Sunday, March 4, 2012

Mardi Gras King Cake

I know this post is late but I was going through photos today and got excited all over again just looking at them!  This year was our first year celebrating Mardi Gras in St. Louis.  We heard that people do it up big here so I decided to jump right in on the action by bringing along a king cake to our friend's party.  I'm not really sure how or why the tradition started, but the fun part about the king cake is that once it's baked, you carefully hide a tiny plastic baby in one piece and whoever gets the piece is king or queen for the day - fun!

After a little bit of research I settled on a fairly simple version from allrecipes.  This recipe isn't difficult, just be sure to give yourself plenty of time.  I found the dough really easy to work with and practically squealed with delight when it rose like it was supposed to!  I ended up halving the original recipe for the cake but used the full recipe for the filling and frosting and I think it turned out great!  I also made a couple other changes based on the comments I read.  Here is the link to the original recipe but the following includes the changes I made.  Hope you enjoy!
Mardi Gras King Cake

1/2 cup milk
2 tbsp. butter
1 package dry active yeast (2 1/4 tsp.)
1/3 cup warm water
1/4 cup white sugar
1 egg
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
2 3/4 cup flour

1 cup packed brown sugar
1 tbsp. cinnamon
2/3 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup melted butter

1 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp. water

Purple, green and yellow sanding sugar, plus a tiny plastic baby if you choose to try this fun tradition (just be careful to warn everyone so no one accidentally swallows it!).

Scald milk (I microwaved for a minute or so), remove from heat and stir in butter.  Allow mixture to cool to room temp.  In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in the warm water with 1/2 tbsp. of the sugar.  Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.

When yeast mixture is bubbling, add the cooled milk mixture.  Whisk in the egg.  Stir in the remaining white sugar, salt and nutmeg.  Beat the flour into the milk/egg mixture 1 cup at a time.  When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes (I let my KitchenAid do most of the work and only had to knead it together a couple minutes).

Lightly oil a large bowl, place dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil.  Cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 2 hours (I used a tip from the comments and placed my bowl in the microwave with a mug of boiling water.  I think the steam really helped my dough rise and made it nice and fluffy in texture once it was baked.).  When risen, punch down.

To make filling, combine brown sugar, cinnamon, chopped pecans and flour.  Pour melted butter over mixture and mix until crumbly.  Roll dough out into a large rectangle (approx. 10x16 inches).  Sprinkle filling evenly over the dough and roll up tightly beginning with the wide side.  Bring the ends together to form a ring.  Place ring on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat.  I placed a small ramekin in the center to help keep the ring shape and removed just before baking.  At this point I ended up covering the ring and refrigerating over night and just added more rising time in the morning.  Let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 45 minutes (more if dough is cold).
Preheat oven to 350 and bake for about 27-30 minutes, until lightly golden.
Nakey king cake - looks like a giant bagel!
Frost while still warm with powdered sugar mixed with water and immediately add the colored sugars so that they stick.  Carefully push the plastic baby into the bottom of the cake.
Making this cake was a lot of fun.  I hope to make it a tradition for many years to come!  It also got me thinking that I might be able to use the dough for cinnamon rolls.  If anyone has any experience with this or can recommend a yummy cinnamon roll recipe please share - we will be entertaining family at Easter and I want to make some!  Have a great day!


  1. That looks really cool!

    I have these cinnamon rolls on my to do list:
    (You have to make this starter first )

    I haven't made them yet...but I watched her make them on Paula Deen and I couldn't believe how good they looked. You can also buy starter from Miss Edie. I have been making sourdoughs in my bread machine (I actually have a starter to make olive oil bread in there right now!), so I'm really excited to try these!

  2. Looks colorful and very much like a bagel when it isn't iced!

  3. WHOA! i did not know anything about a plastic baby in the cake story! That's kinda nuts! I've never had a Mardi Gras cake or celebrated Mardi Gras either... but that cake looks amazing, and totally like a giant bagel when naked :P
    Let's meet up sooon! Joe may get some research proposal (he'll hear back soon) and he'll actually get a salary which means we can finally afford to eat out more, which means we can all meet up for brunch or fancy dinner sometimes! Yessss :)

  4. ive never had a mardi gras cake before, they do look delicious though, i should definitely get one next year :D