Confession: I have never been to New Orleans. I know, this is a sin. I should have partaken in many a jazz fest, mardi gras, or other cajun extravaganza. But, hey... I'm still young. In the meantime, I'll just make some breakfast pastries.
Some of the king cakes I have tried in the past have been pretty dry. The better ones are filled with goodness. What kind of goodness, you ask? Cream cheese filling. Isn't the answer usually cream cheese filling? I think so.
Okay, here we go! This seems like a long recipe, but don't be afraid! It's super easy.
Recipe for King Cake
1 envelope dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup milk
1 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
2 whole eggs (large)
3 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
Mix the yeast and warm water in small bowl with 1 tsp sugar and 1 tsp flour. Let sit until bubbly. In the meantime, heat milk, butter, and sugar in a small sauce pan on the stove. When butter has melted, transfer mixture to a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Beat on low until mixture has cooled to lukewarm. Add eggs, yolks, and yeast mixture and mix until combined.
Combine flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt in large bowl and toss together with a fork. Slowly add half of mixture to mixer before switching to a dough hook attachment. Add the rest of the flour and let the mixer knead the dough with the hook until the entire mix comes together into a ball. Transfer to a well oiled bowl and cover with a damp towel. Let sit overnight in fridge (or 8 hours).
The next morning, remove the dough from the fridge and prepare the filling!
Recipe for King Cake Filling
16 oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup chopped pecans
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp flour
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp vanilla extract
Mix ingredients by hand in a small bowl with a fork.
Remove the dough from the bowl and divide into three sections. Roll each section into a long rectangle. Fill one side rectangle with some of the cream cheese filling. Fold each rectangle in half to cover the filling and pinch together to seal. Seam sides down, braid the three sections together form into a circle. Let sit 30 minutes to rest while you preheat your oven to 375F!
Brush dough with a beaten egg and bake for around 30 minutes, or until nice and golden brown. Remove and let cool before drizzling with icing. I simply use about a cup of powdered sugar mixed with almond extract and a little bit of water. People typically dye their icings purple, yellow, and green for mardi gras, but this seems more appetizing to me! You could also cover your cake with colored sugar after you ice it if you want to be extra festive!
Don't forget to hide a little plastic baby inside! I did it after the cake was baked by just pressing it into the underside of the cake. If you don't want to go buy a little plastic baby, traditionally they used a dried bean. Oh, you... so traditional and classy (and historical!) with your bean!
This sucker is huge, so it is perfect for a party or bringing to the office. If you are just making it at home, maybe halve the recipe. I used our left overs to make some pretty bangin' bread pudding. It was awesome. Just sayin'.
Do you get in the Mardi Gras spirit? What else is festive? Crawfish etoufee?!