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It’s Mardi Gras time again!  I’m honestly more excited for Mardi Gras and some good Gulf Coast cookin’ than I am for a schmoopy Valentines Day.  Luckily, I get to cook us up some good southern eats and then have a completely un-sappy Valentine’s celebration with my favorite people.  The most excellent plan for this week is to try my hand at red beans and rice and baking a King Cake early in the week and have our house-tradition of ‘Pizza and Zombie Movies’ on Thursday, what’s not to love?

But today, it is time for King Cake!  Some of you not from the South may not be familiar with this Mardi Gras treat, so I will enlighten you!  I gather that this delicious cinnamon roll cake is made to celebrate a collection of different Christian events, including the birth of Jesus and the Carnival/Lent/Easter period of time and is eaten anywhere from Christmas to Mardi Gras.  As Mardi Gras (or Carnival, as it’s called in other countries) is a festival of excess before Lent, King Cake is most popular then.  Long ago, a dry bean was placed inside the cake to represent the baby Jesus, but now plastic or ceramic babies are popular.  The person who receives the piece of cake with the figurine is special some how; traditions range from that person being the Mardi Gras king or queen for the day to that person hosting the party next year, and so on.  Honestly, as a non-religious kid growing up in the South, I just remember getting to eat yummy cake that was violently Mardi Gras-colored in school, it was awesome.

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King Cake

Serves 8 – cost approx $.33 per serving

Ingredients

  • 2 lb rich egg dough – you can use brioche, challah, whatever you like for cinnamon rolls or plain white bread if you want to make it a little healthier.  I used the challah recipe in James Beard’s ‘Beard on Bread’ book.  ($1.25)
  • 1/2 stick of butter, melted ($.37)
  • 1 cup brown sugar ($.25)
  • Cinnamon – to taste
  • Nutmeg – to taste
  • 1 dry bean or ceramic baby
  • Rasins or toasted chopped nuts – optional filling
  • 2 cups powdered sugar  ($.50)
  • 1 Tbs lemon juice
  • food coloring or sprinkles in yellow, green and purple

Start by rolling your dough into a 1 foot square.  Paint the inside with butter, leaving a few inches plain along one edge.  Put the brown sugar in an even layer over the butter, sprinkle on the cinnamon and nutmeg and any nuts or raisins you may like.  Add in the bean or baby figurine.

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Roll up dough, finishing at the plain edge and seal the roll.  Roll the log smoothly to lengthen it to 1/2 – 2 feet long.  Form into a circle and let sit and proof for 20 minutes (or the length of time it takes for your oven to preheat).

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Turn the oven to 375 F and bake 30-45 minutes or until golden brown and delicious.  Let it cool.

To make the frosting, add the frosting, combine the sugar and the lemon juice with a whisk, slowly drip water into the sugar and whisk until a thick frosting forms.  Remember, it’s easier to add more water than take it out!  Either, separate out three bowls and color them with food coloring then drizzle the cooled cake or drizzle the white frosting on the cake and put the sprinkles on the wet frosting.

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