It’s “Why can’t every day be Fat Tuesday?” delicious! It’s “Please Mom, why can’t I have a third piece?” delicious! It’s “To heck with that resolution, life is short and I want CAKE!” delicious!
King Cake is a staple of Mardi Gras festivities, Mardi Gras being the joyful and exuberant two week period ending with Fat Tuesday. Throughout much of Europe and the Southern United States, Mardi Gras is when Christians indulge in butter, eggs, sugar, and other luxuries, in preparation for the coming austerity of Lent. As you can see from the recipe below, King Cake is chock full of rich and delicious ingredients. Lent is approaching… let’s enjoy this King Cake now!
For the cake:
1 cup milk
1 cup sugar
1 cup butter
4 eggs, lightly beaten
6 – 7 cups flour
For the filling:
3/4 package (6 ounces) cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup raspberry jam
For the frosting:
1/4 package (2 ounces) cream cheese
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup milk
food coloring (if desired; I used purple)
decorations (I used gold dragees/nonpareils and green sugar)
Step 1) Heat 1 cup milk, 1 cup sugar, and 1 cup butter in a large pot (the pot will function as a mixing bowl, so use a big pot). Once butter is melted, remove saucepan from heat. Allow to cool to lukewarm.
Step 2) After the milk mixture has cooled slightly, stir in yeast and beaten eggs. Slowly stir in 6 cups of flour. Dump the dough onto a floured counter top.
Step 3) Knead dough with your hands until the dough is nice and smooth, about 6 – 8 minutes. Add additional 1 cup or so of flour as needed to prevent sticking.
Step 4) Place dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover with a slightly damp cloth (a clean kitchen towel works well) and set dough in a warm (not hot) place to rise for 1 hour.
Step 5) After 1 hour, divide dough in half. On a lightly floured counter top, roll into two approximate rectangles, each approximately 2 feet long and 6 inches wide.
Step 6) Spread raspberry jam down the center of one rectangle. Fold the sides over the jam to make a long, skinny rectangle of dough with the jam trapped in the center.
Step 7) Blend together 6 ounces of cream cheese, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1/2 cup of sugar. Spread this mixture down the center of the second rectangle, and fold the same way as the first rectangle (see photo, above).
Step 8) Place the long, skinny rectangles right next to each other and simply twist them together. You can leave them in a long line to make a straight King Cake, or shape the twisted dough into a wreath as shown.
Step 9) Carefully transfer the unbaked King Cake to a well greased baking sheet. Use a big baking sheet, as the King Cake will expand in the oven! If possible, have someone help you move the dough.
Step 10) Bake your King Cake in a preheated 325 degree oven for 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown and sounds a bit hollow when tapped with your fingertip. If you are baking a wreath-shaped cake, place a few well greased canning jars in the center to help retain the shape.
Step 12) While your King Cake cools, blend together 2 ounces of cream cheese, 2 cups powdered sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, and milk to make frosting. Add the milk only 1 tablespoon at a time – you don’t want runny frosting! Add food coloring if desired, keeping in mind that traditional King Cake colors are purple, green, and gold.