A little history about King Cake. King Cake is a traditional cake made to honor the three kings that visited Baby Jesus on the Epiphany. King Cake is eaten from the 12th Day of Christmas until Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. It is a rich pastry that is similar to a brioche dough; sometimes filled with various fillings, but always decorated with purple, green, and yellow sugar sprinkles. The purple sugar represents justice, the green represents faith, and the yellow represents power.
I had the best time making this Mardi Gras King Cake. I made it awhile ago for a project that ended up not getting published so I am sharing it with you now. The kids and I made it together and had fun adding the colored sprinkles. They were super excited to see who would get the baby. I sent Will to school with the piece with the baby the next day and that was the first thing that he told me when I went to pick him up. I am making a few more this week to celebrate Fat Tuesday at our school. It should be so much fun to do with the class. This dough is beautiful to work with and is soft and tender. Amazing.
The most fun part of eating a King Cake is finding the baby that is baked inside. The baby can be a plastic baby, a pecan half, or an uncooked dried bean. The bean represents the Baby Jesus. The person that gets the slice with the baby is said to have good luck for the year, and also gets to host the next King Cake party.
This recipe yields one very large filled King Cake.
For the dough:
1/2 cup warm water
2 packages yeast
2 teaspoons sugar
4 to 5 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 cup warm milk
1/2 cup melted butter, cooled
5 egg yolks
zest of one lemon
King Cake Baby
For the cream cheese filling:
1 (8-ounce) package room temperature cream cheese
1 cup confectioners sugar
2 Tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons lemon juice
For the icing:
2 cup confectioners sugar
4 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
purple, green, and yellow
Combine the warm water with the yeast and 2 teaspoons of sugar. Mix it together and let sit for about 10 minutes.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine 4 cups of flour, sugar, salt, nutmeg, lemon zest, milk, melted butter, egg yolks, and yeast mixture.
Using the dough hook, knead until the dough pulls away from the sides of the mixer. If the dough is very wet, you can add up to one more cup flour. Knead for 5 minutes.
Turn the dough out into bowl that has been coated with cooking spray. Turn the dough in the cooking spray and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise until it has doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.
Mix together the cream cheese, confectioners sugar, flour, vanilla, and lemon juice. Set aside.
Roll the dough into a rectangle about 30 inches long. Spread the cream cheese mixture evenly on the dough.
Roll the dough into a cylinder.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Put a mason jar in the middle and wrap the dough around the jar. Tuck the ends together to form a ring. Cover with a towel and let rise for another 45 minutes.
Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until golden brown. Take the mason jar out and let cool.
Make the icing by whisking the confectioners sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla.
Hello baby! Press the plastic baby into the cake. Please be smarter than me. Press it underneath the king cake, not on the top.
Cover the King Cake with the icing and sprinkle the cake with sugars alternating the colors.
Isn’t this festive and beautiful?
Just like him.