I did not make my King Cake until Fat Tuesday this year, and have been busy with other things since, so I apologize for posting this recipe well into Lent. Put it on your docket for Mardi Gras ’11, I suppose.
I’ve made King Cake before, but haven’t been 100% happy with the recipes I’ve come across in the past, so this is the one I’ve pieced together from an amalgam of sources, one of them being the Junior League of Lake Charles‘s Marshes to Mansions. While theirs is a winner, I did not feel it had quite enough butter and eggs in it for my purposes. Also, if you’ve had King Cake before, you know it can tend towards being dry. You will not have that problem with this recipe.
2 packages active dry yeast
1/2 c lukewarm water
1/2 c sugar + 2 t. sugar
3 1/2 to 4 1/2 c unsifted flour
1 t nutmeg
2 t salt
1 T fresh lemon peel
1/2 c lukewarm milk
5 egg yolks, at room temperature
8 T butter, at room temperature, + 2 T melted butter
1/4 cup sugar
2 T. cinnamon
splash of milk
Stuff to hide in cake: a plastic baby is traditional, but a dried bean will do in a pinch
3 c powdered sugar
1/4 c strained fresh lemon juice
3-6 T water
3/4 cup sugar, divided into three bowls
4-5 drops each, purple, yellow, and green food coloring
Dissolve yeast in the warm water with 2 t. of sugar. Allow to stand for 10 minutes to proof. Sift 3 1/2 cups flour with remaining sugar, nutmeg and salt. Stir in lemon peel, yeast mixture, milk, and egg yolks Beat until dough begins to pull away from edges of the bowl. Beat in 8 T. of butter cut into bits, a little bit at a time. Mix until all ingredients are well-combined. Knead 5-10 minutes on a lightly floured surface, adding more flour if dough is too sticky. Form dough into a ball, and place in a lightly greased bowl. Set in a warm, draft-free place, and allow to rise, loosely covered, for 1 1/2 hours, or until the dough doubles in bulk.
Punch down the dough and roll it out into a long rectangle. Brush with melted butter. Combine sugar and cinnamon, and sprinkle over the melted butter. Roll the dough up jelly roll style, starting with the long side of the rectangle. Form the roll into a ring, sealing the ends, and place seam-side down on a buttered cookie sheet. Let rise, loosely covered with waxed paper, for about 45 minutes.
Whisk egg and milk together, and brush over the King Cake. Bake at 375 until golden brown, about 25-30 minutes. If you’re using a dried bean for the prize inside the cake, insert it in the bottom of the cake before baking. If you’re using a plastic baby, add it after the cake is baked.
To make the icing, whisk the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and water until the icing mixture is smooth. Start with 3 T., and add more if it is too stiff.
To make the sugars for topping, add 4-5 drops of food coloring to each bowl of sugar. Rub the food coloring into the sugar with the back of a spoon until there are no lumps and color is evenly distributed.
Allow the King Cake to cool for at least 20 minutes or more. While it is still slightly warm, spread the icing over the cake. Sprinkle the different colored sugars in stripes over the icing before it hardens.