The King of all Cakes

My friend Susan invited me to her house to teach me how to make her famous Mardi Gras King Cake.  I have the best life ever!

History lesson:

The Mardi Gras or Carnival season officially begins on January 6th or the “Twelfth Night,” also known to Christians as the “Epiphany.” Epiphany comes from a Greek word that means “to show.” Jesus first showed himself to the three Wise Men and to the world on this day. As a symbol of this Holy Day, a tiny plastic baby is placed inside each King Cake.

The King Cake tradition is thought to have been brought to New Orleans from France in 1870.  A King Cake is an oval-shaped bakery delicacy, crossed between a coffee cake and a French pastry that is as rich in history as it is in flavor. It’s decorated in royal colors of PURPLE which signifies “Justice,” GREEN for “Faith,” and GOLD for “Power.” These colors were chosen to resemble a jeweled crown honoring the Wise Men who visited the Christ Child on Epiphany. In the past, such things as coins, beans, pecans, or peas were also hidden in each King Cake.

Today, a tiny plastic baby is the common prize. At a party, the King Cake is sliced and served. Each person looks to see if their piece contains the “baby.” If so, then that person is named “King” for a day and bound by custom to host the next party and provide the King Cake.

Mardi Gras Day has a moveable date and may occur on any Tuesday from February 3rd to March 9th. It is always the day before Ash Wednesday, and always falls 46 days before Easter.

Susan has been making her famous King Cake since her days from college. Be sure to visit her beautiful blog for the recipe here. The recipe was passed to her by her mother’s friend, Jean. Susan’s home smelled like a bakery when my friend Jessica and I arrived. While we sipped lemon and mint infused water, Susan led us through the process of proofing the yeast and making the dough.

The dough was like velvet.  Susan described it as a brioche, different from a cinnamon roll type dough.
Easy to roll out onto a floured mat. We covered the dough with mounds of a brown sugar and butter mixture.
Then we rolled our dough up into a log like you would a cinnamon roll and shaped it into an oval.
Then with kitchen scissors, snipping small slits on the dough.
While the cakes baked in the oven, we sat down to a lovely lunch Susan prepared for us — homemade pimento cheese sandwiches and tomato basil soup — served on a place setting of beautiful blue and white china, linens and glassware.
The cakes were ready after lunch and it was time for the best part — the icing!  We poured the icing on top of our cakes, then Susan taught us how to make colored sprinkle sugar using Turbinado sugar and food coloring.
Meanwhile, as I was walking past her kitchen counter, I saw this box of fur just waiting for me to love on her!
This is Jackie, the Bengal cat, who belongs to Susan’s son Ben.  She was a love. She sleeps during the day in this box on the counter under the warmth of the counter lights.  I am sure she was glad when I left because I couldn’t resist going over and petting her every few minutes.
Susan help us package up our cakes, but not before strategically placing the baby inside each of our cakes for good luck.  She sent us home with extra icing and sprinkles just in case we needed more.
This was definitely a bucket list moment!  Have you ever made a King Cake?  As Susan says, “baking with friends is always so much sweeter!”

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