I am thrilled to have been nominated and made it to the voting round for Best Sweets&Baking Blog over on the kitchn. I would truly appreciate your vote. It’s a simple sign-in with facebook and then a vote for Jenni Field’s Pastry Chef Online. Thank you so very much!Whenever I go into any sort of retail store, but specifically drug stores, I feel like I’ve been shifted forward in time by a few weeks. In September, I’m accosted by leering skulls and flashing eyed reapers, Styrofoam headstones and Bacchanalian heaps of candy. In mid-October, reindeer start making their appearance right next to the black plastic cauldrons and motion activated lights that moan when you pass.
The reindeer are joined by wrappings and trappings, by Santas and Snowmen, ornaments and tinsel, and everything turns red and green.
I feel sorry for Thanksgiving which might get a few feet of shelf space for some autumn-hued napkins and a scarecrow or two.
At the beginning of January, I’m jolted into mid-February by the assault of red, white and pink. Hearts everywhere. Blood red hearts, pastel hearts. Heart-shaped boxes, candles, and cards with red envelopes lining the stationery section.
As the year continues and the seasons change, retailers try to separate us from our cash at every turn. And what better excuse than a holiday? I think the rule is this: the more people celebrate a holiday, the greater the time shift. This affords all consumers, from the planners to the procrastinators to the ones who descend the day after the holiday for bargain goodies, the opportunity to shop.
Mardi Gras is different. At least where I live. Short of going to actual party stores which of course cater in purple, green and gold for the season, most stores just don’t plan for Mardi Gras shoppers. Maybe because it’s not a gift-giving holiday here, but then, neither is St. Patrick’s Day. And that doesn’t stop the stores from displaying shamrocks and beer steins and banners and all things green.
If I were a retailer, I’d put out King Cakes at Epiphany and keep them going all the way through Shrove Tuesday. You may know it better as Fat Tuesday. Mardi Gras. The last hurrah before the Lenten season of reflection and sacrifice begins.
King Cakes belong to many Christian traditions. Galette du rois in France, roscón de reyes in Spain and rosca de reyes in Latin America. And in the US, especially in and around the Gulf Coast and brought by the French and Spanish, we have King Cake. A glorious riot of color here, and save for its round shape, very unlike the refined puff pastry and frangipane galette du rois in France or the candied fruit-laden braids of Spain, the Gulf Coast King Cake is all about the bling. Gold, green and purple, the colors of Mardi Gras, either in colored sugar, in colored glaze, or both are applied with abandon.
Most King Cakes, regardless of the country, contain a bean or a coin or even–somewhat horrifyingly–a plastic baby. Whatever the token, from a religious perspective, it represents the Christ Child. In more secular traditions, whoever finds the token has to buy the next King Cake or throw the next party. Seems fair.
My King Cake is not traditional, but I have seen so many different recipes for King Cake, that I really think all that is required is that you color them the right colors and shove a token inside. I used a pecan. Because who wants to bite into a plastic baby or a dried bean?
Traditional or not, this cake is delicious, and I do hope you give it a try.
Here’s a video tutorial that I hope you’ll find helpful!
- For the Dough
- 20 oz bread flour, ½ oz extra if necessary
- 2 oz granulated sugar
- 1 Tablespoon dry yeast
- 1¼ teaspoons fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 9 oz buttermilk
- 4 large egg yolks
- 1 large egg
- 3 oz unsalted butter, melted
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 12 oz (1½ blocks) of full-fat cream cheese
- 2-4 oz granulated sugar. This is up to your taste, so if you like it sweeter, use more sugar.
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 large egg
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 pecan half per cake
- 1 oz cream cheese
- 1 oz butter
- heavy pinch of fine sea salt
- 1½ cups powdered sugar
- enough milk or buttermilk (yum!) to make a fairly thick glaze.
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
- gold decorating sugar
- green decorating sugar
- purple decorating sugar
- Place all the dry ingredients into the bowl of your stand mixer.
- Whisk well to combine.
- Whisk together all the wet ingredients in a bowl.
- Pour the wet into the dry ingredients and, using the dough hook attachment, whisk on low for 2 minutes.
- Increase the speed to medium-low and knead for about 5 minutes.
- Stop the mixer and check the dough. It should clear the sides of the bowl but stick in the bottom in about a 3" wide circle. If the dough is too wet, add the additional ½ oz of flour.
- Whether or not you need the extra flour, knead for an additional 5 minutes.
- Stop the mixer and check the dough. First, pull up on a portion of it. It should stretch out much farther than you think it might before tearing.
- Check the dough using the windowpane test. Pull off a small piece of dough and flatten it into a tiny pizza. Stretch it out and hold it up to the light. You should be able to stretch out the dough very thin so it is translucent before it tears.
- If the dough fails either test--it tears readily when pulled or it cannot be stretched thin, knead for another 5 minutes or so and check again.
- By this time, all should be well.
- When your dough is ready, oil your hands and form the dough into a smooth ball.
- Spray the inside of the mixer bowl with some pan spray and place the dough inside, smooth side up.
- Spray the dough with pan spray and cover with cling film or a lint free towel.
- Heat up a mug of water in your microwave until it comes to a boil.
- Push the mug over to one side of the microwave and place your bowl of dough in alongside.
- Let the dough rise until doubled in size, about 1½-2 hours.
- Turn the dough out onto a clean, smooth surface--no need to flour it, but keep your hands oiled to make it easier to work with--and press out the gases.
- Cut the dough into 2 equal pieces and shape each into a round.
- Cover one round with the upturned bowl and roll the second out into a large rectangle, about 16" x 10-12". The dough will be about ¼" thick, and you may have to cover the dough for a few minutes if the gluten starts to fight back.
- Spread ½ of your cheesecake mixture evenly across the dough, leaving a 1" margin all around.
- Place a pecan half somewhere on the cream cheese mixture.
- Roll the dough up loosely like you would for cinnamon rolls. Pinch the seam together.
- Roll the log of dough so the seam is on the bottom, and ring the two ends together to form a ring. Pinch the ends together firmly all the way around so they hold together.
- Place on a parchment- or Silpat-lined baking pan, spray with pan spray and cover with plastic wrap.
- Repeat with the other portion of dough and the rest of the cream cheese mixture. And the pecan.
- Repeat the boiling water trick in the microwave for one cake.
- For the other, preheat the oven to 350F for only about 45 seconds, and then turn off the oven. Let the other cake rise in the barely warmed oven.
- Let both cakes rise until almost doubled in size, about 45 minutes to an hour.
- Set the oven racks in the top and lower thirds of the oven.
- Take the one cake out of the oven and preheat to 350F (for real this time).
- Bake the cakes for 15 minutes.
- Rotate the pans and bake for 15 minutes more. If either seems to be browning too much, tent loosely with foil.
- Take the internal temperature of the cakes. You want a reading of right around 200F. If the reading is between 198F and 205F or so, go ahead and take them out. If not, bake for five more minutes at a time until you reach the target temperature.
- If one cake finishes baking before the other, take it out of the oven. It's okay. The other one won't get jealous.
- Let sit on the pan for a couple of minutes and them move to racks to cool.
- After about ten to fifteen minutes, spread on your glaze. The cakes will still be warm, so the glaze will thin out.
- Sprinkle the cakes with purple, gold and green sugar and let cool completely.
This truly is a delicious cake, so feel free to decorate it however you see fit to make it work for any of your celebrations. Not sure what’s coming up next? Just check your local drug store.
Thank you so much for spending some time with me today. Take care, and have a lovely day.