A Traditional Mardi Gras King Cake

 BY GIL MARKS

 

Prep Time: 3 Hours 30 Minutes
Cook Time: 25 Minutes

Servings: 1 medium ring, 8-12 servings
(For a crowd, double the recipe to make a large cake or two medium cakes)

DOUGH INGREDIENTS:
1 package active dry yeast (¼-ounce/7 grams/2¼ teaspoons); 1 cake fresh yeast (0.6-ounce/18 grams); or 2 teaspoons instant yeast
1/4 cup warm water (105 to 115°F for dry yeast; 80 to 85°F for fresh yeast)
1/2 cup warm milk (105 to 115°F for dry yeast; 80 to 85°F for fresh yeast) or sour cream
1/4 cup granulated sugar (1.75 ounces/50 grams)
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened (½ stick/2 ounces/57 grams)
2 large egg yolks or 1 large egg
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon or cardamom (optional)
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
1/8 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest (optional)
2 teaspoon grated orange zest or orange blossom water (optional)
2¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour or bread flour (9.5 ounces/275 grams)
1/4 -1/2 cup chopped candied citron, ½ cup chopped mixed candied fruit, or ½ cup golden raisins (5 ounces/140 grams)
Egg wash (1 large egg beaten with 1 teaspoon milk or water)

CINNAMON FILLING INGREDIENTS (OPTIONAL):
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar (3.75 ounces/105 grams)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (1.25 ounces/35 grams)
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch salt
2/3 cup chopped slightly toasted pecans (2.5 ounces/70 grams), or 1/3 cup pecans (1.25 ounces/35 grams) and ¼ cup raisins (1.25 ounces/35 grams)
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted (½ stick/2 ounces/57 grams)
1 pecan half, large bean, or other token (optional)

ICING INGREDIENTS:
1 cup confectioners’ sugar (4 ounces/115 grams)
2 Tablespoon unsalted butter, softened (¼ stick/1 ounce/28 grams), or ¼ cup cream cheese, softened (2 ounces/57 grams) (optional)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or ¼ teaspoon almond extract
about 1 tbsp milk, buttermilk, fresh lemon juice, or water
a few drops gold food coloring or 2 to 4 tablespoons yellow colored sugar (optional)
a few drops green food coloring or 2 to 4 tablespoons green colored sugar (optional)
a few drops purple food coloring or 2 to 4 tablespoons purple colored sugar (optional)

YOU WILL ALSO NEED:
Mixing bowls, flat surface for kneading and rolling, rolling pin, pastry brush, baking sheet, cooling rack

 

DIRECTIONS:
To make the dough: In a small bowl or measuring cup, dissolve the yeast in the water. Stir in 1 teaspoon sugar and let stand until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes.

 

 

A traditional recipe for King Cake from food historian Gil Marks on The History Kitchen

In a large bowl, combine the yeast mixture, milk, sugar, butter, egg yolks, salt, and, for a flavored dough (but omit this if you are using a filling), the spice or zest.

 

 

A traditional recipe for King Cake from food historian Gil Marks on The History KitchenBlend in 1½ cups flour.

 

 

A traditional recipe for King Cake from food historian Gil Marks on The History KitchenGradually add enough of the remaining flour to make a soft workable dough.

 

 

A traditional recipe for King Cake from food historian Gil Marks on The History Kitchen

On a lightly floured surface or in a mixer with a dough hook, knead the dough until smooth and springy, about 5 minutes.

 

A traditional recipe for King Cake from food historian Gil Marks on The History KitchenKnead in the citron, mixed candied fruit or golden raisins.

 

 

A traditional recipe for King Cake from food historian Gil Marks on The History Kitchen

Place in an oiled bowl and turn to coat. Cover with a kitchen towel or loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours, or in the refrigerator overnight.

 

 

A traditional recipe for King Cake from food historian Gil Marks on The History Kitchen

TO MAKE THE OPTIONAL FILLING: In a medium bowl, combine the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the pecans. Drizzle the butter over top and mix until crumbly.

 

 

A traditional recipe for King Cake from food historian Gil Marks on The History KitchenPunch down the dough and knead briefly.

 

image: http://toriavey.com/images/2014/02/KingCake8-640×480.jpg

A traditional recipe for King Cake from food historian Gil Marks on The History KitchenIF USING THE FILLING: Roll the dough into a 16- by 10-inch rectangle, spread evenly with the filling, leaving 1 inch uncovered on all sides. If using a token, place it on the rectangle – be sure to warn your guests.

 

 

 

A traditional recipe for King Cake from food historian Gil Marks on The History KitchenBeginning from a long end, roll up jelly roll style.

 

 

A traditional recipe for King Cake from food historian Gil Marks on The History Kitchen

Then bring the ends together to form an oval. THK NOTE- ours ended up looking more like a circle. For an oval shape, you may wish to make a longer, thinner rectangle.

 

 

A traditional recipe for King Cake from food historian Gil Marks on The History Kitchen

Place on a parchment paper-lined or greased baking sheet, seam side down. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap spritzed with cooking spray and let rise at room temperature until nearly doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

 

 

A traditional recipe for King Cake from food historian Gil Marks on The History KitchenPosition a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Brush the dough with the egg wash.

