When I was young, every January 6th morning we would eat a piece of king cake at my grandmother’s house. It was breakfast for kings and queens. She used to tell us that the shepherds brought these round cakes as gifts to Jesus, Mary and Joseph on Epiphany Day morning (also when the 3 Kings-men arrived to bear their gifts).
Here in New Orleans you can buy a King Cake from New Year’s through Mardi Gras. Every grocery store has them but the best ones are from Randazzo’s Bakery. Prices range from $8 (at grocery) to $16-24 at bakery. The quality difference is HUGE. I decided I would share with you how to make a delicious, high quality king cake at home.
I borrowed this recipe from Barbara Bakes’ Adventures in the Kitchen . While I have never made a king cake before, the thought of making one home made without all the bakery leaveners added at the store… was very appealing. We could have King Cake year round! Not sure what King Cake is? It’s a sweet dough bread (brioche) that is braided, baked, and glazed.
The recipe follows. The one tricky part is filling the dough and braiding it; so I am including a video for instruction with a little bonus from Alex on there (and don’t worry, no tree fell down… it was just a branch).
This is what the King Cake looked like before it sat out for 1hr to rise and then baked.
The baked King Cake
My kids loved having a “task.” Alex frosted the cake, Sofia decorated it with sprinkles. While a typical king cake is glazed and sugared purple, green, and yellow; colored sprinkles is what my kids wanted.
Finally, the finished product & happy kids.
Barbara Bakes’ King Cake Recipe:
Quick Brioche Mardi Gras King Cake
Prep Time: 1 hour
Start to Finish: 3 hours 30 mintues
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) Rapid Rise yeast
1 cup milk (120º to 130º)
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, cut into 12 pieces
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup powdered (confectioners) sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
dark green, purple, and yellow or gold sugars
miniature plastic baby
Mix 2 1/2 cups flour and yeast in mixing bowl, using the paddle attachment, on low for about 30 seconds.
Heat milk, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat until sugar is dissolved and milk is between 120º to 130º.
With mixer on low, pour in liquids and mix until incorporated. Add eggs one at a time. Continue mixing until a shaggy dough forms. Clean off paddle and switch to dough hook. Mix in the remaining 1 cup flour a little at a time, adding more or less flour as needed to make a soft dough. Add the softened butter, a piece at a time, kneading until each piece of butter is absorbed.
Knead for eight minutes on low. The dough should completely clear the sides of the bowl. If it is too sticky, add additional flour 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing in thoroughly before determining if more flour is needed. If the dough seems too dry, spritz with water from a spray bottle a couple of times, mixing in thoroughly before determining if more water is needed. Every 2 minutes, stop the machine, scrape the dough off the hook, and then continue kneading.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times by hand to be sure it’s smooth and elastic. Form the dough into a ball. Place dough into a greased bowl. Turn once so greased surface is on top. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
While the dough is chilling, make cinnamon filling. Combine the brown sugar and ground cinnamon. Combine butter with cinnamon mixture and mix well.
Roll the chilled dough into a 10 x 20 inch rectangle. Spread the filling on half of the long side of the dough. Fold the dough in half covering the filling. Pat dough down firmly so the dough will stick together. Cut dough into three long strips. Press the tops of the strips together and braid the strips. Press the ends together at the bottom. Gently stretch the braid so that it measures 20 inches again. Shape it into a circle/oval and press the edges together. If desired, hide the miniature plastic baby in between the ends of the circle before sealing together in a ring. (You can also make a slit in the bottom of the cake and put the baby in after the cake is baked.)
Transfer the ring to a parchment lined or greased baking sheet. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rise until doubled, about 1 hour. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 350º. Bake the cake until it is golden brown, 20 – 35 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool 10 minutes on baking sheet and then place it on a cooling rack to cool completely before icing.
Icing: In a small bowl, mix powdered sugar, milk and vanilla until smooth (add additional milk if mixture is too thick or powdered sugar if too thin).
Spoon icing over top of the cake. Immediately sprinkle on colored sugar, alternating between the three colors.
- Use a pizza cutter to easily cut dough into strips.
- The cake can also be made without braiding. Just roll up the dough jelly roll style after
spreading the filling.