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A simple spiced yeast dough is filled with a cinnamon sugar filling, twisted into a ring, and adorned with colored sugar.
Today’s recipe is brought to you by super persistent coworkers. Like, the most persistent coworkers can be to pressure you into baking something that is kind of a big deal and is not taken lightly around its consumers.
This, my friends, is a tradition that goes back several years where I work– are you familiar with it? Every Mardi Gras, someone brings in a traditional King Cake (the history of which you can read all about here), and we wait patiently all day to see who retrieves the baby from inside of it.
Sound weird? It kind of is.
The hidden baby is supposed to be a bearer of good luck to its founder, and in our world, the founder of the baby brings the cake the next year. And for YEARS, my coworkers have been saying “hey, Lynn! You should make one from scratch! And then you can put it on the blog!”
So, 2019, let’s do this.
Speaking of 2019, actually… Don’t let this amazingly colorful, deliciously cinnamony bread distract you from the fact that we ARE working on a Bread of The Month every month. Last month, we did a quick bread, so this month, we’re dedicating the spotlight to a yeast bread.
What’s really cool about this King Cake is you’ve seen this recipe before. Twice, actually. The base of this bread stems from my Italian anise bread, which I then used again with a little pizzaz in the form of brown sugar and cinnamon for my cinnamon babka.
This King Cake is that babka dough split into two logs and twisted together and shaped into a circle.
And if you don’t believe me, I even made a video for you so you can see for yourself exactly what I mean in my instructions.
If you’re thinking to yourself that actually tackling the yeast bread component of this King Cake is what’s holding you back from making one yourself, give this post a read. It’s my Italian anise bread post, which is actually a re-make of the first post I ever made on Fresh April Flours (my grandmother’s Easter pizza), but with better photos, better instructions, and a better lesson about yeast bread.
I wouldn’t lie to you– yeast bread is not hard. And I make it super simple to understand in that post. So, really, give it a read if the whole yeast bread thing is intimidating to you. And then come back here and apply all your new knowledge to this King Cake.
You’ll be the talk of the town at work come Fat Tuesday next week!
This bread is quite the spectacle, once you cover it in those green, yellow, and purple sprinkles. But under it all is the cinnamoniest (technical term) yeast bread that is pillowy yet crunchy in some spots and approximately one million times better than one you can make from a box mix or buy from the grocery store.
If you’re not feeling the icing, you can thin it out and drizzle it on, but I highly suggest keeping it.
Yeah, it’s super sweet, but the bread itself is not overly sweet at all, so they complement each other nicely, and you’ll be surprised how creamy dreamy that icing stays.
I should note that when you bake up your bread ring, there’s a very good (like 100%) chance some of the cinnamon filling will spill out. This is completely ok. It will look like a mess and like you lost a ton of your filling, but you didn’t.
Plus, it will harden on the underside of the cake and leave you with ultra crunchy pieces that are, in my opinion, the best part of the whole thing. So don’t worry too much about seams sticking out.
Do you feel well-equipped to tackle your own King Cake this year? I totally believe in you. And if you’re headed for adding your King Cake to Insta, don’t forget to tag me (@freshaprilflours // #freshaprilflours) so I can see your creations!
Mardi Gras King Cake
- ¼ cup warm water
- 2 and 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast or 1 packet
- ½ cup warm milk I prefer whole milk
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter melted
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 large egg yolks room temperature (reserve both whites, each in a separate bowl)
- 4 cups bread flour*
- 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- ¼ cup all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 1 reserved egg white
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter melted and allowed to cool
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 3 Tablespoons cream or milk
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- sanding sugar or sprinkles in yellow, green, and purple
- Sprinkle yeast over warm water. The best way to test the temperature of your water is to take it from the tap and run your wrist in the stream. If you can’t feel the temperature of the water, it’s perfect. Stir yeast in with a fork until it is dissolved and set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl with a wooden spoon, blend the milk, sugar, salt, vanilla extract, and cinnamon. Stir in the butter, 2 egg yolks, and yeast mixture.
- Gradually stir in flour. If using a stand mixer, use your dough hook. If mixing by hand, continue to use a wooden spoon. Add bread flour until your dough is soft enough to handle, usually when it can easily pull away from the sides of your bowl.
- Turn out dough on a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. You may need to add the last cup or so of bread flour by hand. Your dough should feel like PlayDoh to the touch and “snap” when you pull it apart.
- Place in a warm, greased bowl, turning the dough to coat the top. Cover with a towel and allow to double in size, about 2 hours.
- After dough has doubled, punch down dough and turn out onto a floured surface, then make the cinnamon filling.
- In a medium size bowl, whisk together brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt.
- Add one reserved egg white and the butter and stir until everything is combined.
ASSEMBLE THE DOUGH
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Set aside.
- Roll out the dough onto a surface safe for cutting into a 14" by 18". Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut the rectangle in half long ways so you now have two long rectangles of dough, approximately 7" by 18".
- Using a spatula, spread the filling evenly over each rectangle of dough, leaving about a 1" border around the edges.
- Working from the long side, roll each rectangle of dough into a tight log. Gently roll the logs back and forth until they are about 20" long.
- Transfer the logs to the prepared pan. Pinch one end of each log together and alternate the logs over and under each other (similar to a braid) to form a twisted loaf of bread. Connect the starting and ending pieces together and form the logs into a circle.
- Cover with a towel and allow to rest and rise again for 1 hour.
- When you are ready to bake the bread, preheat the oven to 350ºF.
- Bake the bread for 38-42 minutes. The loaf is done when it produces a hollow sound when you tap on it. Allow to cool completely on the baking sheet before decorating.
- In a medium size bowl, mix together the powdered sugar, cream or milk, and vanilla extract. Stir until everything is combined. Mixture will be thick. If you want it thinner, add more liquid 1/2 Tablespoon at a time until you reach desired consistency.
- Spread icing over cooled bread and decorate with sanding sugar or sprinkles. Bread stays fresh covered at room temperature up to 5 days or in the refrigerator up to 1 week. Un-iced bread freezes well, up to 2 months. Thaw at room temperature before decorating and serving.