Authentic King Cake
Our Fat Tuesday menu is all about celebrating a New Orleans-style Mardi Gras. And you can’t do that without a king cake. Named for the Three Kings aka the Three Wise Men and enjoyed around the world, all the variations are served on or before Fat Tuesday and have something hidden inside to represent the baby Jesus. Depending on where you are in the world, it might be a bean or a nut or a ring, but in New Orleans it’s a little plastic baby Jesus—so that's what we're going to do!
Prep Time 2 hrs
Cook Time 30 mins
- 3 ½ cups All-Purpose Flour
- 1 package Instant Yeast 2 1/4 teaspoons
- 1 cup Milk
- ¼ cup Sugar
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- 2 Eggs
- 6 tablespoons Unsalted Butted softened, cut into 12 pieces
- ⅔ cup Packed Light Brown Sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
- 4 tablespoons Unsalted Butter softened
- 1 cup Powdered Sugar
- 1 tablespoon Milk
- ½ teaspoon Vanilla
- Colored Sugar green, purple, and yellow
- Miniature Plastic Baby if desired (note: available in bulk on Amazon)
Mix 2 1/2 cups flour and yeast in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer.
Heat milk, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat until sugar is dissolved and milk is between 120°F to 130°F.
With the mixer on low, pour in liquids and mix until incorporated. Add eggs one at a time. Continue mixing until a shaggy dough forms. Clean off the paddle and switch to the dough hook. Mix in the remaining 1 cup flour a little at a time, adding more or less flour as needed to make a soft dough. Add the softened butter, a piece at a time, kneading until each piece of butter is absorbed.
Knead for eight minutes on low. The dough should completely clear the sides of the bowl. If it is too sticky, add additional flour 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing in thoroughly before determining if more flour is needed. If the dough seems too dry, spritz with water from a spray bottle a couple of times, mixing in thoroughly before determining if more water is needed. Every 2 minutes, stop the machine, scrape the dough off the hook, and then continue kneading.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times by hand to be sure it’s smooth and elastic. Form the dough into a ball. Place dough into a greased bowl. Turn once so the greased surface is on top. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
While the dough is chilling, make cinnamon filling. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar and ground cinnamon. Combine butter with cinnamon mixture and mix well.
Roll the chilled dough into a 10 x 20 inch rectangle. Spread the filling along the long half of the dough. Fold the dough in half covering the filling. Pat dough down firmly so the dough will stick together. Cut dough into three long strips. Press the tops of the strips together and braid the strips. Press the ends together at the bottom. Gently stretch the braid so that it measures 20 inches again. Shape it into a circle/oval and press the edges together.
Transfer the ring to a parchment lined or greased baking sheet. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rise until doubled, about 1 hour. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 350°. Bake the cake until it is golden brown, 20 – 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheet and then place it on a cooling rack to cool completely before icing. To hide the baby in the cake, if desired, make a small slit in the bottom of the cake and put the miniature plastic baby in after the cake has cooled.
Icing: In a small bowl, mix powdered sugar, milk and vanilla until smooth (add additional milk if mixture is too thick or powdered sugar if too thin).
Spoon icing over top of the cake. Immediately sprinkle on colored sugar, alternating between the three colors.