Monday, February 18, 2013

Traditional King Cake

So, I know that this is blasphemy, but I made a couple of post-season king cakes this weekend. First of all, it was my mother-in-law's birthday yesterday and her only requests were brunch with the family and a king cake birthday cake. And you just don't question a birthday cake request.
Typically, king cakes are reserved for Mardi Gras season,
but we're gonna go ahead and make a few exceptions here.
Secondly, one year ago today, Jared and I walked down the aisle, made it legal, and sealed our newly minted marriage with a giant tiered king cake. Instead of doing the traditional choking down of the year-old frozen, crusty wedding cake, we decided to bake our own king cake this year. And every year, from now on, in honor of the anniversary. In the process, hopefully we'll land on a recipe that becomes our new favorite.
The Anniversary Cake
For the first attempt, I found a recipe courtesy of one of my favorite Louisiana chefs, John Besh. While I'm sure that a better baker could have yielded better results, my cakes were a bit of a bust. They looked great and tasted ok, but they were dry and tough . . . thanks in large part to my over-kneading the dough. Oops. Better luck next year, I guess.

  • 1 cup lukewarm milk, about 110°F
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons dry yeast
  • 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup butter, melted
  • 5 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh lemon zest
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon
  • several gratings of fresh nutmeg
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • Purple, green, and gold decorative sugars

  1. For the cake, pour the warm milk into a large bowl. Whisk in the granulated sugar, yeast, and a heaping tablespoon of the flour, mixing until both the sugar and the yeast have dissolved.
  2. Once bubbles have developed on the surface of the milk and it begins to foam, whisk in the butter, eggs, vanilla, and lemon zest. Add the remaining flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg and fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients with a large rubber spatula.
  3. After the dough comes together, pulling away from the sides of the bowl, shape it into a large ball. Knead the dough on a floured surface until it is smooth and elastic, about 15 minutes.
  4. Put the dough back into the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside in a draft-free place to let it proof, or rise, for 1 1/2 hours or until the dough has doubled in volume.
  5. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Once the dough has risen, punch it down and divide the dough into 3 equal pieces. Roll each piece of dough between your palms into a long strip, making 3 ropes of equal length. Braid the 3 ropes around one another and then form the braided loaf into a circle, pinching ends together to seal. Gently lay the braided dough on a nonstick cookie sheet and let it rise until it doubles in size, about 30 minutes.
  6. Once it's doubled in size, place the cookie sheet in the oven and bake until the braid is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven, place on a wire rack, and allow to cool for 30 minutes.
  7. For the icing, while the cake is cooling, whisk together the powdered sugar, condensed milk, and lemon juice in a bowl until the icing is smooth and very spreadable. If the icing is too thick, add a bit more condensed milk; if it’s a touch too loose, add a little more powdered sugar.
  8. Once the cake has cooled, spread the icing over the top of the cake and sprinkle with purple, green, and gold decorative sugars while the icing is still wet.
* King Cake recipe is adapted from John Besh's My New Orleans: The Cookbook.
Happy (belated) Birthday Sarah P!!

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