Christmas is over and Twelfth Night has past. That means it must be Mardi Gras season! King Cake is an integral part of every good Mardi Gras celebration and even if we can’t be in Louisiana for the festivities we can certainly eat like it! Our king cake was filled with a layer of cream cheese and a mixed berry jam made from strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries. Like any traditional king cake, it was iced and then coated in purple, gold and green sugar. My was it delicious.
Our King Cake, naked for the world to seeA: ho, ho, ho! haaaappy mardi gras season! you’re from louisiana, T. what does one say when celebrating mardi gras?
T: Well, you can start by screaming loudly. No words are necessary in this case. If you’re at a parade somewhere in Louisiana or perhaps elsewhere on the gulf coast you might scream “Throw me something, mister!” And, everybody’s favorite, if you’re on Bourbon Street, it is customary to yell, “show us your tits!”
A: hmmm… what if i yell, “show us your king cake!!!” instead? think that’ll work. after attending the Zulu parade i got scared to scream “throw me something, mister” due to the real coconuts they were chucking into the crowd.
Dripping with goodnessT: yeah, flying coconuts are dangerous…. but hey- survival of the fittest. If you can’t dodge large flying objects you’re going to have a tough life. Ahhhh… seriously, though. It’s a great idea to yell “Show us your king cake!” Have you had king cake this year? Email us at whatwereeating.com with a link or a photo and we will include it on the site
A: that’s a great idea! for some reason i feel like king cake is a very regional food, but i’m definitely interested in seeing what’s out there.
T: most people in the food blog world don’t even know what king cake is, which is strange to me having grown up with it. If you don’t know what it is, here’s how I would describe King Cake: it’s a big cinnamon roll, optionally filled with fruit and/or cream cheese, and coated with brightly colored (purple, gold, and green) icing. It’s always made in the shape of a ring. Amanda, would you say that’s about right?
A: yup, except the filled king cakes don’t always have cinnamon. generally all of the unfilled ones are like big cinnamon rolls and the filled ones are like huge ass danishes. this one was particularly danish-like.
Mardi Gras in your mouthT: yes it was. So, King Cakes are served between Christmas and the start of Lent (aka Mardi Gras season). Inside each king cake is a little plastic baby, about the size of a lima bean. If you’re lucky enough to get the baby in your piece, you’re expected to supply the next cake. You may also need expensive dental work, depending on how you discover that you actually have the baby.
A: ha! lucky enough! i definitely think it’s unlucky! a poor girl can’t always afford to buy a cake. out here i get particularly screwed on this end of the bargain because you can’t go to any old grocery store or bakery and pick on up on the way home! thus if we want another one, i get to make it again!
T: is that why this king cake didn’t have a baby? You gave it a hysterectomy so you wouldn’t have to make another one?
A: nope, no hysterectomies here! i just didn’t have a baby! and i only had small dried beans. for some reason it didn’t really seem like a good idea to put a lentil in the cake and hope someone found it before digesting it raw!
T: yeah, that wouldn’t be good. I thought maybe it would be a good idea to put a penny in the king cake, but then I thought, no, not a good idea. Oh well, king cakes without babies are still king cakes.
A: so, what’d you think of this particular king cake?
T: I thought it was great. I really loved the fruit and cream cheese filling, and I thought there was a good ratio of filling to bread (which seems to not always be the case with King Cakes). It was moist, delicious. I give it a 4.7/5. Compared to all the other King Cakes I’ve had, it was very very good. Waaay better than 99% of the grocery store king cakes that I’ve had. I thought it was comparable to some of the better ones that I’ve had from actual bakeries in Baton Rouge, Lafayette, and New Orleans.
A: I know some new orleanian is going to roll up on to this site and say something about how it can’t possibly be as good as Mckenzie’s king cakes. they’re renowned for being the best. I thought this one was pretty good too. I give it a 4.25/5. I was a little disappointed that it didn’t turn out as good as the one i made last year, but thems the breaks, kid. it was still damn good.
T: for someone who doesn’t love sweets as much as the average joe, and for someone who didn’t live in Louisiana for too long, you make an excellent King Cake. Now if you can just impregnate the next one it will be perfect.
A: heheh thanks, T! hmmm, i’ll agree to impregnate the next one on one condition: you have to make the one after that if you get the baby!
T: ok but you might regret that!
