Tuesday, February 16, 2010

King Cake

It’s Mardi Gras, and you can’t possibly celebrate this holiday without a King Cake!

There are many variations of the King Cake (or King’s Cake), but in New Orleans it is traditionally a ring of twisted or braided bread (similar to brioche) that is topped with icing and sugar in the traditional Mardi Gras colors (green, purple, and yellow). Some stuff their cake with cream cheese and pralines, others deep fry the cake like a doughnut before dousing it in sugar, but all of them include a hidden “trinket” tucked into the cake. If you find the trinket in your piece of cake, you’re the King (or Queen) for Mardi Gras, and it’s up to you to provide next year’s King Cake - so be sure to keep this recipe handy!

Little Scarlet’s recipe follows traditional New Orleans’ guidelines, with pecans and a light, icing glaze - but uses a few welcome shortcuts.

 This delicious mess of a cake is all Southern pecans and cinnamon-sugar sweetness - serves 8-12


4 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
1 11-oz can Pillsbury bread sticks (refrigerated, not frozen)
½ cup chopped pecans

1 12-oz can whipped cream cheese frosting
1/4 cup skim milk
Green sanding sugar
Purple sanding sugar
Gold (yellow) sanding sugar

1 heat-proof plastic baby

  1. Preheat oven to 400º F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and set aside.
  2. Cream the butter, sugar, and cinnamon together using an electric hand mixer until light and fluffy. Open bread sticks and separate twelve breadsticks. Press together the ends of two breadsticks to make one long stick, until you have six long breadsticks in total.
  3. Pinch together three breadsticks at one end, and (with clean hands) spread the cinnamon sugar mixture over all breadsticks, pressing pecans into middle braid. Loosely braid three breadsticks together, taking care not to stretch the dough too thin. Pinch the braids together at the other end, and repeat with the remaining three breadsticks.
  4. Loosely coil one braids in a circle, leaving a small hole in the middle, about 3 inches in diameter. Coil the remaining braid on top of this one, and carefully insert the heat-proof plastic baby (or other trinket) somewhere into the braided dough.
  5. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until cake is golden brown. Remove from oven and cool completely.
  6. Once the cake is cool, combine the whipped frosting and milk in a medium saucepan over low heat. Heat until mixture is warm and smooth, stirring constantly. With a spoon, pour glaze over cake one spoonful at a time, until coated to your desires. Sprinkle with sanding sugars and let cool again before serving.

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