Traditional Marti Gras King Cake
I looked all over the internet for a traditional King Cake. It must be a proper, butter-layered brioche - not a fake, quick enriched bread. It must be braided, not a plain, single cinnamon roll. Each strand must be filled with a different filling, not, "pipe cream cheese in random places so it seems filled," like I have been seeing. I can not find this cake.
The closest recipe I have found is here - instructions given for a brioche, and then 2 strands are each filled with cream cheese and twisted together. I decided that this recipe would be my base, and I would alter the ingredients to make enough dough for 3 braids, and include a cream cheese filling, lemon curd and raspberry filling, along with a cinnamon/sugar/pecan filling. Yes... this is going to be a real King Cake!!
Unfortunately, our Marti Gras shindig had to be cancelled, due to feverish children the day before (boooo, hoo, hoo, hoo). We are going to plan it for about a month from now - no point missing out on the party, even though we will be very late... none of us are Catholic ;-) SO!! That brings me to today, where I will work up a 1/2 batch and practice my King Cake to work out any kinks before I must present the final work-of-art to the guests! Hooray!
So I will list recipes for both a full and a half-batch of dough. The half recipe might be handy for a small Marti Gras party, anyway. I will convert everything for weights and measures, so anyone can use this recipe. I'll try to remember to take pictures of everything! Here we go!
Marti Gras King Cake
Be sure to read through each step of the entire recipe to be sure you have all the ingredients, tools and time needed for this cake. It is a very involved recipe, but well worth the effort!
Since this recipe has 2 sizes of cake, it might be beneficial to print out (or copy to a document) only the recipe you have chosen, to avoid using the wrong quantity of an ingredient. Also, assemble and measure all your ingredients ahead of time. The flour and butter both have to be used in smaller portions, and having them pre-divided will prevent mistakes. The laminated brioche can be made the day ahead and held in the fridge (well wrapped), and the rolls, braid and baking done on the day of eating. Yum, fresh King Cake!
- Dough - Full Batch
- 39 ounces Bread Flour, divided in thirds (13 weighed ounces each) plus more for adjustments
- 1.5 teaspoon Instant Yeast
- 6 Tablespoons Sugar
- 3 teaspoons Salt
- 3/4 cup Milk (room temperature)
- 9 Eggs
- 1.5 pound Butter (3 cups or 6 sticks), divided (3 sticks cut in small pieces at room temperature, 3 whole sticks at room temperature)
- Cream Cheese, Lemon Curd and Raspberry Curd and Cinnamon Sugar Pecan Fillings recipes follow
- Dough - Half Batch
- 19.5oz bread flour, divided in thirds (6.5 weighed ounces each) plus more for adjustments
- 3/4 teaspoon instant yeast
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 3 teaspoons Salt
- 6 tablespoons milk
- 5 eggs
- .75 pounds butter (1.5 cups or 3 sticks) divided (1.5 sticks cut into small pieces at room temperature, 1.5 sticks whole at room temperature)
- 1/2 batches of Cream Cheese, Lemon Curd and Raspberry Curd and Cinnamon Sugar Pecan Fillings (figure those out on your own ;-)
Directions for full or half cake:
- Place 1/3 of the flour, yeast, salt and sugar in a stand mixer bowl. (if you are doing this by hand, you'll probably need to mix longer at each step, and switch to kneading when required)
- Using paddle attachment, add milk, and mix at low speed for 3 minutes (till smooth - scrape down as needed)
- Add the pieces of butter gradually, and mix until incorporated.
- Add 1/3 flour, and mix till smooth.
- Add Eggs gradually, and mix till smooth.
- Switch to dough hook, add remaining flour, and mix 4 minutes on medium speed.
- Transfer dough onto sheet pan, and flatten. Let rest at room temp for an hour. Clear a very large space on the counter.
- Roll out on floured surface into an even rectangle of ¼" thickness.
- Spread the remaining whole sticks of butter over the right 2/3 of the dough surface.
- Fold up the left unbuttered 1/3 of the dough over the center 1/3. Then, fold the right buttered 1/3 over the center - this will look like a tri-fold letter.
- You have just made your first 3 fold, or what is referred to as "Lock-in". Press your finger in to make an indention at the corner of your dough to indicate "1". At this point refrigerate the folded dough for an hour.
- Roll out dough to same size as first time (this will be easier if you turn the dough horizontally) and repeat folding motion, and press the corner with 2 fingers. (do NOT add any more butter. This repeated rolling/folding motion makes the butter layer thinner and thinner each time, creating flakiness)
- Refrigerate for an hour, and then repeat the roll and fold - press in 3 fingers and refrigerate.
