King Cake for Mardi Gras

king cake for mardi grasI had my first king cake last year and I got the little baby (Is the baby supposed to be Jesus? If so, it’s weird that it’s a lent thing and not a Christmas thing.). I thought it meant I would get good luck for a year, but as it turns out it means that you have to bake the next one. Elizabeth does most of the baking in this house, so the only baking I do is on her birthday (You can’t make your own birthday cake, after all.). So I was worried about making the king cake, especially because with its doughnut-y texture, it’s  so different from a normal cake. As it turns out, with this basic recipe, it’s not all that hard to make, and the results were delicious.

I was impressed with the airy texture of the cake, and it’s subtle sweetness. The lemon and orange zests give it a nice hint of fragrance. Kings cakes aren’t typically known for their beauty, so when it comes time to decorate, invite the kids to help out.

King Cake (adapted from Emeril Legasse)

for the cake
1/2 cup warm water
4 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup, plus two teaspoons granulated sugar
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus some extra set aside
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
zest of one lemon
zest of one orange
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup warm milk
1/2 cup melted butter
5 egg yolks
King cake baby

for the glaze and decoration
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon water
Purple, gold, and green sugar crystals

In a bowl, mix the yeast, warm water, and two teaspoons of sugar. Set aside some place warm for 15 minutes.

After the yeast mixture has sat for 15 minutes, combine in the the bowl of your mixer or in a large mixing bowl the flour, the remaining granulated sugar, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, the lemon and orange zest, the milk, the butter, the egg yolks, and the yeast mixture. Mix until the ingredients are combined.

Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface. As you knead, work in a little bit more flour until the dough isn’t sticky (It shouldn’t take much). Knead until the dough is smooth, then transfer the dough to a well-greased bowl. Cover with a wet towel and set aside for 1.5 hours.

Return the dough to the floured work surface and punch it down. Then roll it into a long cylinder. On a greased cookie sheet, shape it into a ring, taking care to work the ends into one another to form a continuous ring. Place a large tomato can in the center of the ring, cover with the towel again and wait 40-45 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

After the dough has risen, bake for about 30 minutes or until the cake is golden brown.

Cool for thirty minutes, then make the glaze by combining the powdered sugar, and two tablespoons each of water and lemon juice. Mix well. Drizzle the glaze over the cake and then sprinkle with the sugar crystals.

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