Mardi Gras is tomorrow and begs for a sweet, colorful King Cake. This yeast-based version with a rich, cream cheese filling is festive and fun. Tradition says that whoever gets the piece of cake with the baby in it is responsible for making next year’s cake. I don’t use one…too nervous that someone will choke on the thing!
Cream Cheese King Cake
1 cup whole milk, plus 2 or 3 Tbs for icing
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 oz butter, chopped
2 (1/4 ounce) packets active dry yeast
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons lemon zest
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 eggs, at room temperature
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 baby figurine, optional
Green, purple and gold sanding sugar (optional)
1. In a small saucepan, stir the milk, granulated sugar and butter over medium heat until the butter is nearly melted and the temperature registers 115℉ degrees, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in the yeast and let stand for 10 minutes (it will appear to be lumpy).
2. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, zest, salt and nutmeg. Make a well in the center, add 2 of the eggs and whisk together. Whisk the yeast-milk mixture into the eggs. Use a wooden spoon to stir the mixture until a dough forms.
3. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough, dusting with flour as needed, until smooth, about 7 minutes. Transfer to a large greased bowl, cover with plastic and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
4. Line a 11 x 17-inch baking sheet with parchment paper. Grease the outside of a 4-cup soufflé dish and place in the center of the baking sheet.
5. Using a mixer, beat the remaining egg and the cream cheese at medium speed until smooth. Add 1 cup confectioners’ sugar and 1 tsp of the vanilla. Mix at low speed until blended, then beat on high speed for 1 minute.
6. Place the dough on the work surface, dust with flour and form into a 2 foot long log. Use a rolling pin to roll the log into a 6 x 30-inch strip. Spoon the cream cheese mixture down the center of the dough, stopping 1 inch from each short end. Tuck the baby in the filling, if you are using. Bring the long edges together and seal, enclosing the filling as best you can. Transfer the roll to the prepared sheet, placing it seam side down and bending it around the soufflé dish. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
7. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350℉. Add 1 inch hot water to the soufflé dish.
8. Bake for 15 minutes, then tent with foil and continue baking until golden-brown, 15 to 20 minutes longer. Let cake cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack. Transfer cake to a large platter.
9. In a bowl, whisk together the remaining 2 cups confectioners’ sugar, 1 tsp vanilla and 2 to 3 tablespoons milk to make a thick, smooth icing. Drizzle over the cake. Sprinkle with sanding sugar, if using.
Recipe slightly adapted from Rachael Ray
‘Baby Don’t Cry’ is a cool, jazzy new tune from London-based Lucinda Belle.
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