I know today is Mardi Gras and I should have posted this last week, but I wanted to get it up before it was completely out of season! The King Cake is a Mardi Gras delicacy! Officially you can start buying and serving them on the day after Twelfth Night (January 6) through Mardi Gras day, but you can pretty much order them online all year 'round, but that just wouldn't be right. :)
Buying them in New Orleans is cheap ($6 - $15), but getting them delivered around the country gets expensive (upwards of $50). I get one delivered every year (thanks, mom!) for my Mardi Gras party, which this year was actually a Saints' superbowl party. But I was having a big crowd this year so thought I'd try making my own to have another on hand.
This recipe (adapted from here) is what I would consider an old-fashioned king cake (like the old McKenzie's if you know what I'm talking about), not like the Randazzo's filled danish-like King Cake that I love so much.
TRADITIONAL KING CAKE
1/2 cup warm water (100-115 F)
2 tablespoons yeast
1/2 cup sugar, plus 2 teaspoons
3 1/2 - 4 cup flour
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon lemon zest (I didn't use this)
1/2 cup warm milk
5 egg yolks
1/2 cup butter (softened)
2 teaspoons cinnamon (I used about 4 or 5, mixed with a a Tbls of sugar)
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon milk, for egg wash
Sprinkle yeast and 2 teaspoons sugar over warm water in a small, shallow bowl. Allow to rest for 3-5 minutes, then mix thoroughly. Set bowl in a warm, draft-free place until yeast starts to bubble up and mixture almost doubles in volume, about 10 minutes.
In a large mixing bowl, mix 3 1/2 C flour, 1/2 cup sugar, nutmeg, lemon zest and salt. In mixing bowl of a heavy duty electric mixer or food processor, combine yeast , milk and egg yolks. Gradually add dry ingredients, and softened butter, adding additional flour, as necessary to achieve a medium-soft ball. Knead dough, again adding flour if necessary, until smooth, shiny and elastic, about 10 minutes.
Place dough in a covered, buttered bowl , in a warm, draft-free place until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours. In the meantime, butter a large baking sheet and set aside. When dough has risen, remove and punch down. Sprinkle with cinnamon and form into a cylinder, then twist this cylinder into a circle. Pinch the ends together to complete the circle. Once again, cover and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.
Pre-heat oven to 375° F. Brush top and sides of cake with egg wash and bake for 25-35 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on wire rack completely before hiding baby doll inside or icing and decorating. Cover with icing (below) and then sprinkle with purple, green and gold sugar.
ICING (My own recipe)
3 cups confectioner's sugar
1/2 block cream cheese, melted
1/4 cup water
1 tsp. vanilla
Mix sugar, cream cheese and vanilla together. Add water slowly until desired consistency is achieved. Should be fairly thick and not runny.