Here in New Orleans we too have a the tradition of the "King Cake" Which was brought to us by colonist from France and Spain. It takes it's name from the Biblical story of the "Three Kings" , the Catholics believe that it took the Three Kings 12 days for them to arrive in Bethlehem to honor the birth of the Baby Jesus. The day known as the Epiphany.
In New Orleans it is the end of the Christmas holiday, but also important, it is the beginning of Carnival Season! Better known as Mardi Gras!
We celebrate here with the Street car ride of the "Phunny Phorty Phellows" A riding group that parades down the street car line, dressed in their Mardi Gras costumes throwing beads to by-standers. And everyone buys there first King cake of the season.
So, as you can see, our King Cake are nothing like the French "Galette des rosi" The traditional New Orleans style king cake is more like a large cinnamon roll that is rolled up into a ring, sometimes braided. It is then finished off with some icing and sprinkled with colored sugar, purple, green and gold to be exact.
Purple, green and gold are the colors of Mardi Gras. One belief is that they represent justice, peace and Power. Another is in keeping with the history of the the three kings. The three kings brought gifts of Frankincense, Gold, and Myrrh.
So purple is representative of Myrrh, which is a reddish brown (purple) resin from the Commiphora tree.
Green is representative of Frankincense which is a light green resin from the Boswellia tree.
Gold is for gold.
We place a plastic baby in the cake, and the person who gets the piece with the baby (baby Jesus) is the King or Queen of the party and has to bring the a King Cake to the next party or gathering.
Now that you know the history of the King cake, as much as I know about it, lets make one!
To Start, we need to make brioche dough.
(Yeilds 3 medium cakes)
1 cup of slightly warm milk
1/2 cup of sugar
5 teaspoons of dry active yeast
8 whole eggs
6 cups bread flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 pound unsalted butter, room temp, cubed
Place the milk, sugar, and yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer. Stir and let proof. About 5 min. Add the eggs, bread flour and salt. With the dough hook, kneed for 5 min on medium speed. Next add the butter, a little at a time, and mix until it is incorporated. Scrapping every so often. Place the finished dough in to a container at least twice the size of the dough, cover with lid or plastic wrap. Let it sit in the refrigerator over night. Or at least 8 hours.
Once the dough is chilled, turn it out on to a floured surface. Divide the dough into three equal parts. just a note, if you do not want to make three king cakes, you can freeze the rest of the dough or bake it off and make rolls or brioche loafs.
Roll each piece in to a rectangle, about 12x6 inches.
Egg wash the top, sprinkle with about 1/2 cup brown sugar,and than sprinkle the whole surface with cinnamon, and dot with 3 ounces of butter.
Now roll up into a long. (does it seem like your making cinnamon rolls? :))
Now, shape the log into a ring. Place on a parchment lined sheet pan, brush with egg wash, and lightly cover with plastic.
Let prof until doubled. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Bake the finished cakes for 25 to 30 minutes.
Remove from the oven and let cool completely.
Once the cakes have cooled. Glaze them with a mixture of powder sugar and half and half. You want the glaze consistency of honey. You want it to be thin enough to run down the sides but thick enough to stick to the cake.
And sprinkle with purple, green, and gold colored sugar.