Sunday, February 19, 2012

King Cake - Gateau de Rois

From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...One of the most pervasive symbols of Mardi Gras is the King Cake or Gateau de Rois. It is a donut-shaped cake that is decorated in almost psychedelic shades of purple, green and gold. The colors of Carnival were chosen years ago and they represent the virtues of justice, faith and power. The cakes can be plain or fancy, but to qualify as a gateau de rois it must contain a tiny plastic or porcelain baby. The person who finds the token then becomes responsible for the purchase of the next King Cake. The King Cake ritual has changed over time, but it's believed that the tradition originated with pre-Christian societies of Western Europe. These groups placed trinkets in special cakes, and it is believed those who found them were rewarded with a crown. Their reigns, however, were of short duration because come harvest season they were sacrificed to appease the gods and sanctify the harvest. It is a big jump from human sacrifice to current King Cake practices in New Orleans, but the tradition appears to have started in the late 1800's when cakes containing beans were used to choose the kings and queens of the weekly Twelfth Night balls. Time has morphed that tradition and the buried bean has become a plastic baby, and the ball is now the carnival we call Mardi Gras.

While I've made dozens of Three Kings Cake for the Christmas holidays, I've never made a King Cake for Mardi Gras. I decided to remedy that today. I selected a recipe developed by John Besh because it sounded other-worldly good. I'm happy to report it made a cake that was both rich and delicious, but, that being said, I must also tell you that the dough used to make it is really difficult to work with. This is not a recipe for beginning bakers. The dough is amoeba soft and needs a final flour adjustment to be workable. It takes a practiced eye to judge just how much should be added. I've made bread for over 40 years now and I'm still not sure I got it right. I also had to play with the liquid needed to make the glaze for the cake. The coup de grâce, however, came when the Silver Fox walked into the kitchen, took one look at the finished cake and innocently asked if that was the way it was supposed to look. I stopped him before the word garish could pass his lips. There will be no fighting over blankets tonight and that pagan ritual I told you about may yet be revived."Laissez les bons temps rouler."

King Cake - Gateau de Rois...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite Courtesy of John Besh

1 cup warm milk
2 tablespoons, dry yeast
1/2 cup sugar
3-3/4 cup flour
3 teaspoon cinnamon
1 dash nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 sticks butter melted
5 egg yolks
2 cups powdered sugar
4 tablespoons condensed milk
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Purple, green and gold decorative sugars
1 feve (broad bean) or plastic baby to insert after baking

1) In a large mixing bowl combine warm milk, with yeast, sugar and a tablespoon of flour. Mix with a whisk until both sugar and yeast are dissolved. Allow to sit until mixture begins to froth or foam.
2) Whisk in butter, eggs, vanilla and lemon zest. Add remaining flour, cinnamon and nutmeg and fold into wet ingredients.
3) After dough comes together and pulls away from sides of bowl, shape it into a large ball and turn onto a floured surface. Knead for 15 minutes, or until smooth andelastic.ow. Sha f sides of bowl as a large ball knead the dough on a clean but floured surface for 15 minutes or until smooth and elastic.
4) Place dough back into bowl, cover with plastic wrap and move to a draft free place and allow to rise until double in volume, about 1-1/2 hours.
5) Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
6) Punch dough down. Divide dough into three equal pieces and form into long rolls that you may either braid or twist around each. Form braid or twist into a circle. and place on a nonstick cookie sheet. Allow to rise for another 30 minutes, or until again double in size.
7) Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove cake to a wire rack to cool.
8) Meanwhile mix powdered sugar with condensed milk and lemon juice, adding more liquid as needed to make a spreadable icing.
9) Spread icing over top of cake and sprinkle with colored sugar while it is still wet. If you wish insert a feve or plastic baby into underside of the cake and transfer to a platter and serve. Yield: 10 to 12 servings.

One Year Ago Today: Penne with Sausage Ragu and Sicilian Meatballs

Two Years Ago Today: Pasta Puttanesca


MissB said...

That was beautiful cake! Very colorful and inviting, loved it!
Kisses :*

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

I have always been fascinated by the Kings Cake tradition and how it is acknowledged for both Christmas and the start of Lent. Your cake is a beautiful addition to the tradition.

Tanna said...

LOL!! I do hope The Silver Fox has worked himself out of trouble by the time I am reading this. LOL!!

There is a version with a cream cheese filling that I would love to get my hands on, though neither of the two of us in our home needs another sweet. ;)

Have a wonderful Sunday, Mary! I'm still chuckling... t.

Sue/the view from great island said...

Yikes, what a history to this cake, who knew? Yours looks festive and delicious, despite what the Silver Fox said!

lena said...

i always got attracted by the colours of the sugar sprinkling on the cake. Does anyone nowadays still put a plastic baby somewhere in the cake..just curious.

Jeannie said...

What a beautiful cake! I love the tradition to the cake:)

Rita said...

I remember my mom making and telling us this story of so long ago; It looks Perfect like it should!

A Paixão da Isa said...

wuau mas que bonito que esta e essas cores sao mesmo muito bonitas adorei bjs

Lizaboo said...

This looks incredible, going to have to try this one out. Perfect for a party xx :o)

Valerie Gamine said...

Wow, fascinating history lesson on this cake!
It looks absolutely gorgeous!

Susan..... said...

Has your husband met my husband? I think we spoil them too much. Enough said...(o:

Great looking cake but I would rather make a savory then try this. You have much more fortitude than I when it comes to sweets.

"Va tutto bene"

From the Kitchen said...

Your cake sounds delicious but I'm afraid The Baker might have had a similar reaction. He has learned to somewhat temper his remarks in such instances. Both of our sofas are too small for comfortable sleeping!!


Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

I have never attempted a King Cake Mary but it does intrigue me. The day is not over yet!

Debi said...

Your cake is beautiful. I'm going to take your word on it, however, and purchase one from the baker this week.

Kathryn said...

Hi Mary, Thanks for stopping by my blog! I have enjoyed looking at yours! I am always on the quest to find new, healthy recipes that are easy to prepare, and that my family will love. What a lovely cake in the picture! I'll be back to read more and check out your recipes!

Have a great day, Kathryn

nanny said...

And they are soooo delicious!!

Zoe said...

This is always the cake to-bake at this time of the year. Yours is fantastic!

Karen (Back Road Journal) said...

I think that this is a fun cake that I enjoy seeing but don't think I will be baking. Too tempting for just two people this time of the year. Maybe we will be invited to a party where I know that I will only get one piece.

Lilly's Home Journal said...

Sweet Bread in any shape is a weakness for me! I will most certainly try this recipe!

Thank you for stopping by and taking time...wish I could have served you a cup of coffee! Always nice to meet a fellow blogger!


Joanne said...

King Cake is on my list of things to make at some point in my life. Yours looks gorgeous!

Catherine said...

Dear Mary, What a beautiful cake! It is so cheerful and delicious looking. Perfect for celebrations. I am sure it is delicious. Blessings my dear, Catherine xo

Ellen Whyte said...

Man that sounds SWEET! And kind of yummy too.

Caitlin said...

Nice! I love cooking/baking traditions with history. Also...this makes me want to head down for Mardi Gras.

What's next said...

looks wonderful! I grew up near New Orleans and with King Cake... the first time I made one and took it to work in West Tx for Madi gras I had to explain the whole thing...

Cooking Rookie said...

Oh my, such a great cake! If I had this cake at home I'd probably be so busy finishing it that I'd have forgotten about the carnival :-)

Dawn @ Words Of Deliciousness said...

I think your King Cake turned out perfect. Sounds delicious.

Kim said...

This cake looks awesome and tasty! Have a nice monday Mary!

Unknown said...

I say I'm going to make a King Cake every year for Mardi Gras and yet I never do!! The end result always looks so fun! Maybe next year!!! :)

Claudia said...

One of these days... if I ever get my baking chops. The colors just elicit a broad smile - love seeing all that bright color in February! It is just a "fun" cake - perfect for Mardi Gras.

Jessica Thacker said...

I love king cake, you did such a wonderful job!

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