In another week, the lenten season will begin. And with it are the quiet days of reflection and preparation for one of the holiest days on the Christian calendar. With that in mind, many people determine to give up their favorite foods as an expression of their devotion. And THAT, is why pre-lenten festivities, especially Mardi Gras is so very extravagant.
The wild and crazy days of Mardi Gras or Carnival are the last few days before the austerity of Lent. One of the most charming of the traditions associated with these days of fun is that of the King Cake, and conjoined is the Queen Cake. These cakes herald from centuries ago, when they would appear during Epiphany, and would be served until Fat Tuesday (the day before Ash Wednesday). So, some folks with ancestry in Europe will associate this treat with Christmas and the Feast of the Three Kings. Thus, the name of the cake.
Each cake has a small trinket (often a small plastic baby, said to represent the Baby Jesus) inside. The person who gets the piece of cake with the trinket has various privileges and obligations. Each family has it’s own tradtion that is attached to the finding of the baby in the cake.
This is a simple sweet bread recipe. It’s a ring of twisted bread dough similar to that used in brioche. It’s typically topped with creamy icing and colored sugars. Typically purple, green and yellow – the colors of Mardi Gras. Most are baked, but some, especially smaller versions could be deep-fried. But, ALL have wonderful fillings. Some Louisiana favorites could be cream cheese, praline, cinnamon and or various fruits like strawberry. Some variations include chocolate frosting with coconut filling, called a Zulu King Cake.
The Queen Cake is exactly the same preparation, but is topped with fresh fruit instead of the sugars. Use the traditional colors. In the photo, there is kiwi, blueberries and bananas….but there could be pineapple or mango for the yellow, and tinted apple or pear slices for the purple. Use your imagination!
Recipe: Makes 1 cake
3 Cups White Flour, organic
2/3 Cup raw Turbinado Sugar
1 packet Yeast
1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1 tsp. Almond Extract
1/2 tsp. Cinnamon
1/4 Cup virgin Coconut Oil, melted
1 tsp Salt
1 1/4 Cups Warm Water
1/4 Cup raw Nuts (try walnuts, almonds or pecans) chopped
3/4 tsp. Cinnamon
2Tbls. Maple Syrup
Pinch of Salt
1 Cup Powdered Sugar, organic
1/4 Cup Virgin Coconut Oil, melted
1/4 tsp. Vanilla Extract
Colored Sugars – Green, Yellow and Purple
1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the warm water and yeast until yeast is dissolved.
2. In another bowl, mix all dry ingredients together with a whisk. Add the dry ingredients to the yeast and mix until a ball forms. Add pinches of flour until the dough is easy to handle. Knead in the bowl for a few minutes until the ball is well formed.
3. Grease the sides of the bowl with liquid oil and cover with cloth towel. Allow to rise for an hour. Keep in a warm spot, away from drafts.
4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare the filling by mixing all ingredients together. Mix the glaze and set aside covered.
5. Punch out the dough. Sprinkle a small amount of flour onto a cool surface. Place the dough on the floured surface and kneed slightly forming a long shape about 5″ wide and 12 – 14″ long. Flatten the long form and add the filling to the middle of the dough. Carefully roll the dough over the filling and pinch the dough to seal the edges. Loop the dough to form a crescent shape and place on a greased cookie sheet.
6. Bake at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes or until the edges begin to brown. The bread will have a slightly hollow sound when you thump the outside with your finger.
7. Cool the bread completely before attempting to addthe glaze.
8. Soften the glaze if needed with a few drops of water, mix again and pour over the cooled bread.
9. If decorating a King Cake, sprinkle with colored sugard. If decorating for a Queen Cake, arrange the fruit on the surface while the glaze is still soft.
Ready! Set! EAT!
No matter what the tradition, the King Cake is a great way to fill the last days before Lent with a Mardi Gras of your own. Here’s a little hint, bake a cake, then take it to the office. The person who gets the baby, bakes one for the next day!
Be sure to remember your favs with a box of Easter cookies and brownies from WOW! Cookies! Happiest of Lenten Seasons to us all!