 

image: http://toriavey.com/images/2014/02/KingCake24-640×480.jpg

A traditional recipe for King Cake from food historian Gil Marks on The History KitchenBake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack.

IF NOT FILLING THE CAKE: Divide the dough in half and shape each half into a 24-inch-long rope. Braid the 2 ropes together, and bring the ends together to form an oval, pinching the ends to seal.

OR TO MAKE A 3 STRAND BRAID: Divide the dough in thirds and roll each piece into a 16-inch rope. THK NOTE: We made a 3 rope version, which comes out slightly more like a circle than an oval if your strands are 16 inches. If you prefer an oval shape, the strands should be closer to 20 inches.

 

image: http://toriavey.com/images/2014/02/KingCake9-640×480.jpg

A traditional recipe for King Cake from food historian Gil Marks on The History KitchenBraid by first connecting the ends of the ropes at one end.

 

image: http://toriavey.com/images/2014/02/KingCake10-640×480.jpg

A traditional recipe for King Cake from food historian Gil Marks on The History KitchenAs you braid, be sure that you are are pulling the strands gently taut to make a neat and even braid, otherwise your cake may bulge in some areas.

 

image: http://toriavey.com/images/2014/02/KingCake11-640×480.jpg

A traditional recipe for King Cake from food historian Gil Marks on The History KitchenWhen you are ready to connect the ends, unbraid a few inches at each end, then braid them together by connecting the corresponding pieces. For example, center rope to center rope.

 

 

A traditional recipe for King Cake from food historian Gil Marks on The History Kitchen

Place on a parchment paper-lined or greased baking sheet, seam side down. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap spritzed with cooking spray and let rise at room temperature until nearly doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

 

image: http://toriavey.com/images/2014/02/KingCake29-640×480.jpg

A traditional recipe for King Cake from food historian Gil Marks on The History KitchenPosition a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Brush the dough with the egg wash.

 

 

A traditional recipe for King Cake from food historian Gil Marks on The History Kitchen

Bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack.

 

 

A traditional recipe for King Cake from food historian Gil Marks on The History Kitchen

TO MAKE THE ICING: In a medium bowl, stir the confectioners’ sugar, optional butter or cream cheese, vanilla, and enough milk until smooth and of a pouring consistency.

 

 

A traditional recipe for King Cake from food historian Gil Marks on The History Kitchen

If desired, divide the icing into thirds and tint each third with one of the food colorings. Or you can drizzle or spread the icing over the warm cake.

 

A traditional recipe for King Cake from food historian Gil Marks on The History KitchenWhile the icing is still wet, sprinkle with the colored sugar.

NOTE: Decorating a King Cake neatly can be tricky, it is quite a messy process! We found the easiest way to do this neatly is to use a pastry brush to apply icing to each section, then sprinkle with sugar, let dry, and move on to the next section. For the braided cake, follow the braid pattern around the cake, using one color at a time and applying to each icing section directly after applying while still wet (the icing dries fast!). Then allow the icing to dry and gently tap off the excess sugar before starting the next color.

 

A traditional recipe and history for King Cake from food historian Gil Marks on The History KitchenServe warm or at room temperature. After cooling, the cake can be wrapped well in plastic, then foil and stored at room temperature for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Do not cover with the icing before freezing.

 

VARIATIONS

  • Cream Cheese-Filled King Cake: Beat 8 ounces (225 grams) cream cheese at room temperature with 1 cup (4 ounces/115 grams) confectioners’ sugar, ½ egg yolk (use the rest for the egg wash), and ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract. This can be used with or without the cinnamon filling.
  • HINT – To make colored sugar, in a jar shake ¼ cup granulated sugar with 4 drops yellow, green, or purple food coloring

 

Gil MarksGil Marks wrote about the history of American Cakes for ToriAvey.com, revealing the history and culture of the United States through its classic treat. An author, historian, chef, and social worker, Gil Marks was a leading authority on the history and culture of culinary subjects. Among his published books are James Beard Award finalist Encyclopedia of Jewish Food (Wiley: 2010), James Beard Award-winning Olive Trees and Honey: A Treasury of Vegetarian Recipes from Jewish Communities Around the World (Wiley 2004), and James Beard Award finalist The World of Jewish Cooking (Simon & Schuster, 1996). He was also among the international team of contributors to the prestigious Meals in Science and Practice (Woodhead Publishing, 2009) and Recipes Remembered: A Celebration of Survival (Ruder Finn Press, 2011). In January 2012, Saveur Magazine included Encyclopedia of Jewish Food in its “100 New Classics” as “an indispensable resource.” Gil also wrote articles for numerous magazines; served as a guest lecturer at the Culinary Institute of America, Hazon, the New York Public Library, and the Roger Smith Cookbook Conference; acted as consultant for various companies and organizations; and given presentations throughout the world. Gil passed away in 2014; Tori shared a tribute to his life and work here. Read Gil’s posts here.

See the full post:

American Cakes – King Cake

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