When you think Mardi Gras, you probably don’t think of sugary, confectionery delights. Nope, not at all. But down in Nawlins, they sure do. See, there’s a very special cake that is synonymous with the season and the region – the one and only King Cake. They’re an absolute must in every household, classroom and office around NOLA from All King’s Day (January 6th) through Mardi Gras day.
King Cakes go way back in New Orleans – we’re talking WAYYY back – to the 18th century. Rarely do people in New Orleans actually make them (locals swear by their favorite bakeries), but since they can be a little hard to purchase elsewhere, there’s no reason why you can’t make your own at home!
A classic King Cake is oval-shaped, with the dough being similar to a coffee-cake. To make, the dough is rolled out into a long tubular shape then shaped into an oval (think racetrack). The ends are then twisted together to complete the shape. After it is baked, it is decorated with icing and sprinkles in the traditional Mardi Gras colors: Purple – to symbolize Justice, Green – to symbolize Faith, Gold – to symbolize Power. Then, a tiny plastic baby, yup, a tiny plastic baby, is hidden inside. Tradition has it that the person who gets the piece with the baby has to throw the next party or buy the next King Cake.
3 (14 ounce) cans refrigerated sweet roll dough
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 (12 ounce) cans creamy, vanilla ready-to-spread frosting
1/4 cup milk
2 drops green food coloring
2 drops yellow food coloring
1 drop red food coloring
1 drop blue food coloring
1 plastic King Cake Baby, or dried bean
Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a baking sheet.
Open the cans of sweet roll dough and unroll the dough from each can into 3 strands. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Working on a clean surface, place the dough strands side by side and gather them together to make one large strand. Fold this in half, and roll slightly to make a fat log. Repeat steps with the remaining dough.
Place each log on the prepared baking sheet and shape to make a ring, overlapping the ends and pinching them together to make a complete circle. Pat the dough into shape as necessary to make the ring even in size all the way around. Cover loosely with foil.
Bake 50 – 60 minutes, until firm to the touch and golden brown. Place on a wire rack and cool completely.
Place the cake on a serving plate. Flip over. Cut a slit along the bottom of the ring and insert the plastic baby, or bean.
Divide the frosting evenly between 3 bowls. Stir 1 tablespoon of milk into each bowl to thin the frosting. Stir yellow food coloring into one and green into another. Stir the red and blue food colorings together with the frosting in a third bowl to make purple frosting. Ice the cake with yellow, green, and purple frostings, in an style that you wish!