On Mardi Gras Day, the day before Ash Wednesday, the largest and longest parades in the world are held. Rex, King of Carnival, is a prominent businessman, chosen by a secret committee. His Queen is always a debutante of the current season. On Mardi Gras Day, everyone joins in the costuming, young and old alike, resident and tourist.
In European countries, the coming of the wise men bearing gifts to the Christ Child is celebrated twelve days after Christmas. The celebration, called Epiphany, Little Christmas on the Twelfth Night, is a time of exchanging gifts and feasting. All over the world people gather for festive Twelfth Night celebrations. One of the most popular customs is still the baking of a special cake in honor of the three kings… “A King’s Cake”.
King Cakes are made of a cinnamon filled dough, topped with a delicious glazed topping and then sprinkled with colored sugar. The three colors of the sugar are Purple (representing Justice), Green (representing Faith), and Gold (representing Power).
Tradition has now evolved through time to obligate the person who receives the baby (to be placed inside every King Cake!) to continue the festivities by hosting another King Cake Party.
Now I didn't say that I wasn't going to include any food, after all this is a food blog. Just kidding folks. I only wanted to bring in the atmosphere, so that I can introduce you to a recipe for King Cake.
½ c. warm water (100-115° F)
2 tbsp. yeast
½ c. sugar, plus 2 tsp.
3 ½ to 4 c. flour
1 tsp. nutmeg
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. lemon zest
½ c. warm milk
5 egg yolks
½ c. butter
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp. milk, for egg wash
Sprinkle yeast and 2 teaspoons sugar over warm water in a small, shallow bowl. Allow to rest for 3-5 minutes, then mix thoroughly. Set bowl in a warm, draft-free place until yeast starts to bubble up and mixture almost doubles in volume, about 10 minutes.
In a large mixing bowl, mix 3 ½ c. flour, ½ cup sugar, nutmeg, lemon zest and salt. In mixing bowl of a heavy duty electric mixer or food processor, combine yeast , milk and egg yolks. Gradually add dry ingredients, and softened butter, adding additional flour, as necessary to achieve a medium-soft ball. Knead dough, again adding flour if necessary, until smooth, shiny and elastic, about 10 minutes.
Place dough in a covered, buttered bowl , in a warm, draft-free place until doubled, about 1 ½ hours. In the meantime, butter a large baking sheet and set aside.
When dough has risen, remove and punch down. Sprinkle with cinnamon and form into a cylinder, then twist this cylinder into a circle. Pinch the ends together to complete the circle. Once again, cover and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes. Brush with egg wash and bake in a preheated oven 375 for 40 minutes or until done. cool on a rack.
King Cake Icing
3 c. confectioner's sugar
¼ c. lemon juice
3-6 tbsp. water
1 tiny 1" baby doll
Mix sugar, lemon juice and 3 tablespoons of water until mixture is smooth, adding more water as necessary to achieve a smooth, spread able consistency. cut a small hole into bottom of cake and place baby doll in cake. Spread icing over cake and immediately sprinkle colored sugar in alternating color rows.