It’s Mardi Gras time! Mardi Gras conjures up images of fun, frivolity and feasting and no Mardi Gras celebration would be complete without a colorful King Cake. A brioche or sweet roll dough is braided, baked in a circle and decorated with icing and purple, green and gold sugars. Kind of like a crown shaped cinnamon roll all dressed up for a party.
My sister lived in Louisiana for many years and she talks about all the fabulous King Cakes she’s had over the years. So when Betty Crocker offered me the opportunity to develop a Mardi Gras King Cake recipe for their site, it was the perfect opportunity for me to finally bake this scrumptious bread/coffee cake.
My recipe uses Quick Rise yeast which eliminates the time consuming first rise in many brioche recipe. My cake is filled with a traditional cinnamon sugar filling, but would be fabulous with a cream cheese or fruit filling as well.
Yield: 12 Servings
Mardi Gras King Cake
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) Quick Rise yeast
1 cup milk (120º to 130º)
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, cut into 12 pieces
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup powdered (confectioners) sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
dark green, purple, and yellow or gold sugars
miniature plastic baby
Mix 2 1/2 cups flour and yeast in mixing bowl, using the paddle attachment, on low for about 30 seconds.
Heat milk, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat until sugar is dissolved and milk is between 120º to 130º.
With mixer on low, pour in liquids and mix until incorporated. Add eggs one at a time. Continue mixing until a shaggy dough forms.
Clean off paddle and switch to dough hook. Mix in the remaining 1 cup flour a little at a time, adding more or less flour as needed to make a soft dough.
Add the softened butter, a piece at a time, kneading until each piece of butter is absorbed. Knead for eight minutes on low. The dough should completely clear the sides of the bowl. If it is too sticky, add additional flour 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing in thoroughly before determining if more flour is needed. If the dough seems too dry, spritz with water from a spray bottle a couple of times, mixing in thoroughly before determining if more water is needed. Every 2 minutes, stop the machine, scrape the dough off the hook, and then continue kneading.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times by hand to be sure it’s smooth and elastic. Form the dough into a ball. Place dough into a greased bowl. Turn once so greased surface is on top. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
While the dough is chilling, make cinnamon filling. Combine the brown sugar and ground cinnamon. Combine butter with cinnamon mixture and mix well.
Roll the chilled dough into a 10 x 20 inch rectangle. Spread the filling on half of the long side of the dough. Fold the dough in half covering the filling. Pat dough down firmly so the dough will stick together.
Cut dough into three long strips. Press the tops of the strips together and braid the strips. Press the ends together at the bottom.
Gently stretch the braid so that it measures 20 inches again. Shape it into a circle/oval and press the edges together. If desired, hide the miniature plastic baby in between the ends of the circle before sealing together in a ring. (You can also make a slit in the bottom of the cake and put the baby in after the cake is baked.)
Transfer the ring to a parchment lined or greased baking sheet. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 350º. Bake the cake until it is golden brown, 20–35 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool 10 minutes on baking sheet and then place it on a cooling rack to cool completely before icing.
Icing: In a small bowl, mix powdered sugar, milk and vanilla until smooth (add additional milk if mixture is too thick or powdered sugar if too thin). Spoon icing over top of the cake. Immediately sprinkle on colored sugar, alternating between the three colors.
Tips: - Use a pizza cutter to easily cut dough into strips. - The cake can also be made without braiding. Just roll up the dough jelly roll style after spreading the filling.