It's Mardi Gras season! Growing up in Louisiana, I couldn't wait for king cakes and parades every year, but now that I'm in Georgia, people don't know or care much about Mardi Gras. It's sad, but I refuse to stop celebrating.
If you're not lucky enough to live in Louisiana or be there for Mardi Gras, you can still celebrate by making your own king cake. It's a lot of work (be prepared to devote about 5.5 hours from start to finish), but it's completely worth the effort. This recipe makes two large king cakes; for a split second, I thought about cutting the recipe in half and only making one, but then I decided that if I were going through all the trouble, I might as well make both of them. The cake also freezes well, if it gets that far. Each of us took one cake to work, and there were no leftovers.
Before you make the cake, you'll need to make a trip to Michael's or Hobby Lobby for colored sugar (who knew they'd have such a supply at a craft store?) and tiny plastic babies (with the baby shower things). After the cake has been baked, you'll slip a little plastic baby inside from the bottom to hide in the cake. When you cut the cake, whoever gets the piece with the baby has good luck and has to supply the next king cake!
Just another note on the process of making the king cake: you will need a rolling pin or some other instrument to roll out the dough. I, however, do not have a rollilg pin, so I had to get creative. If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, you can do what I did. Use a wine bottle! It was very effective.
Yes, I drink Yellow Tail. Don't judge me.
(Friends, if you're coming to the wedding this summer and would like to give us a wedding present, we'd like a rolling pin. Thank you.)
Happy Mardi Gras!
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon butter, divided
2/3 cup skim evaporated milk
1/2 cup sugar, divided
2 tsp salt
2 packages active dry yeast
1/3 cup warm water
1 Tbsp grated lemon rind
2 Tbsp grated orange rind
6 cups flour
In a saucepan, melt 1 stick butter, evaporated milk, 1/3 cup sugar, and salt. Cool to lukewarm. In a large mixing bowl, combine 2 Tbsp sugar, yeast, and water. Let stand until foaming, about 5-10 minutes. Beat eggs into yeast, then add milk mixture and rinds. Stir in flour, 1/2 cup at a time, reserving 1 cup to flour kneading surface. Knead dough until smooth, about 5-10 minutes. Place in large mixing bowl greased with 1 Tbsp butter, turning dough once to grease top; cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1.5-2 hours.
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 stick butter, melted, divided
For filling, mix sugars and cinnamon. Set aside.
1 cup sugar (1/3 cup each of purple, green, and gold)
1 eggs, beaten
2 (3/4") plastic babies
When dough has doubled, punch down and divide in half. On a floured surface, roll half into a 15"x30" rectangle. Brush with half of melted butter and cut into three lengthwise strips. Sprinkle half of sugar mixture on strips, leaving a 1-inch lengthwise strip free for sealing. Fold each strip lengthwise toward the center, sealing the seam. You will now have 3 (30 inch) strips with the sugar mixture enclosed in each. Braid the three strips and make a circle by joining ends. Repeat with the other half of dough.
Place each cake on a baking sheet, cover with a damp cloth, and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Brush each with egg and sprinkle top with colored sugars, alternating colors. Preheat oven to 350. Bake 20 minutes. Remove from pan immediately so sugar will nto harden. While still warm, place 1 plastic baby in each from underneath.
To freeze, wrap cooled cake tightly in plastic. Before serving, remove plastic and thaw.