Monday, February 23, 2009


Yesterday was a day of researching for "my" professor, shopping, trying to explain to my subconscious that I have two more days of vacation owing to Mardi Gras, and... baking a King Cake. Now, mind you, it didn't turn out quite as well as I'd hoped, since for some reason yeast-risen doughs and yours truly mix about as well as oil and water-- that is to say, they don't. Nothing I ever try to make with yeast rises on my first try, and this time, it didn't rise very much at all, even after adding another packet of proofed yeast to the bowl.
The recipe comes from This site and is not my own; the website credits the actual recipe to Emeril.
Here are some in-progress photographs. I was trying to pull a Pioneer Woman and take photos of every step... but I got sidetracked and am apparently bad at making pretty pictures.
But here's what I've got.

The Ingredients. Minus melted butter and colored sugar sprinkles. Boy, later I'll tell you about my adventures in making purple sprinkles. And we can all have a little laugh while I swear that I hate, hate, hate purple sugar sprinkles. With all of my being.

Start with two packages of active dry yeast. This is where I disagree with the recipe. You should proof your yeast. Continue reading, and I'll explain.

This is 1/2 cup sugar added to the yeast. Stop. Do not continue. Ignore the next step on the recipe. Add the 1 cup of warm milk here. Make sure it's not over 110 degrees or so, or you'll kill your little yeasties. Wait until the mixture gets all foamy and disgusting looking. Then, continue.

Add a stick and a half of melted butter. Oh, yum. Melted cow fat. (I think perhaps the reason the butter is melted here as opposed to creamed with the sugar as with cookies and cakes is that the king cake is really more of a bread-- hence the yeast. As a result, the fat you add, be it in the form of oil or butter, is usually liquid.

This is me stupidly adding the warm milk, blindly following the recipe, instead of proofing the yeast first. This is what you get: a king cake that will. not. rise.

Stir it up! Isn't that picture awesome? If I had a better camera, I bet you could see swirls and splashes and goo just flying everywhere.

At this point you add your egg yolks-- sorry, I definitely forgot to take a picture-- and then the nutmeg, salt, and lemon zest.

Then, you dump aaallllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll the flour in at once like a bad little chef and watch your stand mixer half-kill itself to get it all mixed in. And cover half of the kitchen and yourself in a fine dusting of the stuff. Just kidding. A little bit at a time's probably best. Not that I would know. It all went in at once.

Then, using the dough hook attachment, you mix it up until it's a big, smooth, rubbery ball. Mine wasn't very smooth. Again, that could have been my fault. Maybe.

At this point you set the dough aside to rise-- which it won't, if you're me. Then, you panic and add another batch of yeast proofed with warm water and sugar. You have to add more flour, of course, to make something that doesn't resemble the swamp monster. Once your dough looks like dough again, you set it aside to rise. again.

You make the filling-- basically, two packages of cream cheese and a cup of powdered sugar. Delicious and healthy!

Once your dough has risen to twice its size, or once you get tired of waiting and decide, "to hell with it!", dump it out on a floured surface. The recipe says to use your hands to pat it out. That's total crap, and don't believe a word it says. Get out your trusty rolling pin, french or otherwise, or big ole' can of soup, whatever, and roll the dough out to about 6" by 30". Please note, it needs to be at least 30" long-- longer is better. This baby will rise in the oven and if you don't make a ring with that big of a circumference, then you're in trouble. Trust me, it has happened before.

Then, you take that filling you made, get a spatula, and spread it in approximately the middle of that big flat sheet of dough-- I did it about 1" from the bottom and 2" from the top. Because what you're going to do is fold the bottom flap up and the top flap down and seal them together, so that filling is in a kind of 30-odd inch tube. Get it? Good.

Now, call your husband, child, roommate, sister, brother, milkman, or meter reader for help. you'll need it. Get a big ole' baking pan and spray it down, then get two sets of hands (that's four total, folks) underneath this monstrosity and do two things at once: (1) flip it, and (2) move it to the baking pan in a rough circular shape. At the end of the day, you want to have that seam you just made the tube out of against the baking pan. And you want your king cake to be circular. You do this by sealing the two sides together.

Now, set it aside to rise for another 45 minutes or so, and then bake according to instructions. Note that this thing is super heavy, so don't be like me and pull the oven rack so far out to look at it that the end of the rack can't take the head and the whole thing--rack, pan, and cake-- falls onto the open door of your oven. You'll feel stupid and your ends will come unsealed, thus making your king cake look more like a retarded horseshoe than a circle. I think it's probably bad luck, too.

Once your king cake is out and mostly cooled, you add the glaze-- gobs of it. The glaze is ridiculously simply and requires no cooking at all-- simply mix the appropriate proportions of lemon juice, powdered sugar, and milk. I brushed mine on with a pastry brush and rather liked the results. Now, once the glaze is hardened enough to where it's no longer trying to drip off the cake-- that's where it becomes important to cool your king cake before trying this step-- you add the colored sugar in purple, yellow, and green sections around the cake. this may take some planning so you don't end up messing up the pattern at the end of the cake-- or back where you started on the cake, or however you want to phrase it when your cake is circular and really has no end.

Now I am reminded of the purple sugar debacle. It is hard-- nearly impossible at times-- to find purple sugar. Yellow and green? a snap. Purple? hard. So, I decided that, finding myself in posession of some red sugar and blue food coloring, that I could make my own. And it worked. sort of. My mistake basically boils down to: Remember that blue food coloring is strong strong strong, and you should use far less than you think you need to and only add more once you've thoroughly stirred it in and realize there is a definite need for more.

Once decorated, your king cake is done-- except I forgot to mention showing a baby or pecan half or something up the cake's underside for a lucky person to find. I didn't do that, hence my forgetting to tell you about it. I'm lazy.


  1. Did you not figure out how to get the entry cut thing to work? That's probably something we should both know how to do. :\
    Also, I saw earlier today on foodgawker that someone posted a tutorial for a king cake, and she dyed her sugar by starting out with white sugar and adding red and blue drops. She didn't seem to have any trouble with it, so that might be easier in the future.

  2. I've tried the red and blue food drops, and I ended up with a soupy mess. This actually would have worked really well, only I used too much blue and didn't like the color. :\