Homemade Mardi Gras King Cake

Southern Living
Traditional King Cake
Traditional King Cake

Similar to coffee cake, this ring-shaped confection wins out over gumbo and crab cakes, and even "Mardi Gras recipes" as the top recipe search for Mardi Gras.

The popular treat is as rich in tradition and history as it is in color and taste. Trademark decorations-sugars in the royal colors of purple (justice), green (faith), and gold (power)-honor the three kings who visited the Christ child on Epiphany, the 12th day after Christmas. Also known as King's Day, it marks the start of merrymaking that continues until the grand finale on Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday.

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Here's a traditional take on the most-searched-for Mardi Gras recipe on the Web.

Traditional King Cake
Makes 2 cakes (about 18 servings each)
Prep: 30 min.; Cook: 10 min.; Stand: 5 min.; Rise: 1 hr., 30 min.; Bake: 16 min.
This recipe uses bread flour, which makes for a light, airy cake. You still get tasty results with all-purpose flour-the cake will just be more dense.

1 (16-ounce) container sour cream
1⁄3 cup sugar
1⁄4 cup butter
1 teaspoon salt
2 (1⁄4-ounce) envelopes active dry yeast
1⁄2 cup warm water (100° to 110°)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
6 to 6 1⁄2 cups bread flour (*6 to 6 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour may be substituted)
1⁄3 cup butter, softened
1⁄2 cup sugar
1 1⁄2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Creamy Glaze
Purple-, green-, and gold-tinted sparkling sugar sprinkles

1. Cook first 4 ingredients in a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring often, until butter melts. Set aside, and cool mixture to 100° to 110°.
2. Stir together yeast, 1⁄2 cup warm water, and 1 tablespoon sugar in a 1-cup glass measuring cup; let stand 5 minutes.
3. Beat sour cream mixture, yeast mixture, eggs, and 2 cups flour at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer until smooth. Reduce speed to low, and gradually add enough remaining flour (4 to 41⁄2 cups) until a soft dough forms.
4. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes). Place in a well-greased bowl, turning to grease top.
5. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 hour or until dough is doubled in bulk.
Punch down dough, and divide in half. Roll each portion into a 22- x 12-inch rectangle. Spread 1⁄3 cup softened butter evenly on each rectangle, leaving a 1-inch border. Stir together 1⁄2 cup sugar and cinnamon, and sprinkle evenly over butter on each rectangle.
6. Roll up each dough rectangle, jelly-roll fashion, starting at 1 long side. Place one dough roll, seam side down, on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bring ends of roll together to form an oval ring, moistening and pinching edges together to seal. Repeat with second dough roll.
7. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 20 to 30 minutes or until doubled in bulk.
Bake at 375° for 14 to 16 minutes or until golden. Slightly cool cakes on pans on wire racks (about 10 minutes). Drizzle Creamy Glaze evenly over warm cakes; sprinkle with colored sugars, alternating colors and forming bands. Let cool completely.

Creamy Glaze:
Makes 1 1⁄2 cups
Prep: 5 min.
3 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1⁄4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 to 4 tablespoons milk
Directions: Stir together first 4 ingredients. Stir in 2 tablespoons milk, adding additional milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, until spreading consistency.

Continue Reading for Baking Tips and Mail-Order Options
Article by Kate Nicholson / Photo Beth Dreiling

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