Mardi Gras King Cake

1/2 c. warm water
2 packages active dry yeast
1/2 c. plus 1 tsp. sugar
About 5 cups of flour, more or less as needed
1 tsp. nutmeg
2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. warm milk
5 large egg yolks
1 stick plus 2 T. butter, cut in slices and softened
1 egg slightly beaten with 1 T. of milk
lots of ground cinnamon (I used about 3-5 tablespoons)
1 tiny plastic doll (you can find the dolls at a party store in the baby shower section)

Optional Cream Cheese Filling all creamed together:

1 8-ounce pkg. cream cheese
1 c. confectioner’s sugar
2 T. flour
1 tsp. vanilla extract
a few drops of milk

Cake Directions:

Pour the warm water into a small shallow bowl and sprinkle yeast and 2 teaspoons of sugar into it. Allow the yeast and sugar to rest for several minutes, then mix thoroughly. Set yeast mixture in a warm place for 10 minutes (I put mine in front of a space heater). Combine 3 and 1/2 cups of flour, remaining sugar, nutmeg, a tablespoon of cinnamon and salt in a large mixing bowl. Make sure the ingredients are all mixed up.

Separate center of mixture to form a hole and pour in yeast mixture and milk. Add egg yolks and using a wooden spoon, combine dry ingredients into the yeast and milk mixture. When mixture is smooth, beat in 8 tablespoons butter, 1 tablespoon at a time. Soften the butter in the microwave but be careful not to let it totally melt.

This is the arm work. Keep stirring the mixture for about 5 minutes. It will start to get really elastic. The recipe claims that it will turn into a “medium soft ball” but in neither attempts did this occur until I started mixing in a little more flour.

I used my counter top to knead the dough, cleaning it well ahead of time and cover it in flour. Keep kneading it and adding more flour until it’s no longer sticky. Knead for another 10 minutes until “shiny and elastic.”

Using a pastry brush, coat the inside of a large bowl evenly with one tablespoon softened butter. Place dough ball in the bowl and rotate until the entire surface is buttered. Cover bowl with a heavier kitchen towel and allow dough to rise in a warm place for about 1 and 1/2 hours or until it doubles in volume.

Coat a large baking sheet with one tablespoon of butter and set aside. After the first rising, place the dough on a floured surface and punch it down with a heavy blow.

On second attempt I decided to split the dough in half and make two cakes. They fit better on the pan, were less doughy (which was kind of not good) and allowed for a filed and plain version.

Beat the dough out into a long rectangle. Sprinkle a good deal of cinnamon over the middle of the rectangle. For the cream cheese filled variety, spread it over the middle. Fold the rectangle in half long ways and twist so it’s spiral shaped.

Then bend it around to make an oval, pinching the ends together. Place it on the buttered cookie sheet.

Place the completed ring on the buttered baking sheet, cover it with a towel and allow it to rise for 45 minutes or until it doubles in volume. After the second rising, brush the top and sides of the cake with the egg and milk wash. Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for 25-35 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack and hide the plastic baby inside the cake.

For the cake pictured above, I just used food dye to color store bought icing. But last time I made a really delicious royal icing recipe.

For the icing:

5 tablespoons powdered egg whites (found on the baking aisle of your local grocery store)
6 tablespoons water
1 pound powdered sugar
2 tablespoon vanilla
food dye

Combine all ingredients except vanilla and food coloring. Beat with a hand mixer until they form a stiff peak. I did this once using real egg whites and it took much longer to get to peak.

Stir in vanilla and food dye and spread away.

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