DO NOT TRY TO MAKE A KING CAKE OVERNIGHT. Leave that sh*t to the professionals! I thought that since a king cake is essentially a cinnamon roll that I could abide by the normal– slow rise in the fridge overnight. Let me tell you what happened.
The next morning, when I went to put the rolls out on the counter for their second rise they were sitting in a puddle of cinnamon brown sugar. Face. Palm.
PSA: If you want to make an overnight king cake, do not make the filling the traditional king cake way– which is to melt the butter and then mix in the cinnamon and brown sugar, and then spread that entire paste all over the dough. If you want to make this overnight then treat this like a cinnamon roll– melt the butter, spread it directly onto the dough and then sprinkle on the cinnamon brown sugar.
I am a Charleston girl, so I was probably in college before I even realized that Mardi Gras was a huge deal and probably even later before I had an actual king cake. Researching recipes for “traditional King Cake” produced a ton of recipes with a cream cheese filling. NOLA people– is cream cheese filling traditional? Can someone point me to a legit resource?
I’ve only been to NOLA once. Is it obvious? Do people from New Orleans say NOLA all the time?!? (I think the answer here is “no”) Anyway, back to my one trip to New Orleans. I helped my brother move to College Station a few years ago. Even though New Orleans isn’t all that close to where we were going we made it a pit stop. In the span of 12 hours I ate gumbo, beignets and fried chicken. We did a quick walking tour and I rode the trolley. But I didn’t have an authentic King Cakes because it was the middle of summer. So the internet, for better or worse is my barometer. What makes a King Cake authentic, clearly, I don’t know, but I am guessing it’s a cinnamon filling a good frosting and sprinkles.
Anyway, since my research yield mixed results, I went with this highly rated recipe on All Recipes for the dough and filling modifying the flavors to include lemon extract and more cinnamon. Always more cinnamon. The flavor combination ended up being my favorite part of this cake. Lemon and Nutmeg is underrated in my opinion.
Next time I think I will use less frosting, because again I was treating this like a giant cinnamon roll. The reality is that the flavors are so good that you don’t need that all that frosting. Some times less is more. (this is blasphemy on Fat Tuesday!) Live your best life.
Happy Mardi Gras!
A classic King Cake with a hint of nutmeg, lemon and cinnamon.
- 1 cup of milk
- ¼ cup butter
- ½ oz active dry yeast
- ⅔ cup warm water (110ºF)
- ½ cup white sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp nutmeg
- ½ tsp lemon extract
- 5 ½ cups all purpose flour
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 tbsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ cup butter melted
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 2-3 tbsps milk
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
Make the Dough
- Over medium heat gently scald the milk, reaching a temperature of 180 degrees. Stir in the butter to melt and let cool.
- The bowl of a stand mixer stir together the yeast, warm water (110 degrees max!) and pinch of sugar. Let stand for 5-10 minutes until frothy. If the water is the correct temperature and the yeast isn’t bubbling, then it’s likely the yeast is dead– so start over.
- Fit the stand mixer with the dough hook attachment and stir milk/butter mixture, sugar, eggs, salt, nutmeg and lemon extract. Slowly incorporate all of the flour, stirring on low until there is no dry flour.
- Turn mixer speed up to medium and knead for 8-10 minutes. The dough is very soft and will not completely pull away from the bowl.
- Lightly grease a large glass bowl with olive oil and scrape the kneaded dough into the bowl. Cover with a lightly greased piece of plastic wrap and place in a warm location (75ºF to 80ºF) until it doubles in size, about 1 ½ to 2 hours.
Make the Filling
- Melt the butter in a microwave safe bowl. Stir in the brown sugar, cinnamon, salt and vanilla extract. The consistency is similar to a cinnamon paste.
- Turn the dough out on a clean work surface and divide the dough into half. Set one half aside.
- Lightly dust the counter with flour and roll one half into a 10×16 rectangle. Spread half of the filling on evenly across the dough leaving a ½ inch border. Roll the rectangle wide side up to create a tight spiral.
- Shape the dough either in a simple oval or braid the dough (cut in three strips and form into a ring).
- Place King Cake on a half sheet pan lined with parchment paper let rise in warm spot for 45-60 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 375ºF and bake for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned.
Make the Frosting
- While the King Cake is in the oven make the frosting, by whisking the powdered sugar, milk, vanilla extract and salt together. The frosting should be fairly thick– it will thin out when iced on the warm King Cake.
Let King Cake cool for 5-7 minutes on the sheet pan . If you have a plastic baby, push it down into the cake and then spread the frosting on the King cake and sprinkle with mardi gras sprinkles.
- Serve warm with coffee.