Happy Mardi Gras! Or Fat Tuesday. Or day before Ash Wednesday. Or “last chance to pig out before Lent”. Or something. Being neither Catholic nor from the South, it’s all very nebulous to me. Mostly to me it means purple/green/gold, beads, masks, and King Cake. I realize none of the above really have anything to do with homesteading, or raising food, or being self sufficient, or honeybees, or anything much at all I usually talk about here. But hey, home-baked goodness associated with a party, I need no more excuses than that!
I remember the first time I tried a King Cake. I was working at a Behemoth-Sized Telecom Company in Bellevue, WA, and one of my coworkers brought one in. He apparently was from the South, or his family was, or he’d been there, or something. I’m vague on the details except for the cake. Anyway, the idea of this big, sloppy-looking pastry with a plastic baby baked inside was interesting enough to stick in my head.
This year, I found a recipe for King Cake, and decided to make one for Fat Tuesday. Here’s the recipe, happy Fat Tuesday!
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 4 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1/2 cup sugar, plus two teaspoons (separate)
- 4 cups all purpose flour, plus a bit extra
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- zested rind of one orange
- zested rind of a lemon
- 1/2 cup warm milk
- 1/2 cup melted butter
- 5 egg yolks
- Little Plastic Baby (like a Cake Wrecks Carrot Jockey)
- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 3 Tbls lemon juice (use that one you just zested)
- 1 Tbl water
- Purple, green, and gold coarse sugar crystals
In a small (but not TOO small) bowl, mix the yeast with the warm water and 2 teaspoons of sugar. Set it aside in a warm, draft-free place for 15 minutes. If you don’t use a big enough bowl, you may return to find it’s crawled out of the bowl in search of a new home, so use one that holds at least a cup and a half.
In the large bowl of a mixer (preferably a stand mixer), combine the flour, the rest of the sugar, salt, spices, and the zests. Stir a little bit. When the yeast has proofed for 15 minutes, add it to the mixing bowl along with the warm milk, melted butter, and egg yolks. Mix until thoroughly combined.
Knead on a lightly floured surface, or be lazy like me and use the dough hook on the stand mixer. That’s why they were invented. Add a little bit more flour as you work, until the dough is no longer sticky (don’t add more than a tablespoon or two at a time; the more flour you add, the tougher your cake will be.) Knead until smooth, then transfer to a greased bowl. Cover with a warm, wet towel, and let rise for 1 1/2 hours.
After the rise, turn the dough out onto your kneading surface, punch down (that means deflate it.) Roll into a long tube. Grease up a cookie sheet, and shape the tube into a ring. You can use a can or a jar in the middle to hold the center open. Rewet the towel with warm water, wring out, and cover your dough ring. Allow to rise again for 40-45 minutes. About 10 minutes before the end of the rise, preheat your oven to 350.
After the dough has risen, remove the can or jar and bake 30 minutes, until cake is golden brown and you want to grab it out and eat it hot.
Remove from oven, cool for 30 minutes (really. You can do this.) Flip it over and drill that baby somewhere into the bottom of the cake. Hide it well. (You can theoretically bake the baby right IN the cake, but no thanks on the plastic being baked in my food….)
Make a glaze by combining the powdered sugar and the lemon juice and water. Mix until it’s “drizzly”. Drizzle over the cake, and sprinkle with the sugar crystals. Most of the time, these cakes are pretty ugly, so don’t worry too much about style.
Dig in. WATCH OUT FOR THAT BABY! If you get the Carrot Jockey in your slice, you get to make the next King Cake. Lucky you. Save the baby until next year, and pass it on to some other unsuspecting soul in a slice of cake.