King Cake is the most iconic pastry we associate with New Orleans and Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras is known as the carnival celebration between Epiphany and Ash Wednesday. So Mardi Gras, literally means Fat Tuesday in French and it’s the last night of over indulgent eating before Lent. NOLA takes this celebration to a whole new level!
Traditionally the King Cake is made with cinnamon, but bakery shops all over New Orleans make them with all kinds of fillings and flavors. Since the King Cake is similar to a coffee cake, I decided to make mine with a double filling of cream cheese and cinnamon crumble. Why not? My kitchen, my rules, right? As my first attempt at a King Cake I must say I’m very pleased with the outcome. I would like to make it again and try different filling combinations.
After I mixed the dough and kneaded it for about 10 minutes, I ended up with a nice smooth and elastic dough. I covered it with plastic wrap and placed it in the microwave with a glass of hot water to let it double in size. Apparently the microwave is a good place for your dough to rise and I read online that adding a glass of hot water helps. Next time I’ll test what happens without it. Who knew the microwave had another usage!
So while the dough was hanging out in the microwave, I made the two fillings. I’m sorry I’m missing some pictures, I’m trying to get better at balancing cooking/baking/cleaning and photography.
Because I used Rapid Rise active yeast, it didn’t take two hours for the dough to double. It was less than 30 minutes. That a time-saver! After the dough doubled in size, I punched it a few times and placed it on my board to roll it out. I shaped it into a 10X18 rectangle so I could roll it up like a jelly roll. I spread the cream cheese filling with a spatula and using my hands, I crumbled the cinnamon crumble filling. I then rolled it tightly like a jelly roll and wrapped it around a coffee can on a parchment paper on a cookie sheet. I made a few deep slits into the dough and covered it up again to allow it to rise.
After the dough rested and rose a bit more, I gave it an egg wash before baking it in a 350° for 30 minutes. I guess I was a bit enthusiastic with the slits. When I took the cake out of the oven, some of the filling had spilled out! Let’s be honest, it’s a little wonky. That’s where the glaze and sprinkles do their magic. Looking at them side by side, you can see how the glaze turned this cake from a hot mess to something special! Don’t you love the colors? So festive.
Wonky on the outside but delicious on the inside! I love the hints of lemon and the warmth of the cinnamon and nutmeg. What a great pairing. This cake is going fast, I hope there’s some left for my morning coffee.
Mardi Gras King Cake
The King Cake screams New Orleans and Mardi Gras.
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 .25 ounce packet active dry yeast (Rapid Rise preferred)
- 1/3 cup warm water (110 degrees)
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- olive oil to coat a glass bowl and pastry dough
- egg wash (1 egg plus 1 tablespoon of water)
- Filling – Cinnamon Walnut Crumble
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/3 cup walnuts, chopped
- 1/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
- Filling – Cream Cheese
- 1 8 ounce block cream cheese
- 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
- 1 lemon, zested
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- Sugar Glaze
- 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 2-3 drops clear vanilla extract
- plastic baby toy
- Sugar Sprinkles – purple, green and gold
Scald 1/2 cup of milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat and add 2 tablespoons of room temperature unsalted butter. Butter should melt completely. Allow mixture to cool to room temperature.
In a large bowl, gently dissolve 1 active yeast packet in 1/3 cup of warm water with 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar. It will bloom and in about 10 minutes it should be creamy. Note: The sugar measurement was taken from the 1/4 cup granulated sugar.
To the yeast bloom, whisk in the cooled milk and butter mixture. Whisk in the egg and mix to blend.
In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients – the remaining granulated sugar, kosher salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and all purpose flour. Whisk to combine.
Add one cup at a time of the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mixing well and scraping the sides. When all the dry ingredients have been mixed, beat until the dough begins to pull away from the side of the bowl and pulls together. Place it in a lightly floured surface and knead about 10 minutes and shape it into a round ball. The dough should be smooth and elastic.
Note: Kneading is working the dough with the palm of your hand. As you push the dough away from you using the palm of your hand, you bring it back and repeat the same steps until it becomes easier to stretch. As you knead, the dough will incorporate the flour on the board.
Coat the bottom of a glass mixing bowl with olive oil. Place the pastry dough in the bowl and rotate the dough until it’s all coated in oil. Cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap in a warm place and allow the dough to double in size. While the dough rises, make the two fillings.
Note: Because I used Rapid Rise yeast, the dough doubled in less than 30 minutes. That’s a great time saver since I don’t have two hours to spare.
FILLING – CINNAMON WALNUT CRUMBLE
In a bowl, combine all ingredients until it resembles a coarse crumble. Set aside.
FILLING – CREAM CHEESE
With a hand mixer, cream the cream cheese and powdered sugar. Add lemon zest and lemon juice and mix to combine. Set aside.
Once your dough has doubled, punch the dough in with your knuckles three times. Remove it from the bowl onto your counter surface or board. Using a rolling pin, shape the dough into a rectangle about 10X18 inches.
Using a spatula, spread the Cream Cheese Filling evenly over the dough. Remember not to spread filling on the seam side.
Using your hands, crumble the Cinnamon Walnut Crumble Filling evenly over the cream cheese filling.
Roll up the dough tightly as if you were making a jelly roll, rolling the long side of the rectangle. Place the roll on a parchment lined cookie sheet and wrap the dough around a heat resistant cylinder such as a coffee can. This will help the dough keep the shape as it bakes. Pinch the ends together so the seams don’t separate. Make even cuts into the dough. Cover with a damp cloth and allow the dough to rise again.
Preheat oven to 350°. Coat the dough with an egg wash using a pastry brush. Bake for 27-30 minutes. While the dough is baking, make the glaze.
Whisk all ingredients until you have a smooth glaze without any lumps.
Note: The glaze should pass the “ribbon test”. Meaning when you lift the whisk over the glaze, it should fall slowly forming a ribbon that holds it’s shape for a short time. If the glaze is too think, add 1/2 teaspoon of water. If the glaze is too thin, add a few tablespoons of powdered sugar until you’ve reached the desired consistency.
Once the cake has baked, remove the can from the center of the cake and tuck the plastic toy into the bottom of the King Cake.
Glaze the King Cake while it’s warm and sprinkle in the traditional Mardi Gras colors.
I can’t wait to make this again and try different filling combinations. I hope you enjoy these flavors. Leave your comments below.