Friday, February 17, 2012

Mardi Gras King Cake

With Fat Tuesday coming up next week, I thought it was the perfect time to share this Mardi Gras King Cake recipe. If you haven't had King Cake before, then think of it as a giant cinnamon roll. There are many variations...some are stuffed with a cream cheese filling, others with pecans, and some are just plain gooey sugary cinnamon goodness like this one. But the one thing they have in common is that they all start with a yeasted sweet bread. Oh, and they all have a small plastic baby baked inside. Supposedly the baby represents Baby Jesus, and whoever gets the piece with the baby has to bring the King Cake next year. Just make sure to warn your friends that there might be something hidden inside! 

This King Cake was unbelievably good. Each sliced tasted like a giant Cinnabon roll. It took a little bit of time and effort to make but it was well worth it. Overall, it was a lot of fun to make, and I think this would be a great project for kids to help with. I'm sure they wouldn't mind helping with the frosting and sprinkles! 

Mardi Gras King Cake
Serving size: 1 cake

1/2 cup whole milk
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/3 cup warm water (105-110°)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 tsp. (1 packet) instant yeast
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
3/4 tsp. salt

2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 tbsp. whole milk

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
Food coloring

To prepare the dough, heat the milk in the microwave or in a saucepan just until bubbles begin to form around the edges. Remove from heat and add the butter. Let cool to room temperature. 

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the milk/butter mixture, water, sugar, and egg together until well combined. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, yeast, nutmeg, and salt together. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Remove the paddle attachment and switch to a dough hook. Knead the dough for 7 minutes.

Transfer the dough to a floured work surface and knead by hand until a smooth, round ball forms. Transfer the dough ball to a lightly oiled bowl, and turn to coat in the oil. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm area for 2 hours, or until doubled in size. Punch the dough down and transfer to a floured work surface. Roll the dough out into a large rectangle, about 10 x 16 in size. 

To prepare the filling, in a small bowl, whisk the brown sugar, cinnamon, and flour together. Stir in the melted butter. Using your hands, crumble the filling mixture evenly over the dough. Press gently on the filling to form an even layer, leaving a 1/2 inch border around the edges of the dough. 

Roll the dough up tightly, starting with the longer side, like a jelly roll. Place seam-side down. Bring the ends together to create an oval. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Gently cover with lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow to rise in a warm area for 45 minutes. 

Preheat the oven to 335° and adjust an oven rack to the middle position. Uncover the dough, and bake for 25 minutes, or until lightly golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. (Save the baking sheet with parchment paper for later). 

To prepare the frosting, in a medium bowl, whisk the confectioners' sugar, vanilla, and milk together until smooth. If the frosting is too thin, add more confectioners' sugar. If the frosting is too thick, add more milk until the desired consistency is reached. (Note: Do not prepare the frosting too far in advance because it hardens quickly.)

To prepare the sprinkles, divide the sugar into 3 plastic bags. Color the sprinkles purple, green, and yellow, by adding drops of food coloring to the sugar. Seal the bags and mix well with your hands to distribute the color. Keep adding food coloring until the desired colors are reached. 

To assemble the cake, place the cake and the cooling rack back on the baking sheet lined with parchment paper (this makes clean-up easier). Drizzle the frosting over the cake, and use the back of a spoon to smooth the top. (Note: If making a sprinkle pattern similar to the one in the picture above, only frost small sections of cake at a time, and add sprinkles immediately. The frosting hardens very quickly.) Top with sprinkles, as desired. Serve warm or at room temperature.

*Note: If you are going to add a plastic baby, then I recommend cutting a hole in the bottom after the cake has baked and placing the baby inside. Alternatively, you can use a whole pecan in place of a baby, or just place the baby on the side. 

Source: adapted from All Recipes

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