Try It OR Buy It: KING'S CAKE / by Anthony Michael Contrino

The King’s Cake.  It’s always intrigued me, both because of it's history and, well, they’re damn tasty.  There are many different versions and stories as to the origin of the King’s Cake.  One thing that most stories have in common is its relation to the Epiphany, when the three kings visited Jesus Christ.  Below I offer two King's Cake recipes, a New Orleans style and a European, specifically French, style.  Although different, they are both delicious in their own way.  These cakes are typically served from January 6th through the day before Ash Wednesday, or Mardi Gras.  

TRY IT - NEW ORLEANS STYLE

More of a Danish bread, the cake is traditionally filled with a cinnamon-sugar mix.  This version is filled with a sweet cream cheese batter and iced with a vanilla glaze topped with green, gold and purple sanding sugars, each color symbolizing one of the kings that came to pay respect to Jesus.

For the bread:

2/3 cup whole milk

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 (1/4) ounce package dried yeast

1/4 cup warm (110 degrees) water

1 large egg

1/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed

Cooking spray

 

For the cream cheese filling:

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

1/2 cup confectioners sugar

1 large egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste (or extract)

Pinch of salt

 

For the egg wash:

1 large egg

Pinch of salt

 

For the glaze:

4 cups confectioners sugar

1/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons whole milk

1 teaspoon vanilla paste (or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract)

Green, gold and purple sanding sugar

In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a simmer and immediately remove from the heat.  Add the butter and stir to melt.  Cool to room temperature.

In a stand mixer, combine the yeast and warm water and stir until the yeast is dissolved.  Add the egg and mix to combine.  Add the salt, sugar and milk mixture and stir to combine.  Add the flour in 1/2 cup increments, mixing with the dough hook until all flour is fully incorporated.  If the dough is still sticky to the touch, you may need to add up to another 3/4 cup of flour.  Add any additional flour in 1/4 cup increments, testing the dough before adding more.  The tough should be very slightly tacky, but not stick to the bowl or kneeding surface.

Kneed the dough with the bread hook, or by hand, for 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth.  Place the dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, cover and rise for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, make the cream cheese filling by creaming the cream cheese and sugar in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until fully incorporated.  Set aside.

Prepare a sheet pan with parchment. Make the egg wash by combining the egg and salt and whisking vigorously.  Set aside.

Lightly flour your countertop.  Roll the dough out into a rectangle.  Using an offset spatula, spread an even layer of the cream cheese filling over the dough, but be sure to leave an inch-wide barrier along all corners.  Use a pastry brush to lightly brush the exposed dough.  Roll the dough lengthwise to create a log.  Form the log into a circle on the prepared sheet pan and pinch the ends together to prevent the filling from seeping out.  Rise an additional 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 

Gently score the loaf to avoid cracking and to help maintain the shape.  Lightly brush the loaf with the egg wash and bake for 45-50 minutes, until the loaf is golden brown and cooked throughout.

Transfer to a rack and cool completely.

Make the glaze.  In a large bowl, combine the confectioners sugar, milk and vanilla until stir until smooth.  Spoon the glaze evenly over the cooled loaf.  Immediately sprinkle the glaze with alternating colors of the sanding sugar.  Allow the glaze to set completely before transferring the loaf to a serving tray.  The loaf can be made up to 2 days in advance.  Store the loaf on a serving platter loosely covered in plastic wrap.

BUY IT - NEW ORLEANS STYLE

•Randazzo’s Bakery has been baking up their recipe for 50 years, since 1965.

https://www.randazzokingcake.com/categories/King-Cakes

•Like choices?  Cannata’s offers sixty versions of this Mardi Gras goodie!

http://cannataskingcakes.com

 

TRY IT - FRENCH STYLE

This is a great recipe anytime of the year if you ask me - and is guaranteed to impress your friends and family.  This version uses store-bought puff pastry sheets filled with an almond cream.  Get creative with the decorations to really blow people away.  Just be sure to score the top evenly for a consistent rise.

For the cake:

3 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

Pinch of salt

1 large egg yolk

1/2 cup almond flour

1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste (or extract)

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 sheets store bought puff pastry dough, defrosted as per manufacturer’s instructions

 

For the egg wash:

1 large egg

Pinch of salt

Line a baking sheet with parchment.  

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar and salt until light and fluffy.  Add the egg and mix until fully combined.  Add the almond flour, vanilla and cornstarch and mix well to combine.  Set aside.

Make the egg wash by combining the egg and salt and whisking vigorously.  Set aside.

Lightly flour your countertop.  Gently roll the puff pastry to smooth out any folds or creases.  Using an 8-inch cake round (or a similar sized bowl) cut out two rounds.  Transfer one round to the prepared sheet pan.  Place the almond cream onto the center of the round and use the back of the spatula to spread it into an even mound, leaving an inch wide border all around. Brush the exposed puff pastry dough with egg wash. 

Using the smaller end of a round piping tip, cut out a vent hole in the center of the other puff pastry round.  Cover the almond-filled puff pastry with the other half, doing your best to line the two pieces, as if you were making a hand pie.  Apply pressure all around the rim to seal in the filling.  To further seal the dough, crimp the edges as you would a pie crust.  Alternatively, use the tines of a fork to add ornamentation.  Be gentle so that you do not break through the dough.  Trim the edges if necessary. 

Refrigerate the cake for 20 minutes to ensure the butter in the dough stays cold.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Using a sharp paring knife, gently score the dome of the cake evenly.  Lightly brush the top and sides of the cake with the egg wash and bake until golden brown, about 40 minutes.  Transfer to a cooling rack; cool completely before serving

 

BUY IT - FRENCH STYLE

Galette des Rois at Dominique Ansel.  Photo by: Thomas Schauer

Galette des Rois at Dominique Ansel.  Photo by: Thomas Schauer

•Dominique Ansel’s version is not only delicious, but makes a real centerpiece.  You have until January 24th to try their version.

http://dominiqueansel.com/?wpsc-product=galettes-des-rois

•With locations in Yountville, New York, Las Vegas and Beverly Hills, Bouchon Bakery makes a killer version.  

http://www.thomaskeller.com