Months ago, I received a copy of John Besh's new cookbook, My New Orleans, from a giveaway hosted by Deb of Kahakai Kitchen. My New Orleans is an amazing cookbook, full of stories, great photos and pure love for the city of New Orleans. There is an entire chapter devoted to Mardi Gras, with many wonderful recipes. I have always wanted to try a King Cake, so I chose this recipe to celebrate Fat Tuesday coming up this week.
The dough is enriched with butter and eggs and is wonderfully fragrant with cinnamon and nutmeg. Besh braids his cake, dividing the dough into three equal parts, and rolling into three equal ropes.
The ropes are braided and the ends pinched to seal the seams. The cake is baked for 30 minutes in a 375F oven
Once the cake has cooled for 30 minutes, it is time to decorate the cake. I took this opportunity to put the plastic baby in before decorating. Can you see his little head peeking out?
The icing is a delicious combination of powdered sugar, fresh lemon juice, and condensed milk.
While the icing is still wet, you top the cake with purple, gold and green decorative sugars. I couldn't find any decorative sugars, so I made my own using food coloring and normal granulated sugar.King Cake
adapted from "My New Orleans" by John Besh
For the Cake:
1 cup lukewarm milk, about 110F
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons dry yeast
3-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup melted butter
5 egg yolks, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grated fresh lemon zest
3 teaspoons cinnamon
Several gratings of fresh nutmeg
For the Icing:
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup condensed milk
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Purple, green, and gold decorative sugars
1 feve (fava bean) or plastic baby to hide in the cake after baking
For the cake, pour the warm milk into a large bowl. Whisk in the granulated sugar, yeast, and a heaping tablespoon of the flour, mixing until both the sugar and the yeast have dissolved.
Once bubbles have developed on the surface of the milk and it begins to foam, whisk in the butter, eggs, vanilla, and lemon zest. Add the remaining flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg and fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients with a large rubber spatula.
After the dough comes together, pulling away from the sides of the bowl, shape it into a large ball. Knead the dough on a floured surface until it is smooth and elastic, about 15 minutes.
Put the dough back into the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside in a draft-free place to let it proof, or rise for 1-1/2 hours or until the dough has doubled in volume.
Preheat the oven to 375F. Once the dough has risen, punch it down and divide the dough into 3 equal pieces. Roll each piece of dough between your palms into a long strip, making 3 ropes of equal length. Braid the 3 ropes around one another and then form the braided loaf into a circle, pinching ends together to seal. Gently lay the braided dough on a nonstick cookie sheet and let it rise until it doubles in size, about 30 minutes.
Once it's doubled in size, place the cookie sheet in the oven and bake until the braid is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven, place on a wire rack, and allow to cool for 3o minutes.
For the icing, while the cake is cooling, whisk together the powdered sugar, condensed milk, and lemon juice in a bowl until the icing is smooth and very spreadable. If the icing is too thick, add a bit more condensed milk; if it's a touch too loose, add a little more powdered sugar.
Once the cake has cooled, spread the icing over the top of the cake and sprinkle with purple, green, and gold decorative sugars while the icing is still wet. Tuck the feve or plastic baby into the underside of the cake and, using a spatula, slide the cake onto a platter.
Whoever gets the piece of cake with the baby, or feve, is said to have good luck. However, they are also responsible for buying the King Cake next year. The kids go crazy for the baby!
Notes/Results: I have never made or tasted a King Cake before, but as soon as I smelled the dough I knew that I was going to love it. The dough smells of cinnamon rolls (yum) and is smooth, easy to work with, and wonderfully fragrant with cinnamon and nutmeg flecked throughout. The only change I made was to use about double the amount of condensed milk to achieve the right consistency. The icing itself is delicious and I had a very hard time keeping my daughter's hands out of the bowl. This is a very fun cake to make, with the decorative sugars and the whole idea of hiding the baby and all. My daughter was so excited to get the piece of cake with the baby. Definitely a kid-friendly recipe to make. I can see myself making this recipe again next year.