King Cake is a Mardi Gras tradition in New Orleans. The cake is similar to a brioche and is rolled like a cinnamon roll. It can contain a variety of fillings, such as cinnamon and sugar or cream cheese and fruit. Decorating the cake is simple – it is iced with a simple sugar icing then covered with bands of gold, green and purple colored sugar. The cake contains a small trinket, often a plastic baby. The person who finds the trinket in their piece of cake is the king or queen for the day (and is responsible for bringing the cake next time).
This recipe is a variant that I created from a few different recipes. The original recipe was in the January 1990 issue of Southern Living, but of course, I made a few modifications (like adding booze and nuts!).
If you don’t have colored sugar on hand, don’t fret – you can make your own by putting some granulated sugar into a plastic bag and adding a few drops of food coloring. Shake the bag well to make sure that the coloring gets evenly distributed throughout the sugar.
If you’re having problems getting your dough to rise, here are two tricks that can help. First, try preheating your oven. Your stove top may become nice and warm from the heat of the oven, which creates an ideal place for bread to rise. If that doesn’t seem to work, you can try placing the bowl on a heating pad (but be careful – you don’t want it to get too hot!). You may need to take the cloth cover off of the heating pad if the bowl still doesn’t seem to get warm.
2 tbsp butter
8 oz sour cream
3 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 (0.25 oz) envelope dry active yeast
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 cup warm water (100-110 degrees Fahrenheit)
3 1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 tbsp bourbon
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp melted butter
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans
4 tbsp bourbon
2 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
Combine 2 tbsp butter, sour cream, 3 tbsp sugar and salt in a small saucepan. Cook over low heat just until the butter is melted. Set aside. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 1/2 tsp sugar in 1/4 cup of warm water (100-110 degrees Fahrenheit). Let stand for 5 minutes or until yeast is active. Add butter mixture, eggs and 1 cup of flour to the yeast mixture. Beat with an electric mixer for 2 minutes or until smooth. Gradually add the remaining flour until the dough is soft.
Knead dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic (approximately 5 minutes). Place into a well greased bowl, turning dough in the bowl so that it is completely greased. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, or until the dough has doubled in size. Remove the dough and punch down. Roll into a long rectangle. Combine the filling ingredients and spread onto the dough. Roll the dough lengthwise, just like a cinnamon roll. Place dough roll on a cookie sheet, seam side down. Join the ends of the roll to make a ring, moistening and sealing the edges.
Cover the dough ring and let rise in a warm place for 20-30 minutes, or until doubled in size. Bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until the ring is golden brown. Let cool completely. If you want to add a favor inside the cake, poke a small hole into the bottom of the fully-cooled cake and insert it before decorating the cake.
Whisk together icing ingredients. Drizzle icing over the cake. Place colored sugar in bands over the icing. And that’s it!
When serving, be sure to warn your guests about any trinkets you may have hidden in the cake! As they say in New Orleans, “Laissez les bon temps rouler!”