Sunday, March 6, 2011

Mardi Gras King Cake


We've lived quite a few places around the country since we've been married but one of our favorites is certainly our time spent in New Orleans, Louisiana. We were there for just a year but we fell in love with the people, culture and of course the food. One for the best events we were able to participate in was the fantastic series of parades leading up to Mardi Gras. We lived in Mandeville and they hosted some great family friendly parades that the kids loved to go to. It was so much fun standing alongside the parade route cheering and trying to get the best toys and trinkets from floats. We still have bags of beads and trinkets that the kids love to play with just from the one year that we were there.


One of the great Mardi Gras traditions is the King Cake. The King Cake tradition is based around honoring the three kings at Jesus' birth. The cake is covered in sugar, specially colored in purple for justice, green for faith and gold for power. These cakes start showing up in all the grocery stores and comes in any number of varieties and fillings. The cake also contains a hidden baby within it and whoever gets the slice with the baby has to host the next party.

This is a pretty easy cake to make and can be adjusted with about any filling you can think of. I did a traditional filling of cinnamon and pecans and then I also made a cream cheese and triple berry filling. I don't think the triple berry is exactly traditional but they do just about anything with cream cheese mixed in and it was really amazing!

Mardi Gras is coming up on Tuesday March 8th, so get your King Cake in the oven and host your own celebration this week!

Mardi Gras King Cake
adapted from allrecipes.com


Ingredients

PASTRY:
1 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
2/3 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

FILLING:
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2/3 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup melted butter

FROSTING:
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon water

Directions

Scald milk, remove from heat and stir in 1/4 cup of butter. Allow mixture to cool to room temperature. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in the warm water with 1 tablespoon of the white sugar. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.

When yeast mixture is bubbling, add the cooled milk mixture. Whisk in the eggs. Stir in the remaining white sugar, salt and nutmeg. Beat the flour into the milk/egg mixture 1 cup at a time. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 2 hours. When risen, punch down and divide dough in half.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease 2 cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.
To Make Filling: Combine the brown sugar, ground cinnamon, chopped pecans, 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup raisins. Pour 1/2 cup melted butter over the cinnamon mixture and mix until crumbly.

Roll dough halves out into large rectangles (approximately 10x16 inches or so). Sprinkle the filling evenly over the dough and roll up each half tightly like a jelly roll, beginning at the wide side. Bring the ends of each roll together to form 2 oval shaped rings. Place each ring on a prepared cookie sheet. With scissors make cuts 1/3 of the way through the rings at 1 inch intervals. Let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Push the doll into the bottom of the cake. Frost while warm with the confectioners' sugar blended with 1 to 2 tablespoons of water.

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