Today is Mardi Gras (also known as Fat Tuesday). New Orleans is the epicenter of this celebration marked by food, dance, music and daiquiries. It’s also the home of Ian, the Toad who does everything from offering unflappable customer service to our online customers to programming the weekly emails we send to fixing the temperamental espresso machine (usually on a weekly basis).
This year Ian also baked one of the official Mardi Gras foods, the King Cake. It’s like a scrumptious cinnamon roll with delicious, Mardi Gras-colored frosting and a trinket (such as a ceramic or plastic baby or an almond) baked inside. Tradition says that whomever gets the piece of cake with the trinket (or almond) will have a year of good luck… and also host the next King Cake Party.
Ian’s cake disappeared too fast this morning for everyone to get the memo on the rules, and the almond was found scattered amongst crumbs on the empty cake dish within minutes after it appeared. We’ll know who got it when one of us begins to show signs of extraordinary good luck. And then we’ll demand that they bring in another of these amazing cakes.
Happy Fat Tuesday, everybody! Enjoy Ian’s recipe.
Ian’s King Cake
1/2 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
2 packages dry yeast
2 teaspoons sugar
4 to 5 cups flour (sift if possible)
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 cup warm milk (105 to 115 degrees)
1 stick melted unsalted butter, cooled
5 egg yolks
King Cake trinket (or a pecan, almond or bean)
1 stick softened butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
Purple, green and yellow (gold) food coloring and/or purple, green and yellow (gold) sugar crystals
Preheat the oven 325 degrees.
Combine warm water, yeast and 2 teaspoons sugar in a small bowl. Mix well and set aside in a warm place for about 10 minutes. Combine the 4 cups of flour, 1/2 cup sugar, salt, nutmeg, lemon rind and mix well until evenly blended together. Combine the warm milk, melted butter, egg yolks and yeast mixture and beat until smooth. Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture and mix until a dough is formed. Turn dough out on a lightly floured surface and knead in enough remaining flour until the dough is no longer sticky. Continue kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes). Place the dough in a well-greased bowl. Turn once so greased surface is on top. Cover the dough and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk (about 1 1/2 hours).
While the dough is rising, cream together the softened butter, ¼ cup of sugar, and cinnamon and set aside.
Punch the dough down and place on a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough in to a long rectangular shape, about 30″ by 12″. Evenly spread the creamed butter mixture over the dough, leaving about a half-inch border. Roll the dough up in to a cylinder, about 30 inches long. Place the cylinder on a buttered baking sheet. Shape into a ring, pinching ends together to seal. Press the King Cake trinket, pecan/almond or dried bean into the ring from the bottom so that it is completely hidden by the dough. Cover the ring with a towel, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until light brown and cooked through.
For the glaze: Combine the ingredients and beat until smooth. You can color the glaze at this point, or leave the glaze white and sprinkle with the colored sprinkles instead. Sprinkle with sugar crystals, alternating colors.
Have a great Mardi Gras recipe to share? Tell us in the comments!