Let’s get a few things out of the way here.
First, I’m no photographer. This looked better in person than it does here.
Second, I’m aware it’s not Mardi Gras and that I probably violated some sort of natural law that applies only in New Orleans by making this recipe yesterday. It was for a baby shower (which explains the pink and blue sprinkles) for a friend of mine who’s from NOLA, and just seemed like a fun way to welcome her new little one. Because first, it’s totally New Orleans, and second, it’s got a BABY inside, y’all! Seriously–is that perfect or what?
This started out as an Emeril recipe. Which is fine, but he has two recipes for King Cake–one with cream cheese and sugar inside, and one with a nutty, cinnamon-y mixture. I, having sadly never set foot in Louisiana and only having had King Cake once before, emailed a high school friend of mine who lives there to ask which was more correct. She picked cream cheese, so off we went.
Emeril has a really funky way of proofing yeast. He combines the eggs and butter and milk and sugar, and then stirs the yeast in. I tried it. Disaster ensued. Maybe it works better down south. But it didn’t work for me, and I went back to the traditional way, which is to heat the milk, stir in the sugar, and drizzle the yeast on top. Let it sit until it’s foamy. Foolproof.
I used mostly cake flour in this. Cake flour has a much softer crumb than AP flour and made for a pastry-like texture in the final cake (which may or may not be correct but I liked it). You can use all AP flour if that’s what you have on hand. I would not use any wheat, though. It’ll be too heavy.
The other thing I did was to make my dough in the bread machine. If yours has a dough setting, that’s easiest. Dump and set and walk away. If not, follow the directions below.
Finally, I used a lot more sugar in the glaze than Emeril called for. His was really watery. Mine was thick. I’m an icing girl. 😉
The ladies seemed to like my cake. The husband said it was the best dessert I’d ever made. If that’s not a compliment, keep it to yourself and let me live in my little Make Believe Land for awhile longer, ‘K? Thanks. I’ll definitely make this again–likely as individual cakes next time, just to see if it’ll work that way.
If you want to give this a shot, you’ll need:
2 packages dry active yeast
1/2 cup sugar
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
5 egg yolks
1 cup warm milk (just hotter than your body temperature)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
8 ounces cream cheese
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
Juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons milk
Colored sugar sprinkles
Plastic baby toy
If you’re making this in a bread machine: Stir together milk and sugar, and then sprinkle yeast on top. Leave it until it bubbles up. Then, dump the flour, butter, egg yolks, yeast/milk mixture, nutmeg, salt, and lemon zest into your bread machine, set it on the dough cycle, and walk away.
In a mixer, proof the yeast as outlined above. Using the mixer, stir together that mixture with the butter and egg yolks. Add the flour, nutmeg, salt, and lemon zest to the wet stuff and beat on medium using a dough hook until it forms a ball and starts to climb up the mixer. Then turn it into a greased bowl, cover with a clean towel, and let rise about two hours.
While your dough rises, mix together your softened cream cheese and 1/2 cup powdered sugar.
After your dough cycle or rise in a bowl, turn the dough out onto a floured countertop and roll it into a rectangle, about 30 inches long by 6 inches wide. Spread the cream cheese mixture down the center of the rectangle. Then, fold the long ends over the cream cheese mixture, pinching them in the center to seal up the dough with the cream cheese inside.
Transfer your dough to a large cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (spray that with nonstick spray too, just to be safe). Grease a coffee or other can (I used a steel-cut oats can), and form the dough into a ring around that, with the seam side down. Gently press your baby into the underside of the dough and seal it up. Cover again and let rise 45 minutes.
Heat your oven to 350 degrees. With a sharp knife, make slits across the top of the cake, every 4 inches or so. Bake the cake about 30 minutes, or until puffed and lightly golden brown. Remove the can as soon as you take the cake out of the oven. Let cool completely.
With a whisk, mix together the remaining powdered sugar, lemon juice, and milk. Pour over the cake, letting the glaze drizzle down the sides. Sprinkle the cake with the colored sugar, alternating colors in wide stripes. Let set and enjoy!