2 tbsp butter
8 oz sour cream
5 tbsp sugar, separated into 4 & 1 tbsp
salt - two finger pinch
1 package (7g) active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (between 100 and 110 degrees)
3-3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
oil - doesn't matter what kind, just for your hands and the bowl
8 oz frozen mixed berries
1 tbsp water
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 + 1/8 cup sugar
1/8 tsp salt (a pinch)
6 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
2 oz sour cream,
1/3 of a beaten egg
1 tbsp lemon zest
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp butter, melted
4 tbsp milk
pinch o' salt
For Colored Sugars:
1 1/2 cups superfine sugar (not powdered), separated into 1/2 cups
food coloring - blue, red, green, & yellow
* if you can't find superfine sugar you can use regular sugar. it will just be much more course)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Start the dough. In a sauce pan over medium heat, add the butter, 4 tbsp sugar, and salt. Stir. Once the butter has melted, add the sour cream and heat to luke warm, about 105 degrees. Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, add 1/4 cup warm water, yeast, and 1 tbsp sugar, then stir. Allow the yeast to sit for about five minutes, until it has been activated. If the yeast does not become active, toss out the mixture and start with a new packet of yeast. Once the yeast is active, whisk in the warm butter and sour cream mixture, the egg, and 1 cup of flour. Whisk until smooth. Using an oiled wooden spoon, begin mixing in small amounts of flour until you form a soft dough. This will generally take about another 2 cups of flour, just go by touch. You don't really want a sticky dough, but a slightly sticky dough is okay because you can knead in more flour as you go, whereas it's much harder to add liquid. Turn the dough out on to a clean surface lightly dusted with flour. With oiled hands, knead the dough until smooth and elastic, about 5-10 minutes. Place the ball of dough into a large well-oiled bowl, then flip the dough so all of the surface area of the dough is oiled. Cover the bowl with oiled plastic wrap (oiled side down) and a hand towel, then set the bowl in a warm (about 80-85 degrees is best) draft-free area and allow the dough to rise until it has doubled in size, about 1 hour. (I find an area around the preheating oven is usually the best warm and snuggly environment for the yeast.)
While the dough is rising make the filling. Place the frozen berries, lemon juice, 1/4 cup sugar, and pinch of salt in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook the berries for about 10 to 15 minutes, stirring often, until the berries have broken down and the liquid will thickly coat the back of the spoon. It may be necessary to assist some of the larger strawberries in the breakdown process by smooshing them with a spoon. While the berries are simmering away, add the softened cream cheese and 1/8 cup of sugar into a mixing bowl. Cream the mixture together until smooth. Add in the sour cream, egg, and lemon zest and mix until thoroughly blended. Set the cream cheese mixture aside. Once the berries are finished, transfer them into a bowl to cool for about 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, refrigerate the berries until the dough has finished rising, so they have more of a chance to firmly set.
Once the dough has doubled in size, pour it out onto a lightly floured long piece of parchment paper. Lightly flour the top of the dough and a rolling pin (a smooth-edged glass will work in place of a rolling pin in a pinch). Roll the dough out into a rectangle about 18 inches long and 7 or so inches wide. Gently lift all the sides of the rectangle to make sure the dough is not sticking to the parchment paper, this will be important when you go to roll up the cake. Spread the cream cheese mixture evenly over the dough, leaving a 1 inch border around the outside of the dough. Next, evenly spread a thin layer of the berry mixture over the cream cheese layer. You may not need to use the entirety of the berries. Roll the cake up, in a jellyroll-esque fashion, starting by rolling the unfilled border of the dough closest to you over the filling, and carefully begin to roll the dough up into a log. When you have only a few inches left, take the unrolled part and complete the log by gently lifting and pressing the remaining part of the dough up on to the log, so it's seam side-up. Carefully press on the seam to ensure a solid bond. Very carefully work the two ends of the log together to form an oval, then press the doughy edges together to completely seal the cake into an oval. Slide the parchment paper that the king cake is on, onto a large movable surface, such as a large cutting board or a sheet pan. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper then place the sheet pan, parchment side down, on top of the king cake to form a king cake sandwich. Trying not to smash the cake, quickly flip the sandwich over and lift off the top cutting board or sheet pan. Gently peel back the parchment paper, and voila!, the king cake is transferred to a parchment-lined sheet pan, seam side down, and ready for its second rise and the oven. Recover the cake with greased plastic wrap and a hand towel and allow it to rise for another 30 minutes. Bake the cake at 375 degrees in the upper 1/3 of the oven for about 25 minutes, or until the cake is golden brown. Immediately transfer the cake to a cooling rack after removing it from the oven. This is most easily done by sliding the parchment paper onto the rack directly from the sheet pan. Allow the cake to cool for at least 20 minutes before icing the cake.
During the second rise, make the colored sugars. Place 1/2 cup of superfine sugar into three separate bowls (standard soup bowls work well). Using the food coloring make one bowl of green sugar, one bowl of yellow sugar, and one bowl of purple sugar (more of a red purple than an indigo). Use the back of a spoon or a pestle, work the food coloring into the sugar by grinding it against the side of the bowl and working the coloring throughout all of the sugar. Continue this until the sugar is uniform in color and there are no clumps. Mardi Gras colors are super vivid so use as much food coloring as is necessary to achieve them!
Once the cake has cooled for 15 minutes, make the icing. Whisk together the powdered sugar, salt, vanilla, melted butter, and milk until smooth. You want the icing to be able to drizzle easily but not just run right off the cake, so if the icing is too thin, just whisk in more sifted powdered sugar and if the icing is too thick whisk in a touch more milk.
After the cake has had a chance to cool, remove the parchment and move the cake to whatever platter you wish to serve it on. Cut several strips of parchment paper a few inches wide and tuck it underneath the edges of the cake for easy clean up after decorating. At this point, stick a dried bean or little plastic baby into the cake through the bottom. It's tradition in Louisiana that who ever gets the baby has to spring for the next cake! Else where, it's a sign of good luck :-) . Drizzle the icing evenly over the cake and allow it to ooze down the sides. Before the icing has a chance to set, sift on rotating strips of colored sugar. Carefully remove the pieces of parchment paper. King cake is fantastic eaten warm or at room temperature. Enjoy!...but only after christmas and before ash wednesday, otherwise it's just gauche! ;-)