Our family is not French-Creole or from the south, but several years ago I started this tradition in our home to celebrate Mardi Gras anyway. Honestly, I just love any reason to celebrate and do something fun. Our celebration typically involves some type of Creole/Louisiana food (this year we had Creole shrimp and grits which I'll share in tomorrow's post), and it always includes king cake.
King cake is actually more like a bread. I am seriously afraid of making bread. It always defeats me! My mom always makes the best bread - clover rolls, zucchini bread, banana bread, cinnamon bread. Mine never turns out that good... usually too doughy and never rises quite right so it doesn't get that light, fluffiness. Luckily, my king cake often turns out edible at least. So if you've got some bread baking skills, you'll probably make a mean king cake!
The extra fun in the king cake is the hidden baby. Traditionally a small plastic baby or bean is hidden inside the dough before the cake is baked. Whoever gets the baby in their piece of cake is "king" for the day or has to throw the next party or make the next cake. In our house it's just about being "the one" that gets the baby. Emily seems to get the piece of cake with the baby almost every year - lucky - maybe she should play the lottery.
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/2 cup evaporated milk
3/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 envelopes active dry yeast (I use rapid rise)
zest of 1 lemon
6 cups all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1 egg white
for the cinnamon-sugar filling... mix together 3/4 cup sugar plus 2 to 3 tablespoons ground cinnamon (depending on how much cinnamon you like)
for the white icing... 2 cups powdered sugar mixed with 2 tablespoons water
yellow, green, and purple sugar (I used Wilton brand which is available at most craft stores)
Melt the butter in the microwave in a large mixing bowl. Add the evaporated milk, 3/4 cup of the sugar, and the salt. Whisk together until the sugar dissolves.
In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup warm water and stir in the teaspoon of sugar. Allow the mixture to sit for about 10 minutes, until foamy. Here's what "foamy" should look like.
Add the yeast mixture to the large mixing bowl that already has the butter, milk, sugar, and salt mixture. Add the eggs and lemon zest and whisk together until well blended.
Whisk in the flour 1 cup at a time, blending well between each addition. For the first three cups you can use the whisk, but then for the 4th and 5th cups you'll probably need to switch to a wooden spoon because it gets too thick for the whisk. By the 6th cup, you'll need to just use your clean, lightly floured hands to mix and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Form the dough into a ball and place it in a large bowl that you've sprayed with cooking spray. Roll the dough around to get it coated in the spray. Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and sit in a warm place until the dough is doubled (takes about an hour).
When the dough has doubled, remove it from the bowl, punch it down, and divide it into two equal halves. Roll each portion of dough into a large rectangle. Brush each rectangle with the melted butter and sprinkle with the cinnamon-sugar filling.
Roll each rectangle along the long side like a jelly roll. Seal the edges and ends (use a little water if you can't get it to stick). Twist the two long rolls together and bring the ends together to form a twisted circle.
Place the dough on a greased cookie sheet and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Place in a warm place until doubled in size (takes about and hour to 90 minutes).
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix the egg white with a little water and brush it onto the top of the cake. Bake the cake for about 30 minutes or until browned.
Allow the cake to cool. Place on a large plate if desired. Drizzle the white icing over the cake, allowing it to run down the sides. Sprinkle the green, yellow, and purple sugar onto the cake. Slice and serve. Watch out for the baby!
Recipe from Paula Deen Celebrates