Monday, February 24, 2014

Mardi Gras King Cake



   Have you ever heard of a King Cake? I must confess I had never heard of it until my friend, Jason, asked me if I knew how to make one. I had no idea, but like I always say, "How hard can it be?" Well, first I needed to find out what it is, and here's what I found!
 It's kind of like a iced coffee cake, and is traditionally made to celebrate the feast of the Epiphany all the way up to Mardi Gras. So named for the 3 Kings who visited the Christ child, the cake is usually decorated with colored sugars in the royal colors of purple (justice), green (faith), and gold (power). It often has a trinket such as a small plastic baby (said to represent the baby, Jesus), either baked inside or placed underneath the cake. It has become customary in the Southern culture that whoever finds the trinket must provide the next king cake or host the next Mardi Gras party. 
 So there you have it. Fun, huh?
 I searched through several recipes and decided to try the one from Southern Living. I figured Southern Tradition + Southern Living = a good match. Even though I tweaked it ever so slightly, it turned out great!!  Jason brought it to a party and it was a huge hit! So, the next time you decide to have a Mardi Gras party, you should make this cake. Yes, it has a few steps to it, but it's not difficult to make and I'm sure your guests will love it! Oh, one other thing...Yes, I'm always very pleased whenever someone enjoys my cooking and baking, but I have to say this time I even impressed myself. I never knew I could make something so delicious! It's making me want to try other breads and pastries!!! So give this a try. Maybe YOU'LL be inspired as well!!

1 (8oz) container sour cream (room temperature)
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbs butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 (1/4-ounce) envelope active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (100° to 110°)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 to 3 1/4 cups bread flour

1/2 cup sugar
1 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Purple-, green-, and gold-tinted sparkling sugar sprinkles

Mix first 4 ingredients. Set aside.
Stir together yeast, 1/2 cup warm water, and 1 tablespoon sugar in a 1-cup glass measuring cup; let stand 5-10 minutes.
Beat sour cream mixture, yeast mixture, egg, and 1 cup flour at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer until smooth. Reduce speed to low, and gradually add enough remaining flour (2 to 2 1/4 cups) until a soft dough forms.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes). Place in a well-greased bowl, turning to grease top.
Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 hour or until dough is doubled in bulk.
Punch down dough, and divide in half. Roll each portion into a 22- x 12-inch rectangle. Beat 1/2 cup sugar, cream cheese,  egg, and vanilla at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Spread cream cheese mixture evenly on each dough rectangle, leaving 1-inch borders.
Roll up each dough rectangle, jelly-roll fashion, starting at 1 long side. Place one dough roll, seam side down, on a lightly greased baking sheet. Repeat with second dough roll, placing it next to the first one on the baking sheet. Carefully place one roll over the other on both ends until you have a rope design. Bring ends of rope together to form a ring, moistening and pinching edges together to seal.
Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 20 to 30 minutes or until doubled in bulk.
Bake at 375° for 14 to 16 minutes or until golden. Slightly cool cake on pans on wire racks (about 10 minutes). Drizzle Creamy Glaze evenly over warm cake; sprinkle with colored sugars, alternating colors and forming bands. Let cool completely.

For the glaze, mix together:
 2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 to 4 tablespoons milk


Tips:
If you don't have bread flour, you can use all purpose flour. You'll wind up with a cake that it a little more dense, which is not necessarily a bad thing.
If you're not a fan of cream cheese, just spread the dough with butter and sprinkle cinnamon and brown sugar over it, then roll it up as directed.
If you don't want to do the rope design, you can just simply roll out the entire dough instead of cutting it in half, spread it with the cream cheese, roll it up as directed, the bring the ends together to form an oval ring.
Instead of kneading the dough by hand for 10 minutes, I just placed all the dough ingredients in the bowl of my Kitchenaid and let the dough hook do all the work. It made a VERY smooth dough. Easy!
Before glazing the cake, I placed it on a cooling rack over a baking tray. Then when I poured the glaze over it, the glazed dripped down onto the tray. Then I carefully slid the cake onto the serving plate. No pools of glaze around the sides of the cake!

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