King Cake, named for the three kings who came to bring gifts to Jesus, is traditionally served during Mardi Gras in New Orleans and throughout the South. Not only is it decorated with the colors of the festival, but it also has a hidden trinket in the dough. I’ve used an almond, but in New Orleans bakers often use a ceramic or plastic doll to represent the baby Jesus. The person who gets the slice with the trinket is responsible for making the King Cake the following year.
There are many versions of this sweet bread, depending on the traditions of different families. Our version from Holiday and Celebration Bread in Five Minutes a Day is made with Brioche dough which has nutmeg, cinnamon, and raisins added into it. The dough can be Braided and/or formed into a Couronne (crown shape) as I have done here. Some bakers even use a cream cheese and praline filling, but we went with a more traditional filling.
1 1/2 – pounds Brioche Dough from any of our books (page 189 ABin5) or (Whole Wheat Brioche page 275 HBin5) or (Gluten-Free Brioche page ) or (page 65 Holiday and Celebration Bread in Five Minutes a Day)
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Zest of 1 lemon
1 cup raisins (optional)
1 almond, bean or Plastic King Cake Babies for trinket
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 drop orange or almond extract
Purple, green and gold Colored Sugars, sprinkles or dragees
To make the King Cake:
Preheat oven to 350° and prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Roll the brioche dough into a 1/4-inch thick rectangle. Cover the dough with the nutmeg, lemon zest and citron.
* For G-F bakers: you will want to roll the dough out between sugar covered silpat and plastic wrap, so it will not stick to the surface.
Roll the dough up around the fillings and fold the dough over itself.
*For G-F bakers: you will want to roll the ingredients into the dough and then immediately for the dough into a circle (see pictures below), this dough will not allow you to knead the ingredients in.
Knead (Yes, I used the dreaded word) the dough for about 1 minute to mix the fillings into the dough.
Form a log with the dough and stretch it out into a long rope.
Join the two ends and let the dough rest on a cookie sheet, covered with parchment, for 1 hour (1 1/2 hours for whole wheat brioche). Push the trinket under the dough. Brush the top with egg wash and bake for about 35-40 minutes.
Cool the bread completely before decorating.
Make the glaze:
Mix the powdered sugar, heavy cream and extract until smooth. Drizzle over the top of the cooled bread.
Sprinkle the colored sugar over the glaze before it has a chance to set.