Friday, April 7, 2017

The King Cake

From Brian Lee, Trinity Lay Leader

This year, February 26th was the last Sunday before the start of Lent. At Trinity, we marked this last Sunday before Lent with a “Dimanche Gras” party. In other parts of the US (particularly New Orleans) and the world, there are large celebrations before the start of Lent, most notably Mardi Gras. This year, we were blessed to have homemade King Cake as part of the celebration.

The tradition of King Cake in New Orleans is believed to have started in the 1870s. There is a lot of symbolism with King Cake. Its oval shape symbolizes the unity faiths. Each King Cake is decorated in the traditional Mardi Gras colors - purple representing justice, green representing faith, and gold representing power. Usually, a small baby, symbolizing the baby Jesus, is hidden inside the King Cake. At Trinity, dark jelly beans were placed inside after the King Cake was baked.

In New Orleans, King Cake parties are held throughout the Mardi Gras season. In offices, classrooms, and homes throughout the city, King Cakes are sliced and enjoyed by all. Like the Biblical story, the "search for the baby" adds excitement, as each person waits to see in which slice of cake the baby will be discovered. While custom holds that the person who "finds" the baby will be rewarded with good luck, that person is also traditionally responsible for bringing the King Cake to the next party or gathering.

For those who found the jelly bean “babies", here’s the recipe that Myrt Dorroh used for her King Cake! Myrt recommends planning ahead as this recipe takes a fair amount of time.


·         1 envelope of dry yeast
·         1/4 c. warm water (not hot)
·         1/2 c. milk
·         1 c. (2 sticks) butter
·         1/2 c. sugar
·         2 egg yolks
·         2 whole eggs
·         4 c. (approximately), unbleached flour

Mix the yeast with the warm water. Stir 1 teaspoon of the sugar and 1 teaspoon of the flour into the yeast and set aside. By the time you have measured the other ingredients, the yeast should be beginning to bubble and show signs of life.

Bring the milk to a boil and stir in the butter and the sugar. Pour into a large bowl; the mixture should be lukewarm. Beat in the egg yolks, whole eggs and the yeast.

Beat in approximately 2 cups of flour, until the dough is fairly smooth, then gradually add enough additional flour to make a soft dough that you can form into a ball. Kneed it, by hand or machine, until smooth and elastic. Lightly oil a bowl, turn the dough once or twice in it to grease it lightly all over, cover with a cloth and leave to rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 1-1/2 to 2 hours.

Pat the dough down and cover the bowl with a damp towel, plastic film over that and refrigerate until the next day. This recipe makes enough dough for two king cakes. Extra dough may be frozen, or make two king cakes and freeze one. (If you are going to add a filling the recipe is below.) Thaw frozen cake and reheat 10 minutes in a 375 degree oven.

·         1/2 recipe king cake (above)
·         1 (16 oz.) can cherry, apple or apricot pie filling
·         8 ounces cream cheese
·         1/4 c. sugar
·         2 T. flour
·         2 egg yolks
·         1 tsp. vanilla
·         1 plastic baby Jesus (or a dark colored jelly bean)

Colored sugars (purple, yellow and green); or these same colors of food coloring if you want to just make colored icing.

Remove dough from refrigerator and with well-floured hands, while it's firm and cold, shape it into a long sausage shape. Using a floured roller on a floured surface, roll out the dough into a 30-by-9-inch rectangle as thin as pie crust. Let dough rest.

If necessary, drain extra juice from pie filling. Mix the cream cheese with the sugar, flour, egg yolks and vanilla. Spoon an inch-wide strip of the fruit filling the length of the dough, about 3 inches from one edge. Spoon the cream cheese mixture alongside the fruit, about 3 inches from the other edge. Brush both sides of dough with egg wash.

Fold on edge of dough over the cream cheese and fruit, then fold the other edge over. Gently place on end of the filled roll onto a greased pizza pan or large cookie sheet. Ease the rest of the roll onto the pan, joining the ends to form a circle or oval. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes. Brush again with egg wash and cut deep vents into the cake. Sprinkle with colored sugar at this time if you are only using colored sugar. If you want to brush a light icing of mixed powdered sugar, water & a little vanilla after baked and cooled, then wait and sprinkle colored sugar last.

Bake 40-45 minutes to 1 hour, or until cake is well risen and golden. Time depends on how thick of a cake you have created. The thinner you roll out the dough, the less time it takes to bake. Watch it and take note of the smell. It smells wonderful when is done, also when it is golden brown it is done.

If you are icing it, cool before icing. Mix confectioner's sugar with enough water to make a spreadable paste and a little vanilla for flavor. You can make 3 small bowls of the icing and color one purple, one green and one yellow; or if using just white icing, brush over the cake and sprinkle the three colors of sugar over top. Slice the cake into serving sizes and insert the dark jelly bean or plastic baby Jesus. You can either insert it from the bottom of the cake or into one of the slices of the cake. Be sure to put the slices back close together so it is not evident where you have hidden it.