King Cake

Every year around Mardi Gras, I plan to bake a king cake. Then I decide not to because they’re essentially bread, and I’m a bread amateur. But this year I bit the bullet and gave it a try, using a recipe from King Arthur Flour that I adapted only to use colored icing, rather than sprinkles, for my yellow, green, and purple decorations. And oh boy, what an experience it was.

Bread amateurs probably either under-work or over-work their dough, and I definitely over-worked mine. Then I baked it for a few minutes too long, so while it smells and tastes delicious, the texture is just all wrong. It’s far too dry, even with a slathering of icing on top. Alas, this can happen when you’re a bread amateur. But the only way to improve one’s bread-making skills is to try again, and so I shall. Just not any time soon!

Note: in addition to reading the recipe, I also read this very useful blog article on King Cake, but only after I’d over-worked my dough. Ah well. 

Ingredients

For the dough

  • 8 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup lukewarm milk (between 98 and 105 degrees)
  • 2 eggs and 1 egg yolk (reserve the white for later), at room temperature
  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup Baker’s Special Dry Milk
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon fiori di Sicilia

For the filling

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 egg, at room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 1/8 teaspoon fiori di Sicilia

For the icing

  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 5-6 tablespoons milk
  • Yellow, green, and purple food coloring

Preparation

Place the dough ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed to combine. Once the dough starts to come together, switch to your dough hook and mix on low for 4-5 minutes. Dough will be very soft and sticky.

Transfer to a lightly greased bowl and let rise for about 1 hour. It won’t grow much in size, but should look kind of puffy. Turn dough onto a lightly oiled work surface and stretch and pat it into a 6 x 24 rectangle. Let rest while you prepare the filling.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine cream cheese, sugar, and flour and beat until smooth. Add egg and fiori di Sicilia and beat to combine completely.

Spread filling on the dough, leaving about a 1/2 inch border around the edge. Roll up like you would cinnamon rolls, from the long edge, pinching the seam to seal it. Gently shape your log into a ring and transfer it to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Full disclosure: I had a few holes in my dough, but according to the blog above, this is okay. Cover with lightly greased plastic wrap and allow to rise for about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove plastic wrap; combine egg white with 1 tablespoon water and brush over the top and sides of the cake. Bake for 20 minutes, then tent with foil and bake another 30 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 30-40 minutes before icing.

To making icing, combine powdered sugar, vanilla, and 4 tablespoons water in a medium bowl; add enough additional water to make a thick drizzling icing. Divide in half and pour one half over the cake, allowing it to drip down the sides. Divide the remaining icing into three portions and tint yellow, green, and purple, then drizzle over the cake. Allow icing to set before serving.

Note: I stored my cake in the refrigerator because of the cream cheese filling, but I’m honestly not sure if this is necessary or not. I figured that baked cream cheese was still dairy, and likely needed to be kept in the fridge, but I’m actually going to write to the folks at King Arthur Flour to find out for sure.