It’s Mardi Gras, which means it’s time to indulge in something wildly delicious that will satisfy every craving before the lent season begins! King Cake is an authentic dessert tradition that was brought over to New Orleans from France around 1870. The colors that decorate the cake are green for faith, purple for justice, and gold for power.
When baking the famous King Cake, the baker will hide a tiny, plastic baby as a sort of prize. After the cake is served, everyone will check to see if they have the piece with the baby inside. If they are so lucky, that person is ultimately the “King” for that day and will have to provide the King Cake the following year.
Now, with the history in tow and a deeper understanding as to what King Cake means to those in New Orleans, we have an authentic recipe for creating a perfectly sweet cake of your own!
2 packs of active dry yeast
½ cup of sugar
12 tbsp (1 ½ sticks) unsalted melted butter
1 cup of warm milk
5 large egg yolks at room temperature
4 ½ cups of all-purpose flour
2 tsp of salt
1 tsp of fresh grated nutmeg
1 tsp of grated lemon zest
1 tsp of vegetable oil
1 lb cream cheese at room temperature
4 cups of confectioner’s sugar
5 tbsp of milk at room temperature
3 tbsp of fresh lemon juice
Food coloring and/or purple, green, gold sprinkles
Step 1: Combine the yeast and sugar in a bowl and add the melted butter and warm milk. Beat at a low speed for one minute. With the mixture running, add the egg yolks, then beat for one minute at a low speed. Add the flour, salt, nutmeg, and zest, and beat until everything is incorporated. Blend well until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
Step 2: Remove the dough from the bowl. Using your hands, form the dough into a smooth ball. Lightly oil a bowl with vegetable oil. Place the dough in the bowl and make sure oil covers all of the dough. Cover the bowl with a plastic wrap and set aside in a warm, air-free place until it doubles in size: This will take about two hours.
Step 3: Time to make the filling! In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese and one cup of the confectioner’s sugar. Blend by hand or with an electric mixer at a low speed. Set aside once blended.
Step 4: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Step 5: Turn the dough out of the bowl onto a lightly floured work surface. Using your hands, pat the dough into a rectangle 30 inches long and 10 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 edge, pinching the dough together.
Step 6: Shape the dough into a cylinder and place in on the prepared baking sheet with the seam side down. Shape the dough into a ring and pinch the ends together so that there isn’t a seam. Let it sit for 45 minutes.
Step 7: Preheat oven to 350ºF.
Step 8: Once the 45 minutes are up, brush the top of the risen cake with two tbsp of the milk. Bake the cake until it’s golden brown, or 25-30 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool completely on a wire rack.
Step 9: Now it’s time to make the icing! Combine the remaining three tbsp of milk, lemon juice, and the remaining three cups of confectioner’s sugar in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Stir to blend everything together. Using a rubber spatula, spread the icing evenly over the top of the cake!
Step 10: EAT!