Did someone say cake? Where there’s a cake, there is bound to be a party, right? So, what is a King’s Cake and why do we eat it? Sometime between January 6th, King’s Day or the Twelfth Night of Christmas, and Lent (a time of abstinence, penance and self-control) we have the most outrageous party of all, Mardi Gras. And what is a party without a luscious cake? But this isn’t just any old cake. The King’s Cake is rich in tradition and folklore.
The cake is hollow in the center, much like a Bundt cake. It is made with a rich brioche dough and a wide array of fillings. This includes a plastic baby or bean. Really. There are some that say the baby is a symbol of the Christ Child and the visitation of the Three Kings marked by the feast day of the Epiphany, January 6th. Others suggest that an elaborate cake was served with a bean or ring placed inside during the commemoration of the King’s Ball in Colonial Louisiana. Whoever found the trinket in their slice of cake would be crowned king or queen of the balls leading up to the lavish finale, on Mardi Gras.
Today, the cake is baked with a plastic charm or baby, as a symbol of good luck. Whoever finds the hidden treasure in their piece of cake gains favor and inherits the duties of hosting the following year’s revelry. It is also their task to bake the next cake, a responsibility some take very seriously.
As for the rainbow of colors, each holds a deeper meaning. Gold represents power, green is faith and purple is the color of justice.
As for the name, King Cake, this is in honor of the Three Kings or Wisemen who brought gifts to the baby Jesus. In days of old, the cake was first served on January 6th, with the last slices served on Fat Tuesday. That is 2-months of cake eating! That must be one huge, stale cake. I for one would not like to eat a slice of cake that is 2-months old. My advise, bake the cake a few days ahead of the festivities, whenever or wherever those might be. Serve your creation and enjoy the company of loved ones gathered near. As for the trinket inside, bring your own significant meaning to the party.
Fat Tuesday King Cake
For the Cake
1/3 cup Milk
1 package Active Dry Yeast
2 ½ cups Bread Flour, plus more for dusting
2 large Egg Yolks
2 large Whole Eggs
3 tablespoons Granulated Sugar
1 Lemon, zested
1 teaspoons Salt
½ teaspoon Nutmeg, finely grated
12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks( butter, melted and cooled
Additional butter for greasing the bowl
Heat the milk in a saucepan until scalding; transfer to a food processor. Add the yeast and pulse to combine.
Add ½ cup flour and the egg yolks; process to combine.
Sprinkle the remaining 2 cups of flour evenly over the yeast mixture. DO NOT process. Place lid on the bowl and set aside for 90 minutes.
Add 2 whole eggs, granulated sugar, lemon zest, salt and nutmeg to the food processor once time is up and you are ready to continue.
Process to make a lightly textured dough, about 1 minute.
While machine running, slowly add the butter in a steady stream and continue to process to create a smooth, sticky dough.
Transfer the dough to a lightly buttered bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let dough rise in a warm place for 3 hours.
Turn the dough out onto a clean surface and knead briefly; then for into a ball and return to the bowl.
Cover tightly with plastic wrap, then refrigerate for 9 hours or overnight.
For the Filling
½ cup Golden Raisins
¼ cup Bourbon
¾ cup toasted Pecans, chopped
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 teaspoon ground Cinnamon
2 teaspoons grated Orange Zest
¼ teaspoon Salt
1 King Cake Baby or other food-safe trinket
Plump the raisins in a small saucepan with the bourbon over medium heat. Once raisins have fattened up and are dehydrated with bourbon, remove the saucepan from heat. Add the brown sugar, pecans, vanilla, cinnamon, orange zest, salt and the plastic baby. Mix until combined. Set aside.
On a floured surface, roll the dough into a 20-inch 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, then the top edges over the filling to create a tight roll. Pinch to seal.
Transfer the roll, seam-side down to a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Tuck one end of the roll into the other end to create a ring.
Cover loosely with plastic wrap and set aside in a worm place until the ring doubles in size, about 2 hours.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Bake the cake until firm and golden brown, about 40 minutes. Cool cake on a rack.
For the Glaze
½ cup Powdered Sugar, sifted
2 or 3 tablespoons Purple Sanding Sugar
2 or 3 tablespoons Green Sanding Sugar
2 or 3 tablespoons Gold Sanding Sugar
Place 3 tablespoons of water into a small bowl. Sift powdered sugar over the water and mix until a glaze forms. Brush the glaze over the cake. While still moist, sprinkle bands of color with the sanding sugar, then drizzle with more glaze to your liking.
Original recipe: Food Network