Mardi Gras would not be complete without the famed King Cake, especially when the recipe is super easy and takes around 15 minutes to prep, under 1 hour to rise (no supervision needed), and 35 minutes to bake and decorate. But before we dish out the recipe, here’s a serving of history about this festival favorite…
The King Cake is believed to have originated in France around the 12th century. Early Europeans celebrated the coming of the three wise men bearing gifts to the Christ Child. This was referred to as the Feast of the Epiphany, Twelfth Night, or King’s Day. The main component of the celebration was the baking of a King’s Cake to honor the three Kings. Circular cakes were made to portray the circular route used by the kings to reach the Christ Child, taken to dissuade King Herod from locating the infant. In these early King Cakes, a bean, pea, or coin was hidden inside the cake. The person who got the hidden piece was declared King for the day or was said to have good luck in the coming year. In Louisiana, Twelfth Night also signifies the beginning of the carnival season which ends with Mardi Gras Day. The bean, pea and the coin have been replaced by a small plastic baby to symbolize the Christ Child. The person who gets the baby is expected to carry on the carnival festivities by hosting the next King Cake party. King Cakes are decorated in the traditional Mardi Gras colors of gold (power), green (faith) and purple (justice). King Cake ingredients and instructions follow.
- 1 roll frozen bread dough, thawed (look in the grocer’s freezer section)
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon lemon extract
- 1-1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
- 3 tablespoons milk (more if needed but stir this amount first, you’ll be surprised how far this goes!)
- 1 tsp clear butter or vanilla flavoring
- On a floured surface, roll out your dough to a rectangle of about 10 x 18 inches. It doesn’t have to be exact, close enough works!
- In a mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, and extract and mix until creamy and well blended. Spread over dough to within an inch of each side. Roll up longways (to make a long log) and brush the final edge with water before pressing it into the log to seal.
- Take log and form into a circle, pressing the ends into each other and brushing with water if needed to seal together. Spray top lightly with cooking spray and cover with plastic wrap. Set in warm place to rise for 45 minute to an hour.
- Remove plastic wrap and bake in oven at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Allow to cool. From the underside of the loaf so it’s not visible to guests, push in a plastic baby or trinket. A lucky someone will be served the coveted sliver, with no ill intent of a visit to the dentist’s chair!
- To top things off, mix confectioner’s glaze and drizzle over cake with a spoon. Immediately add colored sprinkles over glaze in gold, green and purple. If you can’t find the symbolic colors in the bakery section, settle for yellow, green and pink. Allow to sit until glaze hardens.
Share the tradition with fellow masked marauders at your next Mardi Gras party invitation by bringing the favorite King Cake! Or, simply enjoy at home with a fresh brewed cup of coffee.
Reference material taken in part from the following sources: kingcake.com and mardigrasday.com. Recipe credit: southernplate.com.