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Kathy Harshbarger
February 8, 2021 | Recipes | Kathy Harshbarger

King Cake - Almond or Baby, Your Choice!

There is nothing better when you mention to your friend you are working on some recipes for Jeff's blog and she agrees with enthusiasm, "Sure! I'll make a King Cake. I've never made one before"!

Disclaimer:  Shannon is a classically-trained chef via CIA Hyde Park, NY and loves to improvise. Not only was her cake WAY fluffier and prettier that the ones I researched, it was so delicious! I had it for dessert and breakfast. YUM! Don't be daunted - give it a go!

We both agreed, its definately a bread not a cake which is why you can "justify" having it for breakfast, too! 

Jeff Cohn Iris Brut Rose with a Mardi Gras King Cake on a table

The Mardi Gras King Cake

King Cakes are oval-shaped or round to symbolize the unity of faiths. Each cake is decorated in the traditional Mardi Gras colors: purple representing justice; green, faith; and gold, power.

A small baby, symbolizing the baby Jesus, is traditionally hidden inside each King Cake (but an almond is more tasty!)

Prep Time: 3 - 3 ½ hours (proof dough: 1 - 1 ½ hours, again 1 hour)
Total Time: 4 hours
Yield: 12 servings

Ingredients Brioche

  • 1/2 cup warm water, about 105º to 115º
  • 2 envelopes active dry yeast
  • 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 cups sifted flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (Chef Shannon used cinnamon)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm milk (Chef Shannon used buttermilk)
  • 3 eggs (Chef Shannon simplied: 5 eggs since that was what she had 6 on-hand, used the other for the wash ;)
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • with 1 tablespoon milk
  • with a tiny doll (aka baby Jesus, an almond is a tastier option ;)

Ingredients Icing

  • 3 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice, strained 
  • 3 to 5 tablespoons water
  • Chef Shannon used colored sugar crystals
  • 3/4 cup sugar

Brioche Directions

Combine yeast and the warm water. 

Combine flour, sugar, nutmeg and salt in a large mixing bowl. Stir in lemon zest. Make a well in center and add yeast and water mixture, along with milk.

Lightly beat the eggs and add to liquid mixture.

With a large wooden spoon, gradually incorporate dry ingredients into liquids in the center well.
Beat in 1/2 cup of the butter and continute beating until dough forms ball. Use a food processor or dough hook for beating, if desired.

Place ball on floured board and knead until smooth and elastic, incorporating more flour as necessary, a little at a time.
Butter the inside of a large bowl with 1 tablespoon of the butter.

Place dough in bowl and turn so the entire surface will be buttered. Cover bowl and set aside for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until doubled in bulk.

Brush a large baking sheet with remaining butter.

Punch dough down on lightly floured surface.
Knead, then pat and shape dough into a cylinder about 14 inches long.

Place on baking sheet and form into a ring. (Chef Shannon braided it - a tradtional presentation ) 
Press almond or baby Jesus well into dough so that it doesn’t show. 

Set aside again to rise for about 45 to 60 minutes.

When ready to bake, brush the top and sides of the ring with the egg-milk mixture.

Bake in middle of oven at 375° for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

Slide cake onto wire rack to cool.

king cake dough twistking cake coming out of the oven

Icing Directions

Combine the confectioners’ sugar, lemon juice and 3 tablespoons of water in a deep bowl; stir until the icing smooth.
If too stiff to spread, beat in 1 teaspoon water at a time, until desired consistency is reached.

It should be thin enough to run slowly down the sides of the cake.

Spread the icing over the top of the cake, letting it to run down the sides.

Sprinkle the colored sugars over the icing immediately, forming rows or sections of purple, yellow, and green.

Wine Pairing + Other Serving Suggestions

Power Wine Pairing: Iris Brut Rosé

But ya know, Assam, black teas or your favorite coffee would be ideal. A lovely combo.

View the Louisana King Cake recipe and more from New Orleans Resaturants - the Insider's Guide to Local Favorites


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