- You now have a fully Laminated Brioche. (if you lose track of which step you are on, just check for your fingerprint - 3 prints means you are done!)
Rolling, Filling and Assembly
- Heat oven to 400
- Remove your brioche from the fridge and cut into 3 even pieces. DO NOT pile it together or knead - just cut cleanly. Place 2 back into the fridge. Roll out into an even rectangle of a 1/8".
- Each roll will be made the same way - Roll out the dough into a horizontal rectangle around 10"x 30" - it should only be about 1/8" thick. (whatever size you end up with, make a note so you can make all 3 rolls equal.)
- To Fill - Leave a 1" strip of clean dough on the long edge closest to you. Use about 1C of filling and pile it thickly down the length of the dough - about 2" wide. Wet the 1" strip of dough with your fingers, fold over the filling and use your fingertips to firmly attach it to the other side. You can actually press deep prints into the dough - it will be covered by the next wrap (in my head, it seems to me like I'm "stapling" the dough together - don't be afraid to hurt it!) Using your fingers, dampen each end of your filling-tube and pinch it closed to avoid leaks. Make a small fold and pinch if necessary to get a good seal.
- You should now have a filled & sealed tube near you, and several inches of plain dough. Sprinkle the dough with the cinnamon/pecan filling, leaving about 1" of clean dough on the far side.
- Roll the filled tube away from you to finish the jelly roll - you want to wrap it tightly (stretch the dough slightly to keep the layers close together) but keep an eye on your ends so you don't squish them open. You will have to work your way up and down the roll as you go to get it all. When you reach the other side, dampen the clean edge, then roll onto it. "Staple" it together, but be sure to only get the edge, and not squish your filling.
- Very carefully coil this roll onto a dinner plate and return to the fridge. Repeat this whole process for the other two fillings.
- Bring all 3 ropes out of the fridge and lay lengthwise beside each other. Even up the ends of the rolls, then start your braid in the center - working to one end, and then the other. Lay a large piece of parchment paper on the counter (optional, but handy) For a full King Cake, Bring the ends around to meet in a circle (on the parchment), then work with all the free ends to layer/braid them together to make the braid seem as if it goes all the way around. For a half-cake, it might be best to just leave it in a straight braid - its up to you, and how long your rolls are, and how tight you want your circle. Transfer cake to a very large baking sheet (the parchment paper makes this easy, trim off edges that overhang the pan).
- Let stand in a warm place till doubled in size.
- Carefully brush entire cake with an egg wash (saved egg + 1 more egg + 1T water, beaten together). Bake @400F for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350F for an additional 25 minutes, or until the bottom of your cake is golden brown.
- Cool 5 minutes on sheet, then carefully slide cake to a cooling rack and cool completely before decorating.
- Cream Cheese Filling
- 6oz cream cheese, room temp
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons beaten Egg (save the rest in the fridge for egg wash on bread)
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1/2 teaspoon orange zest
- Mix all ingredients at medium speed until well blended. May be made ahead and refrigerated, if desired.
- Lemon/Raspberry Curd Filling
- 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (use with both flavors)
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (or raspberry juice, instructions follow)
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 3/4 cup white sugar
- 4 egg yolks, beaten
- To make filling: In medium saucepan, mix together 1 tablespoon lemon zest, 1/2 cup lemon (or raspberry) juice and 1 tablespoon cornstarch until smooth. Mix in 6 tablespoons butter and 3/4 cup sugar, and bring mixture to boil over medium heat. Boil for one minute, stirring constantly. In small bowl, with a wire whisk, beat egg yolks until smooth. Whisk in a small amount of the hot juice mixture. Pour the egg mixture into the sauce pan, beating the hot juice mixture rapidly. Reduce heat to low; cook, stirring constantly, 5 minutes, or until thick (not to boil).
- Pour mixture into medium bowl. Press plastic wrap onto surface to keep skin from forming as it cools. Cool to room temperature. Refrigerate 3 hours. This makes lots of curd, and there will be plenty of leftovers for scones and toast later. Make ahead and refrigerate, if desired.
- For raspberry juice - Place a 16oz bag of frozen raspberries in a small saucepan. Heat slowly, stirring occasionally, until the berries reach a simmer. (may also be microwaved) Simmer a few minutes or until very juicy. Pour through a sieve or cheese cloth to strain off the juice. If needed, add water to equal 1/2C.