Saturday, January 6, 2018

King Cake Recipe


This is the King Cake recipe that I have been using for over two decades now.  It was very difficult to master - as anyone who ever tasted my earlier efforts will attest.  But from years and years of trial and error I finally have it down and now people practically demand that I make a King Cake for my parties -- and theirs!  (Even people who say they hate King Cake clamor for home made.)  My problem was that this was from an 1880-something recipe (I regret that I did not make note of the exact date) and I didn't know then what I now know about vintage recipes.  The biggest problem was that the recipe required you to make three strands, braid them and then bake them in a "moderate oven" for an hour.


I've learned that 12 minutes or less is all you need.  So, here is the recipe with the benefit of my expertise.  I will warn you - it is complicated to make in that there are a lot of steps, but they are not difficult steps.  It is a bread...not a cake....and I will say I tried to make the dough in a bread machine (and a food processor too, for that matter) and my notes say that it was a disaster.  Do this by hand.  There are many who will look at this and say "Sheesh!  That's way too much work!  It's just easier to buy one!"  Well, that's very true...but one bite of home made King Cake still warm from the oven will convince you that it's so worth the effort and you'll do it year after year.  Now, if you're ready - here we go...


4 cups flour                                                1 cup warm, whole milk
2 pkgs yeast                                               1 tsp salt
1/3 cup sugar                                             1 egg (room temperature)
1 stick butter, melted                                 1 egg yolk beaten with
   (NOT margarine!!!  And don't let                     1 tsp milk
             the butter be hot.)                           cinnamon
                                            plastic baby
                                            white icing
                    purple, green & gold sanding sugars
                     or any kind of festive decoration

Sift 3 cups of flour into bowl
      - Make a well in the center
      - Add yeast & 1 tsp sugar in well
             (Hint: check the expiration date on your yeast - make sure                                                                                       it's still good.)
      - Add warm milk and stir to dissolve yeast
      - Sprinkle a little flour over yeast mix
      - Cover with a cloth or towel and let stand 10 minutes

Beat melted butter, remaining sugar, salt & egg until thoroughly blended.  (This is why you don't want your butter hot - if it's too hot it will cook the egg.)

After yeast mix has sat for 10 minutes, remove the towel.  It should be very foamy.  If it is not, your yeast is no good and you'll need to start that part over with fresher yeast. However,  if you've checked your expiration date and the yeast hasn't expired, you'll be fine.  Carry on....

      - Stir butter/egg mixture into the yeast mixture and incorporate the rest of the flour to make a soft dough, stir in more flour a little at a time as needed to make the dough soft but firm.
      - Knead until smooth and elastic.  (8 – 10 minutes)

Place in a greased bowl, turn to coat all sides, cover bowl with a towel/cloth and let rise in a warm place 1 – ½ hours.

  - Punch dough down and divide in three equal parts.

      - Sprinkle each part liberally with cinnamon.
      - Roll and stretch each piece into 40 inch strands.
      - Pinch them all together on one end and braid.
      - Place the braid on a greased baking sheet (I also line the sheet with foil) forming an oval
      - Place the baby somewhere in the dough and pinch dough over it to hide it well.

    - Cover and let rise 30 minutes.

Bake at 325⁰ for 10 – 12 minutes until golden brown.

Frost while warm and decorate.

Save a piece for me!

OK, its time to give you some of my expertise.  This is extremely easy to mess up and I spent years making notes of my successes and failures.  I won't bore you with all of them but I will tell you that I have learned to use an instant read thermometer and after ten minutes at 325⁰ check it - the cake is done when the thermometer reads between 176⁰ and 179⁰.  

I know that sounds weird - why not 175 - 180⁰ ?  I don't know - but trust me on this.

Bake the baby in the dough - the dough will not get hot enough to melt the plastic.  Make sure you hide the baby well in the dough - if something happens that the head or a foot or arm is sticking out after the baking, slather icing on it.


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