When I was a youngster growing up in St. Martinville, I skipped along, eating everything from pain perdu (French toast), to les orielles de cochon (fried dough pastries resembling pigs’ ears), and croquignoles (something like New Orleans beignets), but it wasn’t until I was in my 20s and living in the French Quarter in New Orleans did I have my first king cake.
I was intrigued with the local tradition of hosting king cake parties during carnival season, and purchased one at McKenzie’s, a bakery chain that was in just about every neighborhood of the city. Th eir cake was made with buttery, rich brioche dough and decorated with the ubiquitous green, gold, and purple sugar. A tiny plastic baby was hidden in the cake, and the person who received the slice of cake with the baby was to host the party the next year. And so it went during the weeks leading up to Mardi Gras.
These days during carnival season, just about every bakery, supermarket, and convenience store in Louisiana offers king cakes that feature cream cheese or fruit filling sporting not only the colored icing and plastic babies but also beads and doubloons. Although there are still the brioche cakes, many are now more like Danish pastry or puff pastry. Some are even made with doughnut dough!
But being a woman of a certain age, I usually opt to make my own king cake. It also provides fun time to share with my nieces and nephews. They came up with the idea of putting the dough in muffin tins to make mini king cakes to share with their friends at school.
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- 4¾ cups all-purpose flour, divided
- 1 cup sugar, divided
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 2 (¼-ounce) packages fast-rising yeast, such as Fleischmann’s Rapid Rise
- ¾ cup warm whole milk (120 to 130°)
- ½ cup warm water (120 to 130°)
- ½ cup butter, softened
- 2 large eggs
- ¼ cup melted butter
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- Sugar Glaze, recipe follows
- Colored Sugars, recipe follows
- In a large bowl, combine 1½ cups flour, ¼ cup sugar, salt, and yeast. Add milk, ½ cup warm water, and butter to flour mixture, and beat for 2 minutes at medium speed with an electric mixer. Add eggs and ½ cup flour. Beat on high speed for 2 minutes. Stir in the remaining 2¾ cups flour to make a stiff dough. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
- Punch dough down, and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Spray a 12-cup muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray. Divide dough into 12 equal portions. Divide each portion into 3 equal pieces, and roll each into small balls. Place 3 balls into each of the muffin cups. Brush with melted butter, and then sprinkle evenly with remaining ¾ cup sugar and cinnamon. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 375°.
- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown, tenting with aluminum foil if they are browning too quickly. Remove from oven, and let cool in pan for 10 minutes. Transfer cakes to a serving plate; drizzle each with Sugar Glaze, and sprinkle with Colored Sugars.
- 2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- 2 to 3 tablespoons milk
- In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar and milk until smooth.
- 1½ cups sugar, divided
- 16 drops red food coloring
- 8 drops blue food coloring
- 8 drops green food coloring
- 8 drops yellow food coloring
- Place ½ cup sugar in each of three small resealable plastic bags.
- In a small bowl, combine red and blue food coloring until it turns purple. Add purple food coloring to one bag, green coloring to another bag, and yellow coloring to third bag; seal bags, and shake each until sugar is even in color.