Well we’re still in the 1650-1799 time frame as we bake our way through American history with the book American Cake by Anne Byrn. Next up on our list is the New Orleans King Cake. Many of us focus on the 13 colonies during this time in American history, but at the same time, the city of New Orleans was being populated with influences from Spain, France and the Caribbean. One of the cakes most associated with that city is the King Cake – originally baked just for Epiphany (the 12th day of Christmas) and then enjoyed throughout the Mardi Gras carnival season.
The King Cake that many of us may think of now – the modern King Cake – is made from puff pastry dough but the original King Cake was a brioche style cake brought over by Basque settlers around 1718 – and that’s the recipe you’ll find in this book.
Again, I encourage you to check out the book for the full recipe but I wanted to share the basic process with you (and of course the finished product!).
You have to start with the ingredients….
Then you mix up the batter!
Since this is a yeast-bread type of cake, the kneading is next. (We cheated on the historical aspect of this and used a bread hook!)
After kneading, you have to let the dough rise… this took a long time! (And I may have been a bit impatient.)
After the dough rises, you roll it out into a rectangle.
Drizzle with butter and add the brown sugar/cinnamon! (This was my favorite part – yum!)
Then you roll!! This was the slightly more challenging part…
After you have a long roll, you make it into a circle. Then you have to let it rise again (more waiting…)
After it rises again, you bake it and then add a dash of powdered sugar and some festive icing (both optional). The colors – purple, green and gold – are now associated with Mardi Gras. The King Cake tradition can also include inserting something into the cake that represents the baby Jesus. Called a “la feve” – which means bean in French – it can be a porcelain baby, a dreid bean or a pecan. Then, whoever finds the la feve is the one who makes the King Cake the next year.
I thought this was a fun tradition so we used a pecan and inserted it into the cake after baking! (Obviously into the bottom of the cake so we wouldn’t know who would get the pecan!)
There it is! It was delicious – like a coffee cake or cinnamon roll! And, in case you were wondering, G found the la feve in his slice. So I guess we know who’s making the King Cake next year…
Also, I know this is way early for Mardi Gras but I thought I’d share the cake early in case you’re interested in making one for this year’s Mardi Gras! And since it was originally served around Christmas, I thought it was a nice extension of the holidays.