Tomorrow is officially Mardi Gras; Shrove Tuesday for those Yankee Protestants. That means one of today’s missions at chez Pauline is to get the King Cake baked and frosted for tomorrow night’s feast. King Cake is technically not a “cake” at all but a sweet bread and, even though it takes some doing, the result is delightful. Here’s our recipe:
½ cup warm milk
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp active dry yeast
About 2 cups all purpose flour
½ cup melted butter
3 egg yolks, beaten
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp lemon zest
1 ½ tsps cinnamon
Place warmed (about 110 degrees) milk in a large bowl and whisk in sugar, yeast and a tablespoon or so of flour. Mix until dissolved. Allow the yeast to activate so that you notice bubbles in the milk, then whisk in butter, eggs, vanilla and lemon zest. Add the remaining flour and mix with a wooden spoon or spatula to achieve a doughy consistency. Add cinnamon and a few gratings of nutmeg.
Once the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, turn it out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth, about ten to fifteen minutes. Put the dough back in the bowl and cover with a warm, wet towel. Place the bowl in a warm spot and let it double in volume; this will take about an hour.
Preheat your oven to 375 and then punch down your dough before pulling it apart into three even pieces. Roll each into a long strip or rope of equal length. Braid the ropes together and then form them into the traditional circle. Put your braided wreath onto a nonstick cookie sheet and let it rise again for about half an hour.
Once the bread has doubled in size, bake it off until golden brown, about half an hour. Place the finished cake on a wire wrack to cool for half an hour and then frost with vanilla icing in purple, gold, green or any combination thereof. Sprinkles in the same colors are festive, too. And don’t forget to tuck a bean or tiny toy crown or baby into the underside of the cake before cutting it. Whoever gets the token is your King or Queen of Mardi Gras and should hide the baby in the cake next year. Bon appetite ~
Header: 1930s sheet music cover; I like the guy dressed as a pirate in the background