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King Cake

King Cake

King Cake is associated with the festival of Epiphany in many countries and, in other places such as New Orleans, it's associated with pre-Lenten celebrations of Mardi Gras. The Mardi Gras carnival season officially begins on January 6th, known as 'Kings Day'. The purple represents justice, the green represents faith and the gold represents power. The tradition of King Cake comes from France, where a feve (favor) was put into the cake. Early charms included a bean painted or wrapped in foil or a pecan nut. More recently, the bean has been replaced by a baby figure, made out of porcelain or ceramic. In some cultures, whoever gets the feve in his or her slice gets to be king or queen for the day, and must supply the following year's cake. In other cultures the finder will have luck and prosperity.

There are many different versions of King Cake. In France they have two types of King Cake: in northern France it's called galette des rois and consists of flaky puff pastry layers with a dense center of frangipane or apple. In southern France, the cake is called gateau des rois or royaume and is a brioche with candied fruits and sugar, similar in its shape and colors to a crown.

This was my first time ever making King Cake and I decided to go with the version that contains yeast, flour and nutmeg, which creates a sweet, Danish-type dough. I used this recipe and also added cinnamon to the filling. I was very happy with how it turned out, the dough was moist and flavorful with a hint of lemon & spice and the cinnamon cream cheese filling was the perfect accompaniment. The only issue I encountered was the join in the cake where the two pieces of dough met didn't stay together as well as I would've like. It didn't split, but there was a large crack. So I would suggest brushing the join with egg whites before placing in the oven. Be warned however: this is a huge cake. So you will need to share it around ;) It makes an excellent addition to the breakfast table.

Ingredients:

Dough:
1/2 cup warm water
2 packages yeast
2 teaspoons sugar
4 to 5 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 cup warm milk
1/2 cup melted butter, cooled
5 egg yolks
zest of one lemon
King cake baby (or 1 whole almond or bean)

Filling:
1 (8-ounce) package room temperature cream cheese
1 cup confectioners sugar
2 Tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons lemon juice

Icing:
2 cup confectioners sugar
4 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
purple, green, and yellow/gold decorating sugar

Method:

1. Combine the warm water, yeast and 2 teaspoons of sugar. Mix together and set aside for 10 minutes.

2. In a large bowl, combine 4 cups of flour, sugar, salt, nutmeg, lemon zest, milk, melted butter, egg yolks and yeast mixture. Using a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, or a hand-held mixer, mix until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. If the dough is too wet, add more flour (up to 1 cup). Knead for five minutes.

3. Coat a large bowl with cooking spray and place the dough inside. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until doubled in size, about one & a half hours.

4. Make the filling: combine cream cheese, confectioners sugar, flour, vanilla, cinnamon and lemon juice and mix well. Set aside.

5. Roll the dough into a rectangle, about 30 inches long. Spread the filling evenly onto the dough. Roll the dough, starting with the long side, until fully rolled up.

6. On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, place a mason jar or heatproof glass in the center of the sheet and wrap the dough around the jar. Tuck the ends together to form a ring. Cover with a towel and let rise for another 45 minutes.

7. Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit (175 degrees celsius) and bake for about 30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove mason jar and allow to cool.

8. Once cooled, insert the plastic baby (or almond or bean) into the bottom of the cake.

9. For the icing: whisk together the sifted confectioners sugar, lemon juice and vanilla. Cover the cake with the icing and decorate with the colored sugars.

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The dough before rising

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Dough after rising

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Cinnamon cream cheese filling

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Ready to go in the oven

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