In European countries, the coming of the wisemen bearing gifts to the Christ Child is celebrated twelve days after Christmas. The celebration, called Epiphany, Little Christmas on the Twelfth Night, is a time of exchanging gifts and feasting. All over the world, people gather for the festive Twelfth Night celebrations. One of the most popular customs is still the baking of a special cake in honor of the three kings... "A King's Cake." Tradition has now evolved through time to obligate the person who receives the baby (inside every King Cake) to continue the festivities by hosting another king cake party.King Cakes were originally a simple ring of dough with little decoration. The King Cake is made with a rich Danish dough, baked and covered wth a poured sugar topping and decorated with the traditional Mardi Gras-colored sugars. The result is a delicious and festive cake in traditional Rex colors: Purple, representing justice; Green representing faith; Gold representing Power.
- 1⁄2 cup water (110 to 115 degrees)
- 2 packages active dry yeast
- 1⁄2 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 3 1⁄2-4 1⁄2 cups flour, unsifted
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon lemon, zest of
- 1⁄2 cup warm milk
- 5 egg yolks
- 1⁄2-1 cup butter, cut into slices and softened
- 2 tablespoons softened butter
- 1 tablespoon milk
- 1 egg, slightly beaten with the milk
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- green food coloring paste
- purple food coloring paste
- yellow food coloring paste
- 12 tablespoons sugar
- 3 cups confectioners' sugar
- 1⁄4 cup lemon juice
- 3 -6 tablespoons water
- Pour the warm water into a small shallow bowl, and sprinkle yeast and 2 teaspoons sugar into it.
- Allow the yeast and sugar to rest for three minutes then mix thoroughly.
- Set bowl in a warm place, for ten minutes or until yeast bubbles up and mixture almost doubles up in volume.
- Combine 3 1/2 cups of flour, remaining sugar, nutmeg and salt, and sift into a large mixing bowl.
- Stir in lemon zest.
- Separate center of mixture to form a hole and pour in yeast mixture and milk.
- Add egg yolks and using a wooden spoon slowly combine dry ingredients into the yeast/milk mixture.
- When mixture is smooth, beat in 8 tablespoons butter, 1 tablespoon at a time and continue to beat 2 minutes or until dough can be formed into a medium soft ball.
- Place ball of dough on a lightly floured surface and knead like bread.
- During this kneading, add up to 1 cup more of flour (1 tablespoon at a time) sprinkled over the dough.
- When dough is no longer sticky, knead 10 minutes more until shiny and elastic.
- Using a pastry brush, coat the inside of a large bowl evenly with one tablespoon softened butter.
- Place dough ball in the bowl and rotate until the entire surface is buttered.
- Cover bowl with a moderately thick kitchen towel and place in a draft free spot for about 1-½ hours, or until the dough doubles in volume.
- Using a pastry brush, coat a large baking sheet with one tablespoon of butter and set aside.
- Remove dough from bowl and place on lightly floured surface.
- Using you fist, punch dough down with a heavy blow.
- Sprinkle cinnamon over the top, pat and shake dough into a cylinder.
- Twist dough to form a curled cylinder and loop cylinder onto the buttered baking sheet.
- Pinch the ends together to complete the circle.
- Cover dough with towel and set it in draft free spot for 45 minutes until the circle of dough doubles in volume.
- Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
- Brush top and sides of cake with egg wash and bake on middle rack of oven for 25 to 35 minutes until golden brown.
- Place cake on wire rack to cool.
- If desired, at this time, you can"hide" the plastic baby in the cake.
- Colored sugars------------------.
- Squeeze a dot of green paste in palm of hand.
- Sprinkle 2 tablespoons sugar over the paste and rub together quickly.
- Place this mixture on wax paper and wash hands to remove color.
- Repeat process for other two colors.
- Place aside.
- Combine sugar, lemon juice and 3 tablespoons water until smooth.
- If icing is too stiff, add more water until spreadable.
- Spread icing over top of cake.
- Immediately sprinkle the colored sugars in individual rows consisting of about two rows of green, purple and yellow.
- Cake is served in 2"- 3" pieces.
I made this King Cake for a Mardi Gras party - it was definitely a hit! Everyone was so excited about the hidden baby. While I was cutting it, there was a crowd around me to see if they could figure out where baby Jesus was hidden...I made the dough for this recipe to the T, and it came out excellent, though I confess that I have never had a traditional king cake for comparison. The only difference was that, after the first rise, I rolled the dough out to a thin sheet about 10"x30". I then spread a mixture of 8 oz cream cheese, 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, and 1 tsp vanilla over the dough and rolled it up like a jelly roll along the longer side. Then I formed it into an oval, and let it rise for the 2nd time, following the rest of the recipe. It was so delicious! I will make this again!
I made two of these one for my wife's office and one for the bar where I work. Both groups thought it was great and so did we. I'll be using this for Mardi Gras from here on.
Very good traditional recipe. The taste is citrus-y and similar to Stollen (the German Christmas bread). Texture is dense and will grow denser the longer it sits, so eat it within a couple days. The bread is sweet enough that you don't need to coat it in frosting and sugar unless you really like that. If I did it over again, I might switch to a different frosting or skip the frosting entirely and just sprinkle it lightly with the colored sugars. The frosting tasted like liquid powdered sugar, not really my thing.