King Cake
King Cake
Author: Leona Konkel
Ingredients
For the cake:
  • 1 cup lukewarm milk (about 110°F)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons dry yeast (yes, 2 TABLESPOONS; it is a lot of yeast)
  • 3 3/4 cups flour
  • 16 tablespoons butter (melted)
  • 5 egg yolks beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon
  • several gratings of nutmeg
For the icing:
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • Purple, green, and gold decorative sugars
  • fava bean or plastic baby to hide in the cake after baking (optional if you're not being traditional; I skipped this)
Instructions
Cake
  1. In a large bowl (I used my stand mixer), combine sugar, yeast, and a tablespoon of flour with the milk. Mix until the sugar and yeast have dissolved. Let it rest for 5-10 minutes, until it becomes foamy.

  2. Whisk in butter, eggs, vanilla, and lemon zest. Add the rest of the flour, along with the cinnamon and nutmeg. 
  3. If using a stand mixer, mix dough with the dough hook on low speed for about 5 minutes, until smooth and elastic. If kneading by hand, once the dough forms a ball, knead it on a floured surface until it is smooth and elastic. (Original recipe suggests 15 minutes.)
  4. Place dough in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise for 90 minutes, until dough has doubled in volume. 
  5. Divide risen dough into 3 equal pieces. Roll each piece of dough into a long strip; you want 3 ropes of equal length. Braid dough together, starting in the middle of the strands. Bring the right strand over the middle strand, and then bring the left strand over into the middle. Repeat until the end of the dough. Turn the braid around and bring the right end under the middle, and then the left one under, and repeat until dough is braided. Crimp the ends together to seal. Form braid into a ring and pinch the ends together. Place dough on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
  6. Remove plastic wrap and bake at 375F for 20-30 minutes, until golden brown. (Mine was done at 25.) Remove from oven and let cool for 30 minutes. 

    Once it's doubled in size, place the cookie sheet in the oven and bake until the braid is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven, place on a wire rack, and allow to cool for 30 minutes.

Icing
  1. Make icing while cake cools. Combine powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla and mix until smooth. Reserve some frosting to add food coloring to if desired. 
  2. Spread icing over cooled cake and sprinkle with decorative sugars while icing is still wet. Hide bean or plastic baby under the cake, if using.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from New Orleans, the Cookbook via Epicurious