King Cake

Ooey Gooey Warm King Cake

Don't eat the baby!
Eater rating: 4.5 / 5  4.475

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.

naked king cake
Our King Cake, naked for the world to see
A: ho, ho, ho! haaaappy mardi gras season! :-P 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.
New Orleans King Cake
Dripping with goodness
T: 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 King Cake
Mardi Gras in your mouth
T: 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: :-P 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!

A King Cake Recipe, by Amanda
Mixed Berry & Cream Cheese King Cake

For Dough:
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)
1 egg
3-3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
oil - doesn't matter what kind, just for your hands and the bowl

For Filling:
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

For Icing:
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! ;-)

33 comments so far:

  1. rachel says:

    This so festive looking!

  2. Ros says:

    I have no idea what King Cake is…. but it looks pretty cool!

  3. DENISE says:

    Looks like you guys are still in the After-Happy-New-Year mood. Well, it’s okie. I LOVE it (:

  4. Bobby says:

    There are other styles of King cake, made of puff pastry and filed with almond paste, but that’s more of a French style, and not saying any one is better than the other, but I am a bit more skewed towards anything with almond paste in it.

  5. Bobby says:

    It even has a fancy name, galette des rois. They are known to make your eyes roll to the back of oyur head.

  6. DENISE says:

    Amanda, I really go respect you for giving so much effort into putting the recipe to the entire blog world to see and try (: THANK YOU !

  7. I don’t know if this one TASTES better than the one from last year (since you never let me taste nothin) but it LOOKS better than the one from last year…maybe I’m just not as scared of green and yellow pastries as I was before!

  8. Julian Riley says:

    What a great thing you guys are doing I really enjoy your blog.

  9. JD says:

    I think it’s time to visit SD!! Man, that cake looks soooo yummy. Ooey, Gooey Heaven.

  10. chase says:

    Hello guys! Looks fab! Anyway, I am launching an online fashion magazine this coming summer and I was wondering if you guys would contribute for food and wine?

  11. Tyler says:

    Chase, We’ll be emailing you.

  12. Marianne says:

    Sweet girl (and Tyler, too), I’m back. At least I’m trying. And also, damn if King Cake isn’t one of my very favorites! Come visit me!

  13. Blog Diego Editor says:

    Well, if it worked for Chase…
    I edit Blog Diego, a column in the San Diego Reader that features local blogs. I’d like to feature your post on orgasmic mac n cheese. Could you please contact me asap if you’re interested? We pay $50 for published entries. Besides permission, I need to know what neighborhood you blog from and when you started. Thanks!

  14. aria says:

    hi amanda, count me in with the group who never herd of a king cake but think it sounds delcious. yours especially filled with fruit and cream cheese! (one of my all time favorite combinations) YUM. i’d easily show you my tits for a slice.

  15. Bobby says:

    I mentioned the other king cake, hoping you would make one yourself, including puff pastry from scratch. I guess your not that crazy, yet.

  16. maia says:

    Hi Amanda! Thanks for stopping by :)

    I’m from Chapel Hill but grew up in Raleigh. My parents have friends from graduate school who live in Williamsburg, and my sister went to W&M for college, so I’ve been to Virginia plenty!

    I’ve seen the polenta at lots of places out here, but hadn’t noticed it in the bulk bins a Henry’s yet. That’s great! But.. it’s still yellow.. somehow it’s just not the same if it’s yellow! Call me old-fashioned, but I like my grits white! I do use polenta for lots of stuff, though, so it’s good to know that they have it in bulk at Henry’s.

    p.s. that king cake looks yum!

  17. Amanda says:

    Thanks rachel!

    thanks Ros! you know me and decadent things! what’s not to like with a fruity cream cheesy filled pastry. :-P

    Denise, your welcome! and thank you! it really was quite a lengthy process typing this particular recipe up! soooo many parts to it! :-)

    Bobby, you know, i actually ate a galette des rois before i ever ate a lousiana king cake… at a church in maryland. and yes. i believe there was at least near eye rolling and much mmmming. yeah, you know, for some reason i was just feeling like a big puss and didn’t attempt the real one… that and i had two louisiana boys in the house who would have protest quite loudly, methinks!

    thanks michelle! :-) i think it must be you getting used to the freaky colors, because i think the one from last year looks better. now i don’t necessarily think it tastes better… i happened to really like the berry goodness this one offered that the other one didn’t!

    Thanks Julian!

    Come on over JD! there will certianly be more king cakes before this mardi gras season is through! i can’t guarantee it’ll be the exact same, but close!

    thanks chase! we’re excited about you new venture!

    marianne! girl! you’re online again! woah. that was a ton of exclaiming! we we are certainly happy to see you reappear in the foodblogosphere!

    heheh aria, maybe we’ll even get some beads to throw at you, along with the king cake, if you show us your tits! then it would be like real mardi gras…. think i can throw all the way to santa monica from ocean beach? :-P

    yeah yeah yeah bobby! i’ve seen some fairly easy looking puff pastry recipes that i might take my hand at… uh… sometime! :-P maybe next twelvth night i’ll attempt a galette des rois for real, yo!

    maia, i don’t know why, by for me i can’t really eat the white grits! i mean, i grew up surrounded by white grits… i just never really liked them all that much! but the yellow grits…. now i can dig gruppy little paws into some cheesy buttery yellow corn grits… and yes. i do call them polenta if i’m trying to appear fancy smancy ;-)

  18. Laura says:

    Amanda, I want a King Cake; please.

  19. Amanda says:

    Yes ma’am! :-) you know, i’ve been pushing for another dinner/idol-fest but you damn son has been so busy with work! he’s working all weekend too! :-( maybe next week?!?

  20. MeltingWok says:

    hehe, the cake is very colorful, just like the Madrigras beadssss, give me some cake..cream cheese and berries, yummy looking :)

  21. Marchbanks says:

    Cher, that the most beautimous king cake ever I DO see before, me! It’d even tempt me, who don’t like the huge majority of king cakes very much (and just about ALL of them grocery-store cakes, which are cooked much too dry), to eat some.

  22. Darlene says:

    Ah! I should have visited here before attempting to make my first king cake.

    I could only imagine that the dough with the addition of sour cream made it incredibly moist. And any pastry with cream cheese is okay in my book. In addition, I couldn’t make the colored sugars stick on my cake!

    Looks fantastic as usual!

  23. Mary says:

    I’ve been reading your blog for a while now, but somehow didn’t see this post earlier. Love your site.

    I made King cake for the first time this year. It was so good I made it twice. I also made a galette des rois using my own puff pastry. Both were really easy and the puff pastry wasn’t as time consuming and scary as everyone always says.

  24. angel van says:

    OMG! i cant believe that king cake. it looks so good. but nothing can ever beat a king cake from mckenzie. too bad they went out of business a long long time ago. might have to get my mom to try to recreate a mckenzie king cake one day. since she worked at the big company for like 10 years.

  25. April says:

    MARRY HER!

  26. virginia says:

    the only way 2 get TRUE king cake GO 2 CAJUN COUNTRY– NEW ORLEANS. they r the best. trying 2 make homemade 1 isn’t the same

  27. Christina says:

    Your King Cake looks AMAZING!

  28. Carlotta says:

    Well, you certainly can tell you two are into Mardi Gras.

    Here’s a tip — I use the small food processor to color my sugars. Make at least 1 cup of each — you WILL be making another king cake.

    When using the super rapid rising yeast — cut back (my recipe called for two packets). My cake rose 15 min., then I punched down, divided into two balls and rolled, then filled and shaped and let rise for 30 min. In the oven the cake actually rose much, much more and closed up the “crown” — the hole in the middle. Next time (tomorrow!!) I’ll use only 1 packet of yeast.

    I really miss Mardi Gras — we’ve always lived where its been celebrated. Now we live in Tennessee — they just don’t get it.

    “Laissez les bons temps rouler!”

  29. Ally says:

    I just made this the other day! Delicious, thanks for the great recipe!

    Ally

  30. Rachael says:

    Thanks for the great recipe! I’ve been too scared to try my own ’til now. King Cake was my first love in college and responsible for most of my college pounds. I can’t wait to introduce my Indiana coworkers to this calorific treat.

  31. Prochef65 says:

    Excellent! I usually make my king cake from Mam Papaul’s mix (which is excellent for a mix). I may actually try one from scratch this year. BTW, try heading to St. Louis for Mardi Gras somtime. It’s 2nd largest after N.O. in the USA. It’s lots of fun & you do get the bonus of the Mystic Krewe of Barkus parade where everyone dresses their pets up for a pet parade.

  32. Leigh says:

    Just finished making this – can’t wait to serve it tomorrow!

  33. Safia m says:

    The cake looks so festive and colorful. I just tried this recipe, your recipe was really easy to follow and the cake was really tasty, though I heard it nothing like having one during Mardi Gras. @Carlotta thank you for your tips, you were a great deal of help.

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