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Little King Cake History
most Americans, the advent of the new year is
a time to make resolutions. In New Orleans, however,
the first week of January begins King Cake season,
a traditional prelude to Mardi Gras celebrations.
Between January 6 (Three King's Day) and Mardi
Gras, New Orleans bakers produce thousands of
King cakes, decorated in the Mardi Gras color
purple, green and gold. Purple representing Justice,
Green representing Faith and Gold representing
Power. Hidden in each oblong of braided coffee-cake
dough is a bean or plastic baby. Custom dictates
that whoever finds it must give the next King
cake party. One Mardi Gras organization even uses
a King cake tradition to choose the queen of its
New Orleans tradition of celebrating the feast
of the three Magi with a special cake is rooted
in several European cultures. As far back as the
first half of the Sixteenth century, France commemorated
King's Day, which falls twelve days after Christmas,
with a Twelfth Night cake . In the story of the
Epiphany, as related in the gospel of Matthew,
"three wise men from the east" visited the baby
Jesus in Bethlehem on the twelfth day following
his birth. "An epiphany is a manifestation," notes
Henisch, "and January 6 became the day appointed
by the Church to celebrate the revelation of Christ's
divinity to mankind."
cup warm water (110 to 115 degrees)
2 packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar
31/2 41/2 cups unsifted flour
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 cup warm milk
5 egg yolks
1 stick butter cut in slices and softened, plus
2 tablespoons more
1 egg slightly beaten with a tablespoon of milk
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tiny plastic doll (not more than 1")
Icing (2 parts)
Green, purple and yellow coloring paste (sold
with cake decorating
12 tablespoons sugar
3/4 cups confectioners sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
36 tablespoons of water
the warm water into a small shallow bowl and
sprinkle yeast and 2 teaspoons sugar into it.
Allow the yeast and sugar to rest for three
minutes, then mix thoroughly. Set bowl in a
warm place for 10 minutes until yeast bubbles
3 1/2 cups of flour, remaining sugar, nutmeg
and salt and sift into a large mixing bowl.
center of mixture to form a hole and pour in
yeast mixture and milk.
egg yolks and using a wooden spoon, combine
dry ingredients into the yeast / milk mixture.
mixture is smooth, beat in 8 tablespoons butter,
1 tablespoon at a time and continue to beat
2 minutes or until dough can be formed into
a medium soft ball.
ball of dough on floured surface and knead,
gradually adding up to 1 cup more of flour.
dough is no longer sticky, knead 10 minutes
more until shiny and elastic.
a pastry brush, coat the inside of a large bowl
evenly with one tablespoon softened butter.
dough ball in the bowl and rotate until the
entire surface is buttered.
bowl with a heavier kitchen towel and allow
dough to rise in a warm place for about 1 1/2
hours or until it doubles in volume.
a large baking sheet with one tablespoon of
butter and set aside.
the first rising, place the dough on a floured
surface and punch it down with a heavy blow.
cinnamon, then pat and shape the dough into
a long 'snake' or 'cylinder'. Form a twist by
folding the long cylinder in half, end to end,
and pinching the ends together. Then twist the
dough. Form a ring with the completed twist
pinch the ends together.
the completed ring on the buttered baking sheet,
cover it with a towel and allow it to rise for
45 minutes or until it doubles in volume.
the second rising, brush the top and sides of
the cake with the egg and milk wash.
in a preheated oven at 375° for 25 - 35
minutes or until golden brown.
on a wire rack and hide the plastic baby in
sugar into three portions (for green, yellow
and purple). Add a tiny amount of the coloring
paste to each sugar portion. Try mixing the
sugar and colored pasted between your palms
for best results.
ingredients until smooth, adding more water
if it's too thick.
icing over top of cake.
sprinkle on colored sugars, alternating between
the three colors.
in two to three inch pieces.