Tomorrow is Mardi Gras, and, for some reason, it’s on a Tuesday this year. We thought that everyone should celebrate Mardi Gras, regardless of the day. And what better way to celebrate than with a cake? Kings Cake, to be exact.
Last year we made Kings Cake with a recipe that we found at Allrecipes.com, and we thought it was really good, and fairly easy, so we figured, why mess with something that already turns out?
With that in mind: Laissez les bons temps rouler.
Makes 2 Kings cakes.
Nothing special, except the eggs; we always use free-range. Note that we broke out the ingredients into three sections: one for the dough, one for the filling, and one for the frosting. It makes it easier to deal with. Also, note that we give the amount of brown sugar in grams; if you have a scale, this will make it a lot easier to measure out. Finally, to do Kings Cake right, the frosting needs to be purple, green, and gold, which we’ll explain how to do below.
Procedure in detail:
Scald Milk. Basically, heat the milk in a saucepan until you can feel it sticking just a bit at the bottom and see that it’s starting to get frothy. Remove from heat.
Add butter. Drop the 1/2 stick butter into the still-hot milk. It’ll melt as the milk comes back to room temperature.
Proof yeast. Heat the 2/3 cup of water to 100-110°F. We do this by putting it in a microwavable measuring cup and microwaving for 30-60 seconds (in 5-15 second intervals), measuring the temperature with an instant- read thermometer. Basically, the water will feel warm, but definitely not hot. Too hot, and you’ll kill the yeast. Once you’ve warmed the water, add the tablespoon of sugar and the yeast, and stir to combine. It’ll take a minute or two of stirring to get the yeast dissolved. Let sit until it foams up, about 5 to 10 minutes.
Mix liquids. In a stand mixer (or you can use a bowl and do this by hand) with the dough hook attachment, mix together the milk with melted butter (it should be room temperature) and the yeast mixture.
Add eggs. Add the two eggs and mix ’em in.
Add sugar, nutmeg, and salt. Measure them in, and set the mixer a-whirlin’ until they are mostly mixed in. The nutmeg might clump a bit, but don’t worry about it, because once the kneading commences, it’ll get mixed in, too.
Add 1 1/2 cup flour. Mix.
Add remaining flour. Add it one cup at a time, mixing between additions. Once you’ve added all the flour, the dough should have come together. It might be slightly sticky, which is fine.
Knead for 8 minutes. We run the mixer on low for about 8 minutes to do most of the kneading.
Knead by hand. Scrape the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead it for a minute by hand. Note how smooth and silky the dough feels. That’s good. All the stickiness should be gone; if not, keep your hands well-dusted with flour, and knead in a bit more flour.
Let rise. Lightly oil the mixing bowl, grab the ball of dough by the bottom and rub the top of the ball around the mixing bowl to coat, then, with a quick flip, turn the dough over so the bottom will be against the oiled surface. Cover the bowl and let rise until doubled, about 1-2 hours.
Divide in two. Cut the dough into two roughly equal portions, shape each into a ball, and let rest while you make the filling.
Make filling. Combine brown sugar, flour, pecans, raisins, and cinnamon in a medium-sized bowl and work with a fork or your fingers until well combined.
Add butter. Melt the butter; we used the microwave and a microwavable measuring cup, then pour it over the filling. Mix until combined.
Roll out dough. Take one of the balls of dough and roll it out into a rectangle — don’t worry if it’s not perfect — about 16 by 10 inches.
Add filling. Now, distribute half of the filling on the rectangle of dough. Since there are raisins and nuts in the filling, you’ll really have bits and pieces all over, but that’s fine.
Roll up and form a crown. Working from the longest edge, roll the dough into something resembling a jelly roll or log. Form into a ring and place on a greased baking sheet, a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, or a baking sheet lined with a silicone baking mat.
Cut. Using scissors, cut 1/3 of the way through the ring, each cut about an inch apart, all the way around the ring. We like to hold the scissors at an angle to the dough so that we get little peaks on our crown.
Let rest. Cover and let rest until doubled in size, about 45-60 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375°F. Do this about 30 minutes into the resting period so that the oven will be nice and hot when the Kings Cake is ready to go in.
Bake. Bake for about 30 minutes, rotating and shifting baking trays top to bottom about halfway through. They will be nicely browned.
Cool. Take the Kings Cake out of the oven and let cool for about an hour before frosting. You want the cakes slightly warm, but not so warm that the frosting melts and runs off.
Make the frosting. Frosting is pretty easy; just measure out the confectioners’ sugar and add the milk a bit at a time until you get a frosting-like consistency. Now, add the almond flavoring, and you have a nice white frosting to drizzle over the cake. But for Mardi Gras, we want purple, gold, and green, so….
Color the frosting. Divide the frosting into three small cups and use food coloring to get the colors. Three drops of green for green (duh!), three drops of yellow gave us a nice gold, and three drops of red and two of blue for the purple.
Drizzle. Using a spoon for each color, drizzle on the frosting. Man, looks good enough to eat!
Immediately after drizzling on the frosting, we had to break out the knife and dish up a slice. After that was gone, we had (just had to) slice off a piece each to, ah, straighten out the edges. Yeah, this stuff is good. It’s not super sweet, and more like bread than cake, so it’s a bit more substantial than cake. We think you can make a complete meal of it. Fives!