Mardi Gras, also known as Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras is French for “Fat Tuesday”) is the last day of feasting before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras falls on Tuesday, February 16, 2010. The tradition of the King Cake came to New Orleans with the French settlers around 1870, continuing a custom dating back to twelfth century in France.
History of Mardi Gras King Cake
Hundreds of thousands of King Cakes are eaten during Mardi Gras each year in New Orleans, Louisiana. A Mardi Gras party would not be authentic without the traditional King Cake as the center of the party. The cake is made with a rich Danish dough, baked and covered with a sugar topping in Mardi Gras colors; purple representing justice, green representing faith, and gold representing power. A small plastic baby became the symbol of this Holy Day is placed inside of each King Cake. The New Orleans tradition is that each person takes a piece of cake hoping to find the plastic baby inside. The recipient of the plastic baby is crowned King or Queen for the day and that person host the following year’s party and supplies the King Cake.
TRADITIONAL KING CAKE
Cook: 10 min.; Stand: 5 min.; Rise: 1 hr., 30 min.; Bake: 16 min.
1 (16-ounce) container sour cream
1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 (1/4-ounce) envelopes active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
6 to 6 1/2 cups bread flour
1/3 cup Softened butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Green, purple, and gold-tinted sparkling sugar sprinkles
Cook first 4 ingredients in a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring often, until butter melts.
Set aside, and cool mixture to 100° to 110°.
Stir together yeast, 1/2 cup warm water, and 1 tablespoon sugar in a 1-cup glass measuring cup; let stand 5 minutes.
Beat sour cream mixture, yeast mixture, eggs, and 2 cups flour at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer until smooth. Reduce speed to low, and gradually add enough remaining flour (4 to 4 1/2 cups) until a soft dough forms.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes). Place in a well-greased bowl, turning to grease top.
Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 hour or until dough is doubled in bulk.
Punch down dough, and divide in half. Roll each portion into a 22- x 12-inch rectangle. Spread 1/3 cup softened butter evenly on each rectangle, leaving a 1-inch border. Stir together 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon, and sprinkle evenly over butter on each rectangle.
Roll up each dough rectangle, jelly-roll fashion, starting at 1 long side. Place one dough roll, seam side down, on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bring ends of roll together to form an oval ring, moistening and pinching edges together to seal. Repeat with second dough roll.
Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 20 to 30 minutes or until doubled in bulk.
Bake at 375° for 14 to 16 minutes or until golden. Slightly cool cakes on pans on wire racks (about 10 minutes). Drizzle Creamy Glaze evenly over warm cakes; sprinkle with colored sugars, alternating colors and forming bands. Let cool completely.
Cream Cheese-Filled King Cake: Prepare each 22- x 12-inch dough rectangle as directed. Omit 1/3 cup softened butter and 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon. Increase 1/2 cup sugar to 3/4 cup sugar. Beat 3/4 cup sugar; 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened; 1 large egg; and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Spread cream cheese mixture evenly on each dough rectangle, leaving 1-inch borders.
3 tablespoons butter, melted
3 cups powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 to 4 tablespoons milk
Stir together first 4 ingredients. Stir in 2 tablespoon milk, adding additional milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, until spreading consistency.
This recipe uses bread flour, which makes for a light airy cake. You still get tasty results with all-purpose flour the cake will be more dense.
Photo Credit: Southern Living
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