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Sunday, January 12, 2014

Guest Post: King Cake

Jennifer submitted pictures of a king cake she completed. It looks amazing! She made a few changes because it wasn't turning out quite right (she explains below). Here is the recipe she used.

Mardi Gras King Cake

makes one 12-inch oval cake

For the dough:
1/2 cup milk (I used coconut milk)
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1/3 cup warm water
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat the milk until bubbles appear around the edges.  Add the butter and set aside to cool to room temperature. 

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, dissolve the yeast in the warm water with 1 tablespoon of the sugar.  Let stand until bubbled and frothy, about 10 minutes.  Add the cooled milk mixture, the eggs, remaining sugar, vanilla, salt, and nutmeg.  With the mixer on low, knead in the flour one cup at a time.  Increase the speed to medium-high and knead until smooth, about 5-7 minutes.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead into a ball.  Spray a large bowl with non-stick spray, cover with a sheet of plastic wrap, and place in a warm, draft free place until doubled in volume, about 60-90 minutes.

For the filling:
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup chopped pecans (optional)
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
4 Tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter, melted

In a medium bowl, combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, pecans if using, and flour.  Pour in the melted butter and mix until a paste forms; set aside. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

When the dough has risen, transfer it to a lightly floured surface.  Roll the dough into a 10x24-inch rectangle.  Spread the filling (it won't be smooth and even) over the dough.  Starting with the widest end, roll up the dough into a jelly roll, pinching the seems well.  Bring the ends together to form an oval, pinching the end seams, as well.  Place the oval onto the prepared baking sheet.  Cover with a damp cloth and allow to rise in a warm draft free place until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375° F.  Bake the cake for 30 minutes, tenting with a sheet of foil the last 10 minutes if it appears to be browning too quickly.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the icing and decoration:
2 cups confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 tablespoons milk (I used coconut milk)
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Colored sugar crystals (I made my own, simply adding one drop of food coloring to each 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the confectioners' sugar, milk, corn syrup, and vanilla until smooth.  Place the cake (still on the rack) over a rimmed baking sheet. Pour the icing over the top of the cake, letting it drip down the sides.  Sprinkle with the sugar crystals, alternating colors as you go.  Allow the icing to set before slicing. 

She wrote, "It ended up being way too runny-- cake batter texture rather than kneadable bread dough, so I added another cup of flour. And the filling with the chopped nuts in it was impossible to spread well (the nuts made it so I couldn't spread out the rest of it over the dough), so I would keep the nuts out in the future and sprinkle them on top of the filling after I got it spread out over the dough."



"It looks a little funny because of where the seam fell, so I would probably reposition it next time. And I learned that drops of red and blue food coloring in sugar gives you a mixture of red and blue sugar rather than purple, so you might want to premix those coloring drops if you don't have purple."


She explained a little of the history, "The king cake is eaten in New Orleans (and other areas with similar culture) during the time between Epiphany (Three Kings' Day) and Ash Wednesday.  They are very popular and will be at pretty much any event you attend between those dates.  You usually hide a little plastic baby in them to represent baby Jesus...although I think it used to be a bean rather than a plastic baby.  The person who finds it is supposed to have good fortune, I think, but most of the time it means you are the one who is responsible for bringing the king cake to the next get together.  

If you check out the recipe,  you'll see that it's actually a slightly sweet yeast bread that you put icing on.  It's not a cake in the usual sense of the word.  It turned out delicious.  My husband thinks it is a bit dry, but they usually are (especially when you are thinking "cake").  The filling is great and brings a bit more moisture than the plain ones have." 


This looks so delicious! It makes me want to curl up with a good book, and eat a big piece while drinking coffee (and I'm not even a coffee drinker). 


  1. Very cool. I've thought of doing this in the past. It doesn't look as difficult as I thought, so maybe this is the year. And, the photos make it look awesome and yummy.

    1. It looks a little intimidating to me (with many opportunities for me to screw it up), but I think I would like to try it sometime, when I'm feeling brave. Thanks for reading!

  2. I went to culinary school and 1 year we made these to sell. I think we made 1000+ in a week.
    Congratulations on your success and it looks fantastic. You did better than most of the students!

    1. Wow! Good job Jennifer (maybe you should make them and sell them next year!) :-) Thanks Katrina for the comment!

  3. That looks VERY colourful and cheery :)

  4. I looks so cheery. I hope I can taste one in New Orleans one day :)

    1. That would be fun! I would like to taste an "authentic" one and then try this recipe and see how it compares!