Traditional King Cake – History & Recipe

Who doesn’t like a cinnamony, sugary, squidgy, brightly coloured party in your mouth? We are, of course, referring to King Cake!

Martin had his cake and ate it…

The King Cake tradition is thought to have been brought to New Orleans in around 1870 from France. We’re guessing they didn’t use the same colourings back then(!), but this carnival treat is traditionally a cross between a coffee cake and a French pastry, shaped in an oval, like a massive donut. But better.

There is a twist, though – one lucky cake muncher will find a little plastic baby in their slice! This baby-in-a-cake represents

the day Jesus first showed himself to the three wise men. “Epiphany” comes from the Greek word for “to show”, so in essence, King Cakes are a condensed image of Jesus in a manger with the three Wise Men at his side. Cakes taste better than mangers, we suppose.

Nowadays, whoever find the baby in their slice of cake is named King for a day and must provide the next King Cake and host the next party!

We’ve been hunting for the best King Cake recipe and, courtesy of Southern Living, our prayers have been answered! Now you can all replace your not so traditional/exciting pancake day rituals with the baking of a colourful beacon of NOLA joy.

We’ve handily converted all of the measurement to metric for you – You’re welcome! 😉

Traditional King Cake Recipe

Prep Time – 30 Mins
Cook Time – 10 Mins
Stand Time – 5 Mins
Rise Time – 1 Hour 30 Mins
Bake Time – 16 Mins
Yield – Makes 2 cakes (about 18 servings each – half ingredients for one cake!)
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Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 450g sour cream
  • 50g sugar
  • 40g butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 x 7g sachets active dry yeast
  • 120ml warm water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (to activate yeast)
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 900g bread flour

For the centre:

  • 50g butter, softened
  • 75g sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

For the glaze / topping:

  • 450g powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons milk
  • Purple, green, and gold tinted sparkling sugar sprinkles!

Method

Step 1 – Cook first 4 ingredients (sour cream, sugar, butter and salt) in a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring often, until butter melts. Set aside, and cool mixture to approximately 38°C (still warm, but not hot!).
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Step 2 – Stir together yeast, 120ml warm water, and 1 tablespoon sugar in a small bowl and let stand 5 minutes.
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Step 3 – Beat sour cream mixture, yeast mixture, eggs, and a third of the flour at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer until smooth. Reduce speed to low, and gradually add enough of the remaining flour until a soft dough forms.
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Step 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.
Step 5 – Cover and let rise in a warm place (approx 30°C), free from drafts, 1 hour or until dough is doubled in bulk.
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Step 6 – Punch down dough, and divide in half. Roll each portion into a 22 x 12 inch rectangle. Spread the 50g softened butter evenly over both rectangles, leaving a 1-inch border. Stir together 75g sugar and the cinnamon, and sprinkle evenly over butter on each rectangle. If you’re keeping it traditional, place you plastic baby in your chosen lucky place now, ready to be rolled in!
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Step 7 – 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.
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Step 8 – Cover and let rise in a warm place (30°C), free from drafts, 20 to 30 minutes or until doubled in bulk.
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Step 9 – Bake at 190°C for 14 to 16 minutes or until golden. While the cakes are cooking, prepare the creamy glaze – recipe below! Slightly cool cakes on pans on wire racks (about 10 minutes).
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Creamy Glaze
Stir together the powdered sugar, melted butter, fresh lemon juice and vanilla extract. Stir in 2 tablespoons milk, adding additional milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, until spreading consistency.
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Step 10 – Drizzle Creamy Glaze evenly over warm cakes; sprinkle with coloured sugars, alternating colours and forming bands. Let cool completely.
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Chef’s Tip: 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.

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Enjoy!

Big love,

The Old Jelly Rollers xx