King Cake is a brioche-style cake that is drizzled with sugar glaze and decorated with the traditional Mardi Gras colors of purple (symbolizing justice), green (symbolizing faith) and gold (symbolizing power). The cake represents the jeweled crowns of the Three Wise Men who came bearing gifts for Baby Jesus on the Twelfth Night. A ceramic (or plastic) baby is hidden within the cake before baking. Tradition states that whoever gets the slice with the baby must provide the next king cake! King cake may be flavored with cinnamon, cream cheese, apples, berries, or, as in our recipe - almond cream.
For the Cake: Combine the butter, sour cream and 3 tablespoonfuls of the granulated sugar in a small sauce pan; cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, until the butter melts and sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes. Cool the mixture to between 100 and 110°F.
Combine the yeast, warm water, and the remaining ½ tablespoon of sugar in the work bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Mix for 30 to 60 seconds, then let stand, undisturbed, until creamy, about 10 minutes.
With the mixer on low speed, add the egg and the warm butter mixture to the yeast mixture. Continuing with the mixer on low speed, add the flour and salt; mix just until incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high (#8 on a Viking stand mixer) and mix 4 minutes more. The dough will be smooth and elastic.
Scrape the dough into an oiled bowl and cover with a piece of oiled plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, approximately 1 hour.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface; roll it into a 24 x 10-inch rectangle.
Position the long side horizontally to the work surface. Starting at the bottom left-hand corner of the rectangle, horizontally pipe the almond cream in a thick layer from left to right, leaving a 1½ to 2-inch border on all sides. You will use all of the almond cream. Place the ceramic baby inside the cake so that it is completely hidden. Then, starting at the long side nearest you, roll the dough as you would sushi, encasing the almond cream within the dough.
Place the dough roll, seam-side down, on a parchment-lined baking sheet; bring the ends together to form an oval ring, pinching the edges together to seal well. (Note: It is very important to seal the ring completely, or the Almond Cream will all seep out onto the baking sheet. It does not have to look great - the decorations will hide most imperfections.) Moisten with a bit of water if needed to help seal the ring.
Brush the ring with melted butter; cover with well-oiled plastic wrap or a floured cloth. Let rise until doubled in volume, approximately 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Remove the plastic wrap (or cloth); brush once again with melted butter. Place in the preheated oven and bake until light golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. Cool on the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
For the Frosting: Stir together the confectioners’ sugar, melted butter, milk and vanilla until smooth; pour over the cooled cake. Decorate with Mