Mardi Gras King Cake

King Cake wholeThis cake is so very, very delicious.

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!

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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!

WIN_20160128_133351Ingredients (Makes 1 large King Cake, serves 16)

For the cake:

1 cup milk

1 cup sugar

1 cup butter

WIN_20160128_1542502 envelopes of yeast

4 eggs, lightly beaten

6 – 7 cups flour

For the filling:

3/4 package (6 ounces) cream cheese

WIN_20160128_1544181 teaspoon vanilla extract

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)

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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).

WIN_20160128_163110Step 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.

WIN_20160128_172259Step 11) Remove King Cake from oven and immediately remove jars from center of wreath. Use the largest spatula you can find to help transfer your King Cake to a wire rack for cooling.

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.

Step 13) When your King Cake is completely cool, drizzle ribbons of frosting all over the top. Sprinkle with colored sugar or other decorations. Enjoy!
King Cake slice






No-Fuss Jambalaya

WIN_20160126_191619Jambalaya originated in the bayou region of the American South, a one-pot creation offered up by Cajun cooks with whatever ingredients they had on hand. Creole cooks in the New Orleans region add tomatoes to this dish, which add color and depth of flavor. This is peasant food, and like all peasant food, it’s as flexible as it is delicious. Don’t be precious about the ingredients… if you don’t have something handy, do as a good Cajun cook would, and substitute!

Whether you’re cooking up a pot of Jambalaya as part of a Fat Tuesday Mardi Gras celebration, or just looking for a way to use up some leftover meat on a random Tuesday night, you’re sure to love this dish!

WIN_20160126_180715Ingredients (Makes 1 big ol’ pot, plenty for friends!)

1 tablespoon butter

2 stalks of celery, sliced 1/3 inch thick

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1/2 cup diced onion

1/2 cup diced green pepper

2 cups diced tomatoes and juice (fresh or canned)

4 cups chicken broth

3 cups uncooked rice

1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce (more if desired)

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon dried, crushed thyme

1 teaspoon celery salt

1/2 teaspoon file powder (optional; also called sassafras “gumbo” powder)

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper (or red cayenne pepper)

2 cups cooked, sliced sausage (Andouille sausage or whatever you prefer)

2 cups cooked chicken (shredded, cubed, whatever you prefer)

2 cups cooked shrimp


Step 1) In a large pot, saute celery, garlic, and onion in butter until onion is soft.

Step 2) Add green pepper, tomatoes, chicken broth, rice, Tabasco, Worcestershire, and spices. Stir. Bring to a boil.

Step 3) Reduce heat and cover the pot. Gently simmer until liquid is almost all absorbed and rice is cooked, approximately 15 – 20 minutes. CHECK the rice after 10 minutes, and again after 20 minutes. If liquid is mostly absorbed before rice is cooked, add 1/2 cup to 1 cup of additional broth or water. Jambalaya is “mostly dry” when finished – the rice should be a little bit saucy, but not drowning in liquid like soup.

Step 4) When rice is tender, gently fold in the sausage, chicken, and shrimp. Serve Jambalaya hot and enjoy with friends!


Hidden Gumdrop Cookies


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Popular with children, these colorful cookies have a hidden surprise – a gumdrop baked into the center! We used green gumdrops and purple icing (which could also work for Mardi Gras) for our Hidden Gumdrop Cookies. Feel free to use a variety of gumdrop colors and frosting shades, to create a festive, multicolored cookie platter!

Ingredients (Makes 30 cookies)

30 gumdrop candies

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1 2/3 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

WIN_20151103_151134For the icing:

1 tablespoon butter, softened

1 cup powdered sugar

1 tablespoon rum

1 drop food coloring (any color you wish)

colored sugar, optional


Step 1) Cream together butter and sugar. Add egg and almond extract; mix well.

Step 2) Stir in flour, baking powder, and cream of tartar. Refrigerate dough in a covered container for at least two hours or overnight.

Step 3) Roll chilled dough 1/4 inch thick on a floured countertop. Cut 2 WIN_20151103_1426151/2 inch circles out of dough.

Step 4) Place a gumdrop in the center of each circle, and fold/roll the dough so that you have spheres of dough with a gumdrop in the center of each.

Step 5) Bake cookie spheres on baking sheets lined with parchment paper in a 375 degree oven for 8 – 10 minutes, or until the bottoms of the cookies begin to brown. Cookies will spread, so be sure to allow about 2 inches of space between spheres of dough.

Step 6) While cookies cool, blend together butter, powdered sugar, rum, and food coloring for icing. Pipe icing onto the center of each cooled cookie, right over the gumdrop (a sandwich bag with a corner snipped off works well as a homemade pastry bag). Sprinkle with colored sugar, and Voila! Your Hidden Gumdrop Cookies are ready to enjoy!

HINT: Hidden Gumdrop Cookies freeze well, but should be allowed to thaw completely before serving. Who wants to eat frozen gumdrops? Not me!

Mardi Gras Lemon Sweet Rolls


Mardi Gras, also known as Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, and Pancake Day, is the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of the Christian observation of Lent.  The forty days of Lent are considered by followers of many Christian denominations to be a season for reflection, penance, and atonement. As such, it is also a time when many Christians forego indulgent foods including butter and sugar.

Mardi Gras is “the last hurrah” – the last opportunity to participate in revelry, including the joyful consumption of rich and fatty foods – before settling into an extended period of austerity.  This recipe is perfect for Mardi Gras, being laden with butter, eggs, and sugar.  These Lemon Sweet Rolls are really a cross between a yeast roll and a donut.  I used my German Great-Grandmother’s stollen recipe as a base for the dough, adding candied lemon, a boozy lemon icing, and decorations appropriate for this festive day. Enjoy!

WIN_20150128_150210Ingredients (Makes approximately 50 small rolls)

1 cup milk

1 cup sugar

1 cup butter

WIN_20150128_1521312 envelopes yeast

4 eggs, lightly beaten

6 cups flour (plus more for kneading)

1 cup diced, candied lemon peel

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

WIN_20150128_1529553 tablespoons Lemoncello or other lemon-flavored liqueur

Green, Purple, and Gold decorations (colored sugar sprinkles, or whatever else catches your eye!)


WIN_20150128_164417Step 1) Heat milk, sugar, and butter in a saucepan over low heat just until butter melts.  Allow to cool for a few minutes until mixture is not hot, but is still lukewarm.

Step 2) Add yeast. Stir and let sit for 2 minutes.

Step 3) Add eggs, then add flour, stirring in WIN_20150128_171620one cup at a time.

Step 4) Turn loosely combined dough onto a floured countertop and knead for 8 minutes.  If dough is sticky, knead in a bit more flour. Knead in candied lemon peel.

Step 5) Place dough in a large, greased bowl. Turn over once so that both sides of the dough are greased. Cover bowl with a clean towel and allow to rise in a warm place for 1 hour.

Step 6) After 1 hour, cut golfball-sized pieces of dough and shape them into smooth balls. Allow to rise on greased baking sheets, 2 inches apart, for 30 minutes.

Step 7) Bake in a preheated, 375 degree oven for 15 minutes, or until tops just begin to brown. Place rolls on a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.

Step 8) Stir together powdered sugar and Lemoncello. Dip tops of rolls in the icing, and add decorations! Voila!