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King of King Cake

Tried the rest? Now try the best.
Monica Riese, 8:55am, Tue. Feb. 12, 2013
Photo by Monica Riese

Bakerman's? Easy Tiger? H-E-B? Nah. Mine.

Bold, I know, but there's a lot to be said for making something with your own two hands. And in a world with dozens (if not hundreds) of options for store-bought baked goods, I'll always stand by the homemade version.

For the third year in a row, I've made and brought my homemade king cake to work for folks to enjoy. My co-workers praise it for its not-too-sweet fluffy base, the pure sugar crystals on top, and its gooey pecan filling.

It's not even some family heirloom recipe or anything (I'm told I have roots in Opelousas, La., but none that anyone remembers). No, it's just a simple recipe off All Recipes that's won over the hearts of many.

I'll freely admit it's not the quickest recipe – there's kneading and rise time and milk scalding to consider – but in this as in all things kitchen-related, I suggest you just not think about it and dive right in to baking. (And you'll save a considerable amount of effort by not hand-dying sugar crystals for the decoration on top – or, like me, do it once and save it for the next round.)

If you take the time to bake a king cake – or anything, for that matter – from scratch, I assure you your friends and family (or anyone who is lucky enough to get a slice) will appreciate it that much more. And if you do what I did last night and skim over the headnote that says the recipe yields two cakes, well, double the love.

Now that's what I call Fat Tuesday.

Recipe

PASTRY:
1 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
2/3 cup warm water (110 degrees F)
1/2 cup white sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

FILLING:
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2/3 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup melted butter

FROSTING:
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon water

DIRECTIONS:

1) Bring milk almost to boiling point in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and stir in butter. Cool to room temperature. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in the warm water with 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.

2) When yeast mixture is bubbling, add the cooled milk mixture. Whisk in the eggs. Stir in the remaining white sugar, salt, and nutmeg. Beat in the flour 1 cup at a time. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes.

3) Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp dish towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 2 hours. When risen, punch down and divide dough in half.

4) To make filling, combine the brown sugar, ground cinnamon, chopped pecans, and flour. Pour melted butter over the cinnamon mixture and mix until crumbly.

5) Roll each dough half out into a large rectangle (approximately 10 inches by 16 inches or so). Sprinkle the filling evenly over the dough and roll the wide side up tightly like a jelly roll. Bring the ends of each roll together to form two rings. Place each ring on a prepared cookie sheet. Let rise (again) in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 375 degrees F and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

6) Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Push a plastic baby into the bottom of the cake. Frost while warm.


Recipe adapted from All Recipes. Monica Riese blogs about her baking at The Yeast I Can Do.

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