on low speed. Set aside.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Using your fingers, pat it out into a rectangle about 30 inches long and 6 inches wide.

Spread the filling lengthwise over the bottom half of the dough, then flip the top half of the dough over the filling. Seal the edges, pinching the dough together. Shape the dough into a cylinder and place it on the prepared baking sheet seam side down. Shape the dough into a ring and pinch the ends together so there isn't a seam. Insert the king cake baby or pecan half into the ring from the bottom so that it is completely hidden by the dough.

Cover the ring with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and place in a warm, draft-free place. Let the dough rise until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Brush the top of the risen cake with 2 tablespoons of the milk. Bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely on a wire rack.

Make the icing. Combine the remaining 3 tablespoons milk, the lemon juice, and the remaining 3 cups confectioner's sugar in medium-size mixing bowl. Stir to blend well. With a rubber spatula, spread the icing evenly over the top of the cake. Sprinkle with the sugar crystals, alternating colors around the cake.

The cake is traditionally cut into 2-inch-thick slices with all the guests in attendance.

YIELD: 20 to 22 servings

King Cake
King Cake is really more of a bread, and I had decided to make all Mardi Gras food for Super Bowl weekend. I started it the day before, and instead of letting it rise the last time, I stuck it in the fridge overnight. I had a slight confusion over how much cream cheese was 1 lb, but ended up using 2 8-oz packages. It seemed okay, if a bit excessive.

I wish I had baked this longer. It was gooey underneath the filling, but the testers all came out clean. Now that the filling has set up more than it had in the picture of the slice, it is this fluffy delicious texture that is more mousselike than anything. I added probably 2 tbsp of lemon curd to the filling and it added welcomed flavor and depth to the entire cake.

The topping was super super sweet, and just too much, even though I was eating a small slice with a strong cup of tea. Most times I would look at a pastry ring and express disbelief that it is supposed to feed 20-22 people, but you really don't want much more than a small slice of this decadent treat.

I feel like I have let the traditionalists down by my colored sprinkle choices, but the store didn't have gold (power) or purple (justice), so I used green, which symbolizes faith during Mardi Gras, and pink, simply because, well, that is what I had.

Categories: Bread, Cake, Lemon, Holiday


eatme_delicious said...

Ooo this looks so good! I only recently heard about this cake and after seeing your yummy pictures now I want to try it even more!

breadchick said...

Jenny, what a riot! Sara (I Like to Cook) and I baked this exact same recipe together over the past weekend and posted about them today! Guess great Daring Baker minds think alike!!

Anonymous said...

I have always wanted to bake a king cake, but somehow Mardi Gras always sneaks up on me!!!! Yours looks great. Pink and Green is a very trendy color combo!:-)
-Lindsay Ruhnke

Anonymous said...

What a festive cake!! I'll file it for next year!

Sara said...

As Mary said, Great Minds Think Alike! I enjoyed this too, although I put it in the fridge overnight, and the bread part hardened up quite a bit. It was better the first day.

Emily said...

That's a beautiful picture!
I've made this recipe before, and it's really, really good.
I didn't get to make this, this year. Boo hoo! I'm sad now.

Jaime said...

i can't believe i had never heard of king cake until looks delicious!

i just joined the DB this month, just checking out everyone else’s blogs, wanted to say hello :)

Andrea said...

Hey your king cake looks great!

Anonymous said...

So many wonderful recipes here. Thanks for the great web site!

Kristal B. Rosebrook