King Cakes are braided and iced cinnamon-roll style dough rings often associated with Mardi Gras and Carnival celebrations in New Orleans, Louisiana. It’s hard to believe that hundreds of years ago, this cake started out as a tough, dry bread with sugar on top and a lima bean inside. Now, the sweet king cake, named after the biblical three kings and associated with the start of Christian Lent (aka Fat Tuesday), is celebrated all over the world – from France to Latin America to Greece to Bulgaria.
In the New Orleans Carnival tradition, the cakes are glazed and then dusted with bright, colorful sugar in yellow, green and purple, said to stand for power, justice and faith, respectively. These are the colors of Mardi Gras and if you ever attend the big party in the Bayou, you’ll see them everywhere.
The cake is often adorned with a small plastic baby said to bring good luck to whomever is served the charm in their slice of cake, and this person then becomes the “king of the feast”. Some “house rules” say this means the king bakes the cake next year and for some it means they have to throw the next Mardi Gras party!
King cakes are big, bright and beautiful. The colors and traditions make it a LOT of fun to bake, serve and eat. While there are many different variations on the king cake recipe, the one below is based on the classic cinnamon roll-style found at most bakeries in New Orleans. Whether you choose to hide the baby inside the cake or under it is up to you, just make sure whoever finds it is ready to uphold the tradition next year.
Mardi Gras King Cake
- 1 cup warm milk (about 110°F.)
- 3 large eggs, slightly beaten
- 1 3/4 teaspoons salt
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup butter, room temperature
- 6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 4 teaspoons bread machine yeast
- 1/4 cup butter, softened
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 large egg
- 1 Tablespoon water
- 3 ounces cream cheese
- 3 Tablespoons butter, room temperature
- 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch salt
- Green, purple and gold sprinkles
- Place all ingredients for dough in the breadmaker pan in order listed.
- Choose Cycle 8 for Dough. Press Start.
- At the end of the Dough cycle, remove the dough from the breadmaker. Press and hold the START/STOP button for several seconds to end the cycle.
- Place on floured counter and let the dough rest for 10 minutes
- Roll dough to a large rectangle about 12″x24″. Cut dough down center to form 2 long strips.
- Spread with softened butter, leaving 1/2-inch edge around edges of strips.
- Mix the brown sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over butter. Mix remaining egg with 1 tablespoon water. Brush edge of strips.
- Roll up each strip of dough from the longest side. Press edge with egg wash to roll to seal. Twist rolls together.
- Place on greased cookie sheet. Form into a circle and pinch ends together.
- Cover with parchment paper and let rise until almost doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.
- Heat oven to 350°F.
- Brush ring with egg wash.
- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or light golden brown.
- Let cool.
- For icing, beat cream cheese, butter, confectioner’s sugar, vanilla and salt until smooth. Spread over top of slightly warm cake. Sprinkle with colored sprinkles.
To follow tradition for a King Cake, hide a plastic baby doll in or under the ring after baking. Make sure to buy a new small plastic baby and large enough for no one to swallow. Additionally, caution everyone to look for the baby before eating. Another option is to hide something edible like a pecan or cherry and decorate with the baby on the outside of the cake. Traditions vary, for some finding the trinket means luck. For others, the winner is named King or Queen for the the festivities or is given special honors such as hosting the next party.
Whatever your taste preferences or dietary needs, you can satisfy them with Hamilton Beach® Bread Machines. Developed with nutrition in mind, they feature settings such as gluten-free and whole-grain so you can bake wholesome breads using a variety of flours. Hamilton Beach® Bread Machines are easy to use. Carefully designed with you in mind, these machines include detailed manuals with easy-to-follow instructional drawings, custom recipes, and baking tips.
Can the dough hook on Hamilton Beach Ensemble hand mixer, Model No. 62633R, be used for kneading the amount of dough combined for 2 loaves of bread? Or is it strictly for small amounts used such as for cookies?