Tuesday, February 5, 2013

More about Mardi Gras and the King Cake

Here is the South, Mardi Gras is in full swing. So, I wanted to share a bit more of our traditions with you. Did you know there are special colors for Mardi Gras? The colors are purple, gold and green in that order. Why the colors? The story behind them will probably remain a mystery forever, but they were chosen by nobility from Russia who led the parade back in the 19th century. He claimed they stood for justice, faith and power. He had the nickname 'Rex' and to this day, Rex is the name given to the king of the parade. There's even a cake associated with the season called King Cake and it too is decorated with purple, gold and green frosting or sugar, often both.

Again this is a custom brought here by the Europeans. Hidden in the cake was originally a coin, or a bean, but today we hide the plastic figure of a baby. Getting the piece of cake with the coin, bean or baby meant a whole year of good luck. It also meant you had to bring the cake to the next party. They are filled with cinnamon and sugar, or fruits or cream cheese, and so rich but oh so good. This is definitely not for dieting! If you celebrate Mardi Gras, you might want to try making one. It's a yeast cake and you can find any number of decent recipes on the 'net'. Believe it or not, there are bakeries all over the Gulf Coast who make and ship King Cakes all over the country for Mardi Gras.

Here's one  King Cake Recipe which makes a large coffeecake-sized ring

1/4 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees F)
1 envelope active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm milk (105 to 115 degrees F)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter or margarine, softened (and no, margarine will not work)
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 to 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 large eggs

Cinnamon Filling

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 small plastic baby figurine (about 1/2 inch in size) or a large dry red bean (I know people who also use 1/2 cup chopped pecans in the filling, some are filled with cream cheese or a fruit filling, but the traditional cake is Cinnamon with or without the pecans)


1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 to 2 tablespoons milk
Purple, green, and yellow paste food coloring
Colored sugar sprinkles in purple, green and yellow

For the dough: Pour the warm water into a large warmed bowl. Sprinkle in the yeast and stir until it dissolves. Stir in the warm milk, butter, sugar, nutmeg, and salt. Add 1 cup of the flour and blend well. Stir in the eggs and enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough.

Lightly flour a flat work surface, and turn out the dough. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes, adding more flour if the dough sticks. Put in a large greased bowl, and turn to grease the top of the dough. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Make the filling while the dough rises. Punch the dough down. Transfer to the lightly floured work surface and use a rolling pin to roll into a 30-by-9-inch rectangle. Brush with the melted butter. Combine the brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Sprinkle the brown sugar mixture over the dough to within 1/2 inch of the edges. Beginning at the long end, roll up tightly, as for a jelly roll. Pinch the seam to seal. (The baby charm/bean will go in after baking.) Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 20 to 40 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove the cake from the baking sheet and let cool on a wire rack. Push the plastic baby figurine into the underside of the cake.
(You can also substitute a coin which you place in the filling before you bake the cake.)

When the cake is cool, make the frosting. In a small bowl mix together the confectioner's sugar, almond extract, and milk until smooth. Divide among three smaller bowls. Tint one mixture purple, the second one green, and the third one gold, mixing each one well. Frost as shown, alternating the colors.

Happy Eating!
And, remember. If you get the coin, baby or bean - you have to bring the next cake to the party!



Jude Johnson said...

Sounds wonderful! Thanks for that recipe!