King Cake

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I do have to be honest.  My King Cake looks disgusting! But please do not judge the book by it’s cover, just wait until you taste it. 
For those of you who are not familiar with King Cake (or the Three Kings Cake), it’s been a New Orleans tradition. It’s usually to celebrate the pre-Lenten celebration (in some other countries it’s eaten for Epiphany).  However, in New Orleans, it’s to usher in the Mardi Gras.  Usually you hide a tiny plastic baby in the cake, and whoever gets a slice with the plastic baby in it gets to host the next Mardi Gras party.  I don’t like putting non-edible items in my food, so I skipped the plastic baby!
Once again, like I always like to do, I combined different recipes and had to improvise.
This recipe will yield 2 pastries, so if you don’t want 2, please cut the recipe in half.  Also, another thing to note :  this whole process will take you at least half a day.  Therefore, you will have to plan in advance if you want to make this cake.
Pastry:
1 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
2-1/2 teaspoons active yeast
2/3 cup warm water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
5-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Filling:
2 – 8ounce cream cheese
3 Tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons milk
** Fruit pie fillings (I used cherry fillings)

Frosting:
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 Tablespoon water

Scald milk, remove from heat and melt the butter in the milk.  In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in the warm water with 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar.  Let it stand for 10 minutes.  (I used KitchenAid mixer, so I did this part in it’s bowl). 
When the yeast has foamed, add the cooled milk mixture; whisk in eggs, stir in the remaining sugar, salt and nutmeg.  Beat in the flour 1 cup at a time into this mixture.  You can continue to knead in the mixer (using the dough hook), you can use a bread machine, or knead with your hands (just turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic). 
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Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil.  Cover with damp cloth or plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place until doubled in volume (about 2 hours). 
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When risen, punch it down and divide the dough in half. 
Make the filling:  Soften the cream cheese, add the flour, vanilla and milk.  Mix until creamy. 
Roll the dough out into a large rectangle (approx. 10×16 inches).  Spread the cream cheese mixture and the fruit filling evenly. 
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Roll up tightly like a jelly roll, beginning at the wide side.  Bring the ends of a roll together to form an oval shaped ring.  Repeat with the other dough. 
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Place each ring on a prepared cookie sheet, let them rise in a warm spot until doubled in size (about an hour). 
Bake in a preheated 375F oven for 30 minutes.
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Frost while warm with the confectioners’ sugar blended with 1-2 Tablespoons of water.  Sprinkle with multi colored sprinkles (or divided the frosting into different bowls and add variety of colors). 
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I didn’t realize I was out of confectioners’ sugar until the end;  I would have used corn syrup, but I didn’t have that either.  The next best thing I had was the dark molasses.  I guess it worked okay, but I would have preferred the sugar… 
My opinion: Surprisingly, it was that sweet! For us, the sweetness was just right.  If you prefer sweeter version, you may want to add a little sugar in the cream cheese filling.  I also used the dark molasses, so that may have controlled the sweetness, but I hardly tasted the molasses.  I made my “cake” a bit too thick in the middle so the center part was a bit doughy, so next time, after 25 minutes or so in the oven, I will cover the cake with a foil and bake for additional 10-13 minutes.  The subtle taste of nutmeg was also nice (since I love nutmeg). 

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