We’re slap dab in the middle of New Orlean’s Carnival celebrations and King Cake Season culminating today, Fat Tuesday..Mardi Gras, y’all! Everyone in Louisiana has King Cake, in their office, school, home, they are everywhere! And King Cake parties abound. Gold, green and purple seem to be everywhere. Why? Because gold represents power, green represents religion and purple signifies justice. It’s also a really great color combination. Anyway, King Cake is more like a coffee cake or sweet yeast bread than a true cake. King Cakes truly epitomizes New Orleans. I’ve been in New Orleans only four times. The first time I went was with my parents for a family reunion, specifically Daddy’s French side of the family. We were joined by Dad’s sister, Aunt Sunny and her husband. I was named after my paternal grandmother Alice as was Aunt Sunny. The family plantation, Magnolia Mound Plantation, is situated on the banks of the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge. It was in my paternal grandmother’s family through the mid-1800’s. It passed through many hands after it was lost. During the time of our reunion Magnolia Mound had been rescued by the Junior League of Baton Rouge who gave great tours and gave visitors an authentic feel for life in the deep south of the 1800’s. At the reunion we had crab boils with locals playing some really jumping Zydeco. Other nights we could be found laughing and dancing on the house lawn under the stars drinks in hand…with enormous cauldrons of gumbo bubbling close by. At linen draped tables nearby were silver salt cellars filled with file gumbo, (pronounced fee-lay), baskets overflowing with hot French bread and little crystal tubs full of spicy, cold homemade Tabasco butter. It was jollification at it’s best!! But when we hit New Orleans a few days later…well! That was when I thought the fun really started! Brunch at Brennan’s with many, many Bloodys. And the shopping after!!! Oh, my goodness!! Mom and I had fun on Royal Street antiquing and then made our way over to Magazine Street for more shopping delight!! And delight there was. Mama had made plans earlier to meet up with Daddy, probably to give him all our shopping bags!, and that was the exact moment I found it. The most exquisite little lingerie boutique you could ever imagine. Everything inside, EVERYTHING, had been hand-made in France with the finest silks and laces. With no one to stop me – I went craaazy! Beautiful ensembles in peach, pink and cream. Handmade silk and satin garter belts, pure silk stockings, teeny lace panties…as a size four dress I went crazy. Then out of the corner of my eye I saw Mama and Daddy strolling towards the shop. The shop girls quickly rang up my sale, packaged it in tissue and ribbon and I scuttled out before Mama and Daddy could see what I was buying. They never said a word and they didn’t exactly know what I was doing but they knew I was up to no good when I wouldn’t meet their eyes! No worries! We were off to Antoine’s for champagne and another family party! Laissez les bons temps rouler! Let the good times roll!
This is a wonderful cake, y’all. It’s somewhere between cake and the best coffee cake on the planet. There are all kinds of acceptable fillings and some cakes aren’t filled at all. It’s all a matter of taste. This particular cake has a cream cheese filling which is one of my favorites but the cake part is just out of this world! I know the directions look long and involved but it’s a really direct cake to make. You do need time for the dough to rise so make sure you factor that in your plans. I made a second cake to take to our Boston friends. It’s that easy. I found all kinds of great, cheap Mardi Gras gee-gaws at the Dollar Store, (note photo above!), and I get my sugar sprinkles and li’l plastic baby at a local craft store. The plastic baby’s in the bridal/baby shower area. And your baby won’t melt. I don’t know why, but it won’t. So try it. You’ll love it, I gah-rahn-tee!
yield: 12-14 servings
Preheat oven to 350° the last 15 minutes of the second rising.
- 2 pkgs. dry active yeast
- 1 cup milk warmed to 115°
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 stick butter, melted
- 5 egg yolks
- 4-5 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- zest of one lemon
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1-2 teaspoons vegetable oil
- 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- 2 cups confectioner’s sugar
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 1 plastic baby toy
- Purple, green and gold sugar sprinkles
1. To make cream cheese filling, beat cream cheese in a bowl until fluffy. Mix well until smooth and creamy. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.
- For the king cake dough, combine yeast and warmed milk and stir to dissolve yeast. Set aside for about 5 minutes until yeast gets bubbly.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer combine yeast mixture, sugar, butter, eggs and mix until well combined.
- In a large bowl combine the flour, salt, lemon zest and nutmeg. Stir until well combined and add to yeast mixture.
- Mix on low until well combined and change to dough hook if you have one. If not, use your hands.
- Beat until mixture comes together well, the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl and kind of creeps up the dough hook.
- Remove the dough from the bowl and coat the bottom and sides of the bowl with the oil and turn dough a few times in the bowl to coat it as well.
- Cover with a clean dish towel or plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place to rise. This will take about two to two and on half hours.
- When dough has doubled in size turn it out onto a lightly floured counter.
- Roll it into a rectangle, maybe two feet long and 5″ or 6″ wide.
- Spread the cream filling on dough leaving a one inch border without filling.
- Place plastic baby on the cream cheese.
- Fold the two long sides one more time and seal long side. It’ll look like a fat snake.
- On a greased baking sheet place dough seam side down and connect ends of dough to make a large circle. Pinch ends to seal.
- Using a bowl about the diameter of the center of your dough circle, cover bowl with tin foil and spray well with non-stick spray. The dough will rise so it doesn’t have to fit snugly. I used a round ceramic baking dish. It needs to be oven proof. A coffee can may also be used.
- Cover the dough ring and place in a warm place to rise for about 45 minutes.
- With a VERY sharp knife, gently make three slits on the top of the dough. Think of a peace sign!
- Place in the oven and let bake for 30 minutes or until golden in color.
- When fully baked and out of the oven, VERY carefully remove bowl or can.
- Let cake cool then ice with glaze.
- Immediately after icing sprinkle with your colored sugar crystals over icing. If you wait the sprinkles won’t stick.
- 2 cups confectioner’s sugar
- 1/4 cup warm water
- With confectioner’s sugar in bowl mix in two tablespoons water. Mix well.
- While mixing add a scant teaspoon of water until glaze if firm enough to run down the sides of the cake with a little coaxing from the back of your spoon. Add the water as needed.
- Put your colored sugars on it NOW!!!