My dad lived in Louisiana for a while as a teenager, but my mom was raised there. As a result, no matter where we lived growing up, we celebrated Mardi Gras. If all you’ve ever heard about Mardi Gras is about Bourbon Street and women “flashing” to get beads, you should definitely click that link and read up. Mardi Gras is about traditions and parades and merriment and friends!
And… KING CAKE!!
Making homemade King Cakes from scratch is one of our family traditions. We’ve stuck to the old school cake style, filled with a brown sugar and cinnamon mixture. I tell people who are confused that it’s less like a cake, and more like “a giant, braided cinnamon roll.” This year I decided to document the process as I made them.
First, of course, I made the dough. This was my first year using my new Kitchen Aid dough hook, and let me tell you, I will never go back! It was fantastic!
Once the dough was ready, I plopped it into a bowl greased with melted butter. I covered the bowl, wandered off for a couple hours, and came home to…. this:
Holy risen dough, Batman!
After pounding it back down, I divided it in half, then rolled one half out. This part is much more difficult than it sounds. When you roll out cookie dough, it stays put. When you roll out bread dough like this, it stretches out…. then springs back. Streeeetch… and spring! It’s a battle to get it to a nice rectangular shape. Once I finally succeeded at that, I cut that rectangle into 3 strips. Then I coated the center of each one with melted butter and sprinkled in the brown sugar/white sugar/cinnamon mixture. I always have to make more than the recipe says because I go overboard on this part.
Then I pinched the sides of each strip together and smooshed the ends to seal in the sugary goodness. I braided the 3 strips together:
The braid goes onto a cookie sheet. At this point, if you wanted to make a BIG King Cake, you’d just curve it in a C on one side of the pan, and the other half of the dough makes the other half of the cake oval. I like to make 2 smaller circular cakes so my co-workers have 2 shots at getting a baby (if you didn’t click the link to read about King Cakes, that sentence is probably confusing. I’m not explaining).
Not ready to put it in the oven yet… that braided work of art has to rise for about an hour under a damp towel. While I waited for that, I mixed my colored sugars. I used gel food colors this year because that’s what I had on hand – next year, I’m going back to the liquid ones. The gel colors are great for baking, but not so much for just dyeing plain white sugar. HUGE PAIN. Who knew?
After all that work, the actual baking part only took 15-20 minutes.
The plastic babies obviously can’t go in before baking, or they’d melt inside the cake and that would be disgusting. The babies are inserted after baking, while the cakes are still warm, and before decorating.
The icing is basic (powdered sugar, a little vanilla, and a little milk). I drizzled that all over the tops of the cakes, then sprinkled on the colored sugars before the icing set. Ta-da! KING CAAAAAAAAAAAKES! (snugly squished into one big cake box together because I didn’t want to carry two into the office)
As an added bonus this year, I made two little cinnamon-roll-like minis for my boyfriend’s kids. I really want to eat these cute little nuggets myself, but I’m being good. …so far.
And finally, the great joy of being a baker without a dishwasher… cleanup:by