Use this easy recipe to recreate a New Orleans favorite at home. This King Cake, while typically associated with the Mardi Gras holiday, is worthy of being served at any time of year. This stunning centerpiece is surprisingly simple to make but tastes like a holiday dream thanks to the enriched dough and colorful sanding sugar.
In spite of its name, this is a cinnamon-flavored enriched yeasted bread very similar to my brioche recipe. The dough is sweet and the filling is cinnamon sugar, so the flavor is reminiscent of cinnamon rolls. This recipe is for a beautiful and colorful bread, perfect for any party, that is traditionally eaten during the Carnival season and decorated in the purple, green, and yellow colors of Mardi Gras.
Materials Required for This Recipe
- Always make sure your yeast hasn’t passed its expiration date. If the yeast’s expiration date has passed, you should replace it with fresh yeast.
- When it comes to butter, make sure you get unsalted and not salted. Since the salt content of salted butter varies widely between brands, it is necessary to add salt to the brioche dough in a separate step to avoid oversalting the finished product.
- Brown sugar — the sugar adds a delicious caramel-like flavor to the filling and pairs well with the cinnamon. See my brown sugar-making manual if you need a replacement.
- Powdered sugar; if you don’t have any, you can learn how to make it at home by reading my article.
- Sanding sugar—you’ll need purple, green, and yellow sanding sugar to decorate the king cake. You can use food coloring to change the color of white sanding sugar.
For the Dough:
- ▢3¼ to 3½ cups all-purpose flour (390g-420g)
- ▢⅓ cup granulated sugar (66g)
- ▢1 packet instant yeast (7g, 0.25oz)
- ▢1 teaspoon salt
- ▢¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
- ▢½ cup warm milk (110-120F / 120ml)
- ▢½ cup unsalted butter melted (113g)
- ▢3 large eggs room temperature
- ▢½ teaspoon vanilla extract
For the Filling:
- ▢¾ cup light brown sugar firmly packed(165g)
- ▢2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ▢4 tablespoons unsalted butter melted (57g)
For the Icing:
- ▢1¼ cup powdered sugar (150g)
- ▢2 tablespoons milk
- ▢½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ▢green, purple, and yellow sanding sugar
A RECIPE FOR THE KING’S CAKE
- Gather the ingredients for the cake dough and place them in the bowl of a stand mixer: 3 1/4 cups flour, sugar, yeast, salt, and nutmeg. Combine the milk, butter, eggs, and vanilla extract. For about 15 minutes, while using the dough hook attachment, mix until a smooth and sticky dough forms. If, after 15 minutes, you still find that the dough sticks to your finger, work in the remaining 1/4 cup of flour.
- Allow the dough to double in size while covered. The dough should then be rolled and stretched into a ten-by-twenty-inch rectangle. Make the filling while you wait.
- Brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter should be mixed together in a small bowl and stirred until smooth.
- Cover the dough with the filling, saving a 1-inch strip of dough along one long side.
- To make a log, begin rolling the dough along the long side opposite the border and pinch the seam to seal. Facing the seam down, roll. Form a wreath by bringing the two ends together and pinching them together. Just cover it and wait for it to double in size.
- When the dough has risen, cut slits about a third of the way through, about an inch apart around the circumference of the dough ring using a sharp knife or kitchen shears. Then, place in the oven and cook for 25-30 minutes, checking frequently. Transfer to a serving platter after completely cooling on the pan.
- Mix powdered sugar and milk in a small bowl until the mixture is thick enough to be spooned. Spread the icing all over the top of the cake with a spoon, then push it down the sides so it runs off the cake.
- Use sections of green, purple, and yellow sanding sugar to decorate the king cake in alternating patterns.
HOW TO MAKE THIS RECIPE LIKE A PRO
- A digital scale is ideal for accurately measuring flour, so I suggest using one. Fluff your flour with a spoon, sprinkle it into your cups, and then level it off with a knife if you don’t have a scale. The measuring cup should never be overfilled.
- Overmixing the batter can cause tough, dry, and dense king cakes because the gluten in the batter is over-developed.
- To prevent overmixing and ensure even distribution of the eggs, bring them to room temperature before adding them to the batter. Put the eggs in a large bowl, cover them with warm tap water, and let them sit at room temperature for 5 minutes if you forgot to do so earlier.
- The dough’s rising time will vary based on the ambient temperature in your kitchen. The dough should rise between 75 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Make sure the dough is tightly rolled so that there are no air pockets when baked.
- Too hot of milk will kill the yeast, so aim for a temperature of 110 to 120F.
- Try out a variety of fillings for your King Cake. Mix some extract, such as vanilla or citrus zest, into the dough. Substitute the cinnamon in the filling for any other baking spice you like. Another option is to sprinkle finely chopped nuts or grated semisweet chocolate over the filling before rolling.
- Braiding is another option for making this king cake. Before spreading the dough with the cinnamon-sugar mixture, cut it into three long strips. Shape the dough into a wreath by rolling it into logs, then braiding it into three strips and pressing the ends together.
A BABY ON TOP OF MY CAKE, PLEASE!
It is possible! To ensure the dough rises with the baby inside, add the baby before rolling the dough. By doing it this way, the infant is safe within the dough. If you want to include a baby in your king cake, make sure to get one of the plastic babies made especially for king cakes so it doesn’t melt during baking. Instead of baking the baby, you could just put it under a slice of pizza.
We don’t understand why a baby has to be here.
The addition of a baby to the king cake is a popular Mardi Gras custom. The baby, a representation of Jesus, is a symbol of good fortune and growth. So, whoever gets the baby-shaped slice can expect a prosperous year! Whoever gets this honor also has to bring the cake the following year.
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