Kelly Fields’ traditional Mardi Gras dessert is topped with an added caramel crunch, giving the cake more flavor and texture.
One 10-inch cake
Every year, at New Orleans, the game of king caking becomes a fully-contact sport. Local stores make as well as serve ( and ship!) these cakes every year, from Twelfth Night until Mardi Day (and the fact is, it’s an absolute sin to eat King Cake outside of the season in this area). It has been a staple of Mardi Gras, for more than 3000 years, within New Orleans (and beyond). The cakes taste more similar to Brioche rather than “cake” as we know it.
The dough that’s been fermented with yeast is braided, and sometimes around fillings of various kinds, then fashioned into a ring, then baked. Then, it’s decorated with a mixture of purple, green, and gold sugar to symbolize the virtues of justice, faith, and power, respectively, as a nod towards”the “three kings.” A token, such as plastic or a baby, can be stuffed inside. The custom is that whoever receives the king-sized slice with the ticket must host the next gathering. It is as full of ideas about feelings, thoughts, opinions, and opinions about king cakes from New Orleans as there are king cakes. I prefer a more traditional approach to the dough. However, my colleagues and I created the concept of putting the caramelized sugar layer to make our cake more fun and shattering crunch. With cream cheese frosting as an alternative to sugar, I constantly want this cake all year. — Kelly Fields
- 2 1/2 cups bread flour
- 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
- Two teaspoons instant yeast (such as SAF brand)
- Two eggs at room temperature
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 tablespoons Lard(you can substitute butter or vegetable shortening but it won’t taste as tasty)
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- One teaspoon of kosher salt
- 1/4 cup plus one tablespoon unsalted butter Cut into pieces and lightly softened
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- One tablespoon of ground cinnamon
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- One teaspoon of vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon light corn syrup
- 1/4 cup water
Cream Cheese Icing
- 1/2 cup cream cheese (4 ounces) at room temperature
- 4 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
- 1/4 cup whole milk
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
Cakes are a must.
- Mix together baking flour, flour for all purposes, and yeast within a bowl large enough. Mix eggs in a bowl of stand mixers or a big bowl with handheld mixers until they are smooth. Switch to a dough hook or an enormous wooden spoon and add lard, milk, and flour mix. Mix quickly until dough begins to form, which can take three to four minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl using an elongated spatula. When the mixer is running low, add salt and sugar, increase speed to medium, and mix for three minutes. Reduce the rate to low and then add butter, gradually at times, until it is fully integrated. Increase speed to medium-high, and blend dough for 5 to 7 mins, until the butter is completely incorporated and the dough is smooth and shiny.
- Prepare a large baking tray with cooking oil. Transfer the dough to a baking sheet and press it with your palm up to about 3/4-inch thick and as close to the size of a six by 10-inch rectangle as possible (it’s acceptable if it’s smaller or larger, and you can reduce it later). Cover a baking sheet with plastic wrap and let it sit for a night (about twelve hours). The dough can also be frozen, but it must be thawed overnight in the fridge before making use of it.
- Lightly coat a 10-inch cake pan with sides that are 2 inches high by spraying cooking. Cut the dough into two 3×5-inch strips. With the rolling pin lightly seasoned with flour and a rolling pin, you can roll each piece up to about 6 inches by 12 inches, making sure to keep an oval shape. With an offset spatula, apply half of the cinnamon filling in a thin, nearly transparent layer over the dough, leaving 1 inch of border around every other edge. With a pastry brush, apply a wall of water to its upper edge until slightly wet. This acts as a sealant. Beginning at the bottom, roll the dough up like an old-fashioned cinnamon roll. (You need the edge you left exposed to be on the outside part of your roll.) After rolling, gently press down to seal the dough evenly. The water will assist in creating a complete make sure that the dough is filled. Utilizing your hands, roll the long logs until they are doubled in size, approximately 22 inches. Keep your log’s width consistent. The same procedure is followed for the other strip of dough.
- Twist the dough logs together in a spiral. After the records are fully twisted, join ends to create rings, then pinch the edges to seal as you need to. Place the dough in the prepared pan and cover it with plastic wrap. The dough will prove at temperatures at room temperature (ideally 75degF) for approximately two hours until it is 1.5 times the original height and somewhat springs back after the pressure is applied. (If it doesn’t bounce back, the dough has been over-proofed and needs to be thrown away.)
- Bake at 350 degrees F. Prepare a baking sheet using parchment paper and place an oven rack with wire over. Before baking, spray the dough with water (or lightly sprinkle some water on the dough using your fingertips) to stop the crust from becoming hard. Cook for 30-35 minutes. You turn the pan every 15 minutes to bake until the cake is golden brown. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 5 minutes before carefully removing it, and transfer it to a wire rack on baking sheets. Cool completely for about 1 hour.
Make the cinnamon mixture.
- A mixer with a paddle attachment or large bowls using a handheld mixer, mix granulated sugar, cinnamon, brown sugar salt, butter, and vanilla until a consistent paste is formed, which takes about 2 minutes. The mixture can be used immediately or kept inside an airtight container in the fridge for three days or more. Then, it can be chilled before making use of it.
Create the caramel crunch.
- Mix the corn syrup, sugar, and water in a small pot that is not reactive. Bring to a simmer over high heat, ensuring that sugar completely dissolves. (Do not mix the ingredients, as stirring can cause the sugar to crystalize.) Continue cooking until it turns to a medium-amber color, between 6 and 7 minutes. Remove from heat and drizzle caramel onto the cake, forming an even, thin layer over the entire cake. Let the crunch set for up to 20 minutes before icing the cake.
Make the cream cheese frosting.
- Within the bowl of your stand mixer equipped with a paddle attachment or in large bowls with a handheld mixer, mix cream cheese at medium speed until it is very smooth. Slow down the pace, add powdered sugar in three portions, and mix well after each addition until a smooth, uniform paste is formed. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. While the mixer runs low speed, slowly pour through the milk until the icing is thoroughly mixed and smooth. Mix in vanilla bean paste. The icing can be kept in a sealed, airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Make sure it is at room temperature before making use of it.
- While the cake is in the cooling rack on the wires, spread the icing on top of the cake. I use an ice cream scoop of 1 ounce (about two tablespoons) to sprinkle a little icing on the top ridges of the cake’s top, then I drizzle the icing on when I walk towards the cake, making it flow across the sides. If you’re keeping with Mardi Gras tradition, sprinkle Sanding sugar on top and let the cake rest for at least 30 minutes before moving it onto a serving platter. It can be stored in a King Cake in an airtight container at room temperature for as long as three days. However, serving it the day it was created is the most delicious.