Sunday, February 14, 2010

King Cake from "My New Orleans"

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
Serves 10-12
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.


  1. I like the play of colors on the icing..... So wonderful!

    Sawadee from Bangkok,

  2. Very fun! I saw the cake in the book and wondered about it--I had heard of King's Cake before but have never tried it. It looks and sounds delicious!

  3. love all the colors too muc as have grown to love ur blog and u u like awards kim?

  4. I love it! The kids would go crazy for this!

  5. I've never tried it before either, but the way you describe it, it sounds wonderful.
    *kisses* HH

  6. The dough for this reminds me a lot of the Easter bread my grandmother used to make. I am definitely going to try it...since she can no longer make it (or remember the recipe) it would be so nice if I could recreate it for everyone.

    It really came out gorgeous Kim! Love your resourcefulness with the sugars.

  7. WOW! This is looks really pretty and yummy. Can't wait to try it.

  8. Oh Kim - what a grand cake!Beautiful and luscious ad decorated so festively. I now ave a taste for it....any leftovers?

  9. Great job, Kim. It's beautiful! Happy Mardi Gras!

  10. So I've always wondered....where does one find babies for the king cake? Is there a king cake baby outlet store?

  11. Chris - LOL! I bought a package of plastic babies at a party store in the baby aisle. They are all sitting in my kitchen drawer now and my son likes to take them out and ask me to put clothes on them!

  12. Never ever tried a King Cake, but I am a huge cake fan so I can't see why I wouldn't like it--yours looks great!!

  13. It looks like a delicious cake. I'll wager it made your table look very festive. You really did a great job on it. Have a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

  14. I am so impressed! I promised my student's I would bring a King Cake to school tomorrow and I had all the intentions in the world of making Besh's recipe. HOWEVER, I watching soaps, enjoying my day off so I don't think baking a cake is in the cards for me today. Publix here i come :)

  15. what a fun cake, and i love the plastic baby in there, lol! i could see this turning into such a fun tradition for the family! you did a good job with that braid too.

  16. This cake looks so festive. It must have been fun for the kids to see who got the feve!

  17. This looks so colorful and fun! I can't wait to try it!

  18. Wow! I love the colors!!!That is a beautiful cake, Kim!!!

  19. Great job, Kim! I saw a few recipes for King Cake in the magazines I read while on vacation. I'd considered making the one with a can of refrigerated cinnamon buns. Then I stepped on the scale. Two pounds in just one week and weigh in on Saturday...gulp! Your cake looks awesome; maybe next year.

  20. Very impressive - and what a fun idea! All the colored sugars look so pretty and festive.

  21. Oh wow - this came out perfectly! I am glad your daughter got the good luck slice with the baby! :)

  22. What a fun tradition! I can just imagine how wonderful it smelled while baking!

  23. While reading other blogs, I've recently discovered the king cake. Now I definitely want to try. Yours looks delicious! Very resourceful of you to color your own sugar.

  24. What a lovely King cake Kim. It turned out so beautiful. How fun to get a New Orleans cookbook. That city really knows how to eat.

  25. I've always wanted to make one of these cakes too. Your discription of it makes me want to all the more now. It's beautiful! I love that you made your own colored sugar!

  26. I have the book too - I love it! Your King Cake looks so pretty. I've always wanted to make one too, but wasn't sure of the taste. I'm convinced now of it's deliciousness!

  27. Thanks for leaving a comment on my blog about my first King Cake. I had such fun with it. Actually about 4 of us were going to make it together on Twitter and everyone else bailed out at the last minute, but I still had fun. I love how yours is braided...mine was just a single rope. Next year I am going to make a braided version. This year, one of the guys on Twitter who is a bread baker made a braided one, then piped Bavarian Cream Cheese icing through it at the end before frosting it. OMW did that look wonderful...going to try that next year. Yours looks just beautiful!

  28. This looks wonderful! We have King cake here in Belgium, but it's for January 6, Epiphany. I like the idea of making it for Mardi Gras too!

  29. Your King Cake sounds delicious and next year for sure I'm making a King Cake!


Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment! At the moment I am having a huge problem with spam so I've had to add comment moderation and close off comments to anonymous users. I apologize for the trouble and hope to return my comments to normal shortly.