Saturday, February 2, 2013
Hail to the King...
I've always wanted to make a King's Cake, but whenever I think of it, the season has passed. The cake is typically served on the Epiphany (12 days after Christmas) through Mardi Gras. It is rare to come across this cake in the Northeast - it's more of a Gulf Coast kind of goodie. The cake was supposedly brought to that region from France and Spain where it is associated with Carnival (also known as Mardi Gras.) When I saw that this cake was featured in The New York Times Dining Section this past week, I decided I should finally make it!
The cake is usually "stuffed" with a trinket. The traditional trinket is a bean, however, nowadays, a plastic infant is inserted into the cake after it is baked. Whoever gets the slice with the trinket is king (or queen) for a day! Another tradition is that the person who gets the trinket is responsible for bringing a King's Cake to the next appropriate occasion.
Because there are so many different countries that make their own version of the cake, it is hard to figure out what the original cake may have been. To my knowledge, the most traditional version is a yeast "cake" rolled with a cinnamon sugar (think cinnamon roll,) shaped into a ring and glazed with icing and sprinkles. At some point, fillings were added - the most popular being a cherry/cream cheese mix. Other variations I've come across include chocolate, praline or straight-up pie filling. Being that there were so many options, I decided to make it non-traditional and made a cream cheese filling. As far as the sprinkles go, the colors - purple, green and gold - are the traditional colors of Mardi Gras. And, coincidentally, there are three colors - one for each of the three Kings that visited Jesus.
The recipe reads as an enriched bread recipe and the characteristics are the same, so I'm not sure why it's a cake. I guess cake is more regal than bread? With that said, who cares what is called!
The dough is rolled into a rectangle with the filling spread on top and rolled. The log is then shaped into a ring and scored with a razor. This gives it cool looking grooves and, more importantly, controls the shape of the cake during baking.
Fresh out of the oven.
Getting the sprinkles together while the cake is cooling. Did you know - you can dye sugar by adding a drop of food color and mixing well. Do this by hand, but be sure to wear a glove.
The finished King's Cake!! By the way, I didn't bother putting a trinket in it. We all know I'm the King. ;)