Thursday, March 6, 2014

Cake of the Week: Mardi Gras King Cake

Happy Mardi Gras!

Of course, in honor of such a garishly great holiday, our weekly Wednesday dinner party was Mardi Gras themed (a day late I know, but is it ever a bad time for shrimp and grits and garlic bread and King Cake? No.). RoommateRachel and another southern friend handled the shrimp jambalaya and cheesy (ooh so cheesy) grits, while I took on the cake of course.

This recipe looks high maintenance, and does require some spatial thinking ("Take the pieces of dough that are coming from the underneath of the center and cross it with the piece of dough to the right of it" and then spin around three times counterclockwise and then cross your left elbow over your right ankle), but it actually wasn't that hard!

King Cake is more like a giant challah bread cinnamon roll than regular cake. The yeast dough is super-simple, and it's filled with cinnamon and brown sugar. I made the dough, let it rise in the oven (that I had heated to 200 degrees and turned off), then set to rolling and braiding. This blog post gives really good step-by-step pictures and instructions.

So all was going according to plan an my pretty ball of braided dough was ready to go. I almost took a picture, but then thought no no, I'll wait until it's all risen and cooked and absolutely gorgeous before projecting this on Snapchat. So then I put it back into the oven to rise again...and 40 minutes later when I checked, it had kinda sorta melted! I think my error was filling it too full of brown sugar (I put in probably twice as much as the recipe called for). I also probably didn't knead the dough enough -- since I don't have a pastry hook I was doing this by hand.

But then I baked it -- my apartment smelled AMAZING -- and covered it in the most brightly-colored frosting I had. What I did not do, and recommend, is frosting with one color at a time and letting it sit for about 5 minutes between colors -- I think this would stop the colors from completely bleeding together.

Oh and I did not have a little plastic baby Jesus to hide in the cake. But I do have a tiny hippopotamus. So clearly that happened.

King Cake

Recipe from For the Love of the South

  • Combine ½ cup of brown sugar and 1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon in a bowl. Set aside.
  • 1 cup of warm water
  • 1 package dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted, cooled, plus more for brushing
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 3 cups of flour
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten for egg wash
  • 1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 teaspoons milk
  • green, purple, and yellow gel food coloring 
  1. Combine water, yeast and 1 tablespoon of sugar in a mixing bowl of a stand mixer for 5-10 minutes to bloom (or in a medium-sized bowl). 
  2. Add remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar, butter, and salt and mix on low with dough hook attachment for a few seconds (or a spoon if you don't have a mixer). 
  3. Add half of the flour and continue mixing for a few more seconds until the mixture begins to combine, and then add the rest of the flour. The dough will start to come together and stick to the dough hook attachment. 
  4. Transfer the dough into a large, butter-greased bowl and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour to double in size (I usually place the bowl of dough into an oven that has been preheated to 200 degrees and then shut off. It’s a warm place for the dough to rise on a cool day.) 
  5. Once the dough has risen, punch it down and divide the dough in half. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out until thin and slightly rectangular. Lightly brush the dough with melted butter, leaving a 2-inch border around the edges. Sprinkle half of the filling onto the dough.
  6. Roll the dough up tightly, longwise, beginning with the side closest to you (this step is a lot like making homemade cinnamon rolls.) Once the dough is in one long, snake-like shape, begin rolling the dough out with your palms gently until the length reaches about 2 feet. Cut the dough in half and continue with the other half.
  7. Once you have 4 equal pieces of rolled dough, place 2 pieces of dough side by side, and then place the remaining dough in a tic-tac-toe format. Take the pieces of dough that are coming from the underneath of the center and cross it with the piece of dough to the right of it. (Picture instructions here.)
  8. Then, take the pieces that are now on the underneath and cross them with the piece to the right of it.
  9. Continue until you run out of dough and tuck the remaining stragglers on the underbelly of the dough.
  10. Place dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, lightly brush with egg was and let rise in a warm spot for 1 hour.
  11. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
  12. Once the dough has risen, brush lightly with egg wash again and place in the oven for 30-35 minutes or until golden (if the bread browns too quickly, tent it with foil and let continue cooking.) Let cool while you prepare the icing (or if you don’t want to decorate the cake, EAT NOW!)
  13. Before icing: tuck your baby Jesus, or hippopotamus, into the cake. 
  14. Icing: in three small bowls, mix 1/2 cup powdered sugar and a splash of milk (be careful here -- small splashes!), and food coloring. Stir until smooth, then drizzle over the cake.