It’s here again! Fat Tuesday…or Mardi Gras…the day that you can shove your mouths full of donuts, cake, beer, and whatever else fancies your pants because, well, tomorrow you’re going to give it all up for 40 days, right? RIGHT!? Even if you don’t observe the Lenten season, you are probably still familiar with today’s events, especially when speaking of The Big Easy, or N’awlins (aka New Orleans, LA).
I typically do not participate in the festivities surrounding Mardi Gras, but this weekend we had the opportunity to drive 3 hours due south, to the gulf coast where my cousin lives, and attend a family-friendly Mardi Gras parade. I didn’t know what to expect, but when we arrived at my cousin’s house, he and his wife had Mardi Gras t-shirts for me, Ben and Judah to wear to the parade! So, we scarfed down some pizza, threw on our shirts, and headed to town.
The event was so much fun! I couldn’t believe all of the bead necklaces that were thrown from the floats, along with some other “goodies” such as moon pies, stuffed animals and even beer! Judah sat on cousin Tim’s shoulders the entire time and quickly learned his way of charming the parade attendants into tossing him some more necklaces. He was decked out in beads by the end of the parade, so much so that I had to worry if his neck was hurting! But, boy, did he enjoy it!
Ben and I were able to capture some fun photos of different characters in the parade. We were both surprised to see men adorned in beads, galloping on their horses while chugging their Coors Light when the floats were done. It was quite hysterical. Overall, the whole parade was a fun cultural experience for us, and we can’t wait to attend again next year!
And, next year, I’m going to make this cake again! King Cake is one of the age-old recipes associated with the Carnival season. Traditionally, a plastic baby or small bean is hidden inside the cake where the person who ends up with the piece with the trinket either is favored with good luck or must provide the next king cake (whichever the party decides). You can read more about the history of Mardi Gras and King Cake here.
I made this to bring with us to my cousin’s house where we ate it after the parade. Since the parade was rescheduled from Saturday to Sunday, we ate it when it was two days old, but a quick warm up in the microwave was all it needed. I managed to have a piece the day I made it, though (you know, because I’m a food blogger and need to take photos while snatching a quick taste.) 😉 And, I must say, it is definitely best the day it’s made. In fact, it’s pretty amazing. Extremely soft on the inside with a succulent cinnamon swirl.
Even though this cake is supposed to be for the Carnival season, it was so good that I am tempted to make it any time of the year and vary up the icing colors to match any party. Definitely a great alternative to your typical birthday cake. And, guess what? The recipe looks long, but it’s actually very easy!
Mardi Gras King Cake
For the dough:
- 1/4 cup warm water (between 100 and 110 degrees)
- 1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
- 5 Tablespoons granulated sugar , divided
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- Pinch of salt
- 8 ounces sour cream
- 1 egg
- 3 to 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- Oil for hands and bowl
For the filling:
- 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter , melted
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
For the colored sugars:
- 1 1/2 cups granulated or superfine sugar , divided
- Food coloring - yellow , green, purple (or a combination of blue and red to make purple)
For the icing:
- 2 cups confectioners' (powdered) sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter , melted
- 4 Tablespoons whole milk or heavy cream
To make the dough:
In a mixing bowl, combine the warm water, yeast and 1 Tablespoon of the granulated sugar. Allow to sit for 5 minutes until it blooms. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium heat, heat the butter, 4 Tablespoons of the sugar and the salt while constantly stirring. Once the butter is melted, stir in the sour cream and heat to luke warm.
Once the yeast is active, whisk in the warm butter and sour cream mixture, the egg and 1 cup of the flour. Whisk until smooth. Using an oiled wooden spoon, mix in small amounts of the remaining flour until a soft dough is formed (about another 2 cups of flour). The dough should be tacky, but not sticky.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. With oiled hands, knead dough until elastic, about 5 to 10 minutes. Alternatively, use your stand mixer fitted with the dough hook to knead for 5 minutes. Add more flour by the teaspoon if needed. The dough should clear the sides of the bowl.
With floured or oiled hands, shape the dough into a ball and transfer to a well-oiled bowl, flipping once to cover with oil. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm, draft-free area until it has doubled in size, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
For the filling:
Near the end of the dough rising, make the filling. Combine the melted butter, cinnamon and sugar in a medium bowl. Stir until fully incorporated.
Once the dough has doubled in size, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a giant rectangle, about 18 inches by 14 inches wide.* Spread the cinnamon sugar mixture evenly over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border around the outside of the dough.
Roll the cake up jellyroll-style and pinch the seams tight. Carefully transfer the roll to a parchment- or silicone- lined baking sheet, seam-side down. Pull the ends together to form an oval or circle, then press to completely seal the shape.
Cover the cake with a clean kitchen towel and allow to rise for another 30 minutes. During this second rise, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
After 30 minutes, remove the kitchen towel and bake the cake in the center of the preheated oven for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before icing.
For the colored sugars:
While the cake is cooling, make the colored sugars. Place ½ cup of sugar into three separate small bowls. Drop green food coloring into one bowl and stir until evenly mixed and colored. Use the back of a small spatula or spoon to grind the sugar granules together and against the bowl for even coating, until there are no clumps. Repeat for the other two bowls of sugar to create one bowl of yellow sugar and one bowl of purple sugar (a mix of red and blue food coloring).
For the icing:
Once the cake is completely cooled, make the icing. Whisk together the powdered sugar, salt, vanilla, melted butter and milk until smooth. The icing should be at a consistency where it can easily drizzle onto the cake, but not run completely off of it. Whisk in more powdered sugar to thicken, or more milk to thin.
Transfer the cake to serving platter. (At this point, you can stick a dried bean or little plastic baby in through the bottom of the cake if you wish to carry on this Mardi Gras tradition. This is obviously completely optional.) Slide pieces of wax paper under the sides of the cake so that it can catch any overflow of icing or sprinkles of sugar, but make sure the wax paper can easily be removed.
Drizzle the icing evenly over the cake and allow to ooze down the sides and middle. Immediately (before the icing has a chance to set) sprinkle on rotating strips of the colored sugars. Work this step speedily, as the icing sets very quickly. Slide the wax paper pieces out from under the cake and discard. Serve within 1 or 2 days, warm or at room temperature.
*Recipe Note: Careful not to roll it out too thin. I think my dough should've only been about 16 inches by 12 inches as it decided to burst (or stick it's tongue out at me during baking). But, I remedied it by cutting off it's "tongue". 🙂