Being from south Louisiana, King Cakes are a normal part of life this time of year! Now, living in another part of the country, I know that they are not quite as well known everywhere else. So, here I am now to share the joy of these delicious treats with you all!
Traditionally part of Mardi Gras celebrations, King Cakes are made using a yeasted sweet dough that is filled with either cinnamon sugar, cream cheese, strawberry, praline, or chocolate, shaped into a circle, baked, and decorated with icing and colorful sugar. These festive cakes are equal parts fun and delicious. For this recipe, I am showing you how to make a king cake with a buttery cinnamon sugar filling. Once you get the hang of it though, feel free to use the dough recipe and instructions and substitute your own fillings.
After gathering the needed ingredients, start by scalding the milk on the stovetop. Be sure to stir the milk constantly and remove from the heat before it reaches boiling. After heating, set the milk to the side to cool to about 110 degrees. Next activate the yeast by stirring it into water that is between 100 – 110 degrees. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes to become active. You will know it is ready when the top of the mixture is nice and foamy.
While waiting on the milk and yeast to be ready, use a mixer to cream together the butter, sugar, and salt. Slowly mix in the eggs and lemon juice. Once the milk is lukewarm and the yeast is ready, add them both to the bowl and slowly mix everything together. Gradually mix in the flour until mostly combined. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead the mixture well and shape into a ball. When ready, the dough will still be slightly sticky, but not wet. Clean the mixing bowl and then grease it with cooking spray. Set the dough back into the bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Leave the dough to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1.5 hours. I like to place my dough in either the microwave or oven (turned off!) with a measuring cup of hot water to create a warm, humid environment for the dough to rise.
Once doubled in size, punch the dough down and turn out onto a lightly floured counter. Roll the dough out into a long rectangle that is approximately 1/4 inch thick, 12 inches deep, and 30 inches long. Brush the surface of the dough with melted butter and then sprinkle generously with cinnamon sugar. To roll the dough, start on the long side and slowly and gently roll the dough to create a long, tight roll. To seal the roll, dip your finger in water and gently pat the exposed edge of dough before folding it up and gently pressing to seal. For a traditional king cake shape, simply bring the ends of the dough around to from a circle and press the ends together.
To make this open twisted king cake – starting about one inch into the roll, use a very sharp knife to slice the log in half lengthwise as shown below. Keeping the cut side of the dough facing up, tightly twist the two halves of dough around each other. Carefully transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet, shape the dough into a circle, and twist the ends together. Cover the cake with plastic wrap and leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
When ready, bake the cake at 350 degrees for 28-33 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through. Be sure to let the cake cool completely before decorating.
There are plenty of options when it comes to decorating your cake. You can purchase colorful sprinkles or sugar in the baking section of the store, or you can simply color the sugar yourself. You can also go the easy and classy route and just leave the cake with white icing (I do that often!). If you would like to make colorful sugar at home, add a few tablespoons of sugar to a plastic bag, add the desired color food coloring, and seal the bag tightly. Use your hands to mix and squish the sugar around until the sugar is evenly colored.
To make the icing, stir together the powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk until you reach the desired consistency. If the icing is too runny, slowly add more sugar. If the icing is too thick, slowly add more milk. Spoon the icing onto the cooled cake and then sprinkle the with colorful sugar!
I hope you all enjoy this fun recipe. The smells and tastes are sure to warm your home quickly on these chilly days!
Source: Anna Reid - The Little Blue Mixer
Yield: 1 king cake
- 1 cup milk scalded
- 1 package yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
- 1⁄4 cup water 100-110 degrees
- 1⁄2 cup butter softened
- 1⁄2 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs slightly beaten
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 5 cups all purpose flour
- 3⁄4 cup unsalted butter melted
- 2 tablespoons cinnamon
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 1⁄2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2-3 tablespoons milk
- Colored sugar
- Scald the milk on the stove and cool until lukewarm.
- Stir the yeast into warm water (100 - 110 degrees) and let sit for 5-10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, cream together the butter, sugar, and salt in a mixing bowl.
- In a small bowl, slightly beat the eggs with a fork. Add the eggs, lemon juice, milk, and yeast to the mixing bowl and slowly mix. Gradually mix in the flour.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead well. The dough should be slightly sticky but not wet.
- Clean and then grease the mixing bowl. Return the dough to the bowl and lightly grease the top of the dough. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Leave the dough to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1.5 hours.
- Once doubled, punch the dough down and turn out onto a lightly floured counter. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a long rectangle approximately 1/4 inch thick, 12 inches deep, and 30 inches long.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the cinnamon and granulated sugar for the filling.
- In a separate bowl, melt the butter for the filling.
- Brush the dough with melted butter to within 1/2 inch of the edges. Generously sprinkle the cinnamon sugar on top.
- Slowly and gently roll the long edge of the dough toward you to create a long, tight roll. When the roll reaches the bottom edge, dip your finger into water and then gently pat the exposed edge of dough. Pull up the bottom flap of dough and gently press it to the roll to seal.
- For a traditional king cake shape - on a parchment lined baking sheet, shape the dough into a circle and seal the ends together.
- For this open twisted king cake - starting 1 inch into the roll, use a very sharp knife to slice the log in half lengthwise. Keeping the cut side up, tightly twist the two halves of dough over one another. On a parchment lined baking sheet, shape the twisted dough into a circle and tuck the ends together.
- Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 28-33 minutes or until golden brown. Let the cake cool completely before decorating.
- To make colorful sugar, put several tablespoons of granulated sugar in a plastic bag, add the desired food coloring, seal the bag tightly, and use your hands to squish and mix until cohesive.
- To make the icing, stir together the powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk until you reach the desired consistency. If it is too thin, slowly add more sugar. If it is too thick, slowly add more milk.
- Spoon the icing onto the king cake and then sprinkle with colored sugar.