The King Cake, baked with a small plastic baby hidden inside, is a New Orleans tradition for a Mardi Gras party.  Rich in tradition, the King Cake is a cross between a coffee cake and a French pastry and is decorated in royal colors of purple (justice), green (faith), and gold (power). These colors were chosen to resemble a jeweled crown honoring the Wise Men who visited the Christ Child. Here’s our take on The King Cake:

Ingredients

(This recipe makes 2 cakes)

Pastry:

  •  1 cup milk
  •  1/4 cup butter
  •  2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
  •  2/3 cup warm water
  •  1/2 cup white sugar
  •  2 eggs
  •  1 1/2 tsp salt
  •  1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  •  5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Filling:

  •  1 cup packed brown sugar
  •  1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  •  2/3 cup chopped pecans
  •  1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  •  1/2 cup raisins
  •  1/2 cup melted butter

Frosting:

  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tbsp water
  • Purple, green and gold food colors or sanding sugar, for decorating

Directions

  1. Scald milk, remove from heat and stir in 1/4 cup of butter. Allow mixture to cool to room temperature.
  2. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in the warm water with 1 tablespoon of the white sugar. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
  3. When yeast mixture is bubbling, add the cooled milk mixture. Whisk in the eggs. Stir in the remaining white sugar, salt and nutmeg.
  4. Beat the flour into the milk/egg mixture 1 cup at a time. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  5. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 2 hours.
  6. When risen, punch down and divide dough in half.
  7. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  8. Grease 2 cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.
  9. For the filling:  Combine the brown sugar, ground cinnamon, chopped pecans, 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup raisins. Pour 1/2 cup melted butter over the cinnamon mixture and mix until crumbly.
  10. Roll dough halves out into large rectangles (approximately 10×16 inches or so). Sprinkle the filling evenly over the dough and roll up each half tightly like a jelly roll, beginning at the wide side.
  11. Bring the ends of each roll together to form 2 oval-shaped rings. Place each ring on a prepared cookie sheet.
  12. With scissors make cuts 1/3 of the way through the rings at 1 inch intervals. Let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
  13. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Push the doll into the bottom of the cake (some people add the baby to the filling mix before baking and bake it right in the cake).
  14. Make the icing by mixing the confectioners’ sugar with 1 to 2 tablespoons of water and separate into 3 batches.  Add the food coloring to make a green, purple and gold batch (or just make the icing white and sprinkle with colored sanding sugar.
  15. Frost while warm.

The tradition is that the person who finds the baby in their piece of cake becomes the king for the day.  They are also the one that hosts the next Mardi Gras party and provides the next King Cake.