It’s that time of year again: Carnival Season. And with Carnival Season comes lots and lots of King Cake. Each year leading up to Mardi Gras, we go from bakery to bakery trying different cakes, with different fillings, and different toppings.
This year we got inspired by the season and decided to make our own. We went the traditional route, using a cinnamon and cream cheese filling. It was so delicious, I could have eaten it in one sitting…plus, it was much easier to make than expected.
Since it was just the two of us, we left out one key component of a King Cake – the baby. If you’re making this for a group of people, be sure to include the baby, as the person who finds it gets to bring the next delicious King Cake.
Traditional King Cake
Adapted from Cajun Chef Ryan
For the Dough
- 1 packet dry yeast
- 1 cup scalded milk
- 1/2 cup sugar, granulated
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp orange zest
- 3/4 orange juice
- 5 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted, divided
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 1/2 cup sugar, granulated
- 1 tbsp cinnamon, ground
- 2 tbsp water
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1 tbsp water
- 1 cup confectioners sugar
- 4 tsp lemon juice
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 tsp flour
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
1. In a small bowl dissolve the yeast in the warm water, stir well to allow the yeast to start working, and then set it aside.
2. In the bowl of an upright mixer combine the scalded milk, sugar, butter, salt, orange zest and orange juice, mix with the wire whip attachment on slow speed until the butter is melted, and then allow this to cool until lukewarm, or around 110° F.
3. Change out the wire whip attachment on the mixer and replace it with the dough hook, then stir in 2 cups of the flour and beat on medium speed until smooth. Turn off the mixer and add the yeast mixture and the beaten eggs. Turn on the dough hook and allow this to mix again until well incorporated. Add 3 more cups of flour a cup at a time until the dough is not sticky and has pulled away from the sides of the bowl. Continue on slow speed with the dough hook for about 5 minutes to knead the dough. And add a little more flour if it looks like the dough surface is sticking to the bowl again or if it looks too moist.
4. Turn the dough into a well greased large bowl and be sure all sides of the dough are coated with a think film of oil. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp but well rung kitchen towel. Place in a warm spot between 90° – 110° F. Allow the dough to rise and double in size. About 90 minutes.
5. Punch down the dough then transfer it to a floured work surface, then roll it out into a rectangle that measures about 14”x 28” inches, it should be about a ½ inch thick.
For inside the dough coating: combine the sugar and cinnamon then gently sprinkle that over the entire surface of the dough. Then using a sprayer or spoon, sprinkle the water and then smooth it over the dough surface with the back of a spoon.
6. If you have a filling (see below for my filling) this is the time to add the filling just inside one long edge of the dough. Then in jelly roll fashion, roll up the dough until you have about four inches of dough left.
For the egg wash: Then using a pastry brush, coat the final area of exposed dough with the egg wash. Then finish with the rolling. Shape the dough into a complete ring or circle, and use more egg wash to attach the two ends together. Transfer the rolled dough ring to a greased sheet pan. Then brush more egg wash on all the exposed surfaces of the dough.
7. Place the sheet pan in a warm spot between 90° – 110° F. Allow the dough to rise and double in size again. About 60 – 90 minutes.
8. Preheat oven to 375° and bake for 10 minutes, then turn heat down to 350° and bake for an additional 25 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean when poked through the largest section of the cake.
9. Allow the cake to cool completely on a wire rack.
10. For the icing / frosting: Combine the confectioners sugar and orange juice in a deep bowl whisking until smooth. If icing is too stiff whisk in ½ tablespoon water at a time until spreadable.
11. Place cooled cake onto a serving platter or heavy cake cardboard and coat the top and sides of the cake with the icing. I used my whisk to drizzle the icing on the cake. While the icing is still fresh immediately sprinkle the sprinkles all over the cake.
Cream Cheese Filling
1. Mix the softened cream cheese with the sugar, flour, egg yolks and vanilla. Spoon an inch-wide strip of filling the length of the dough, about 3 inches from the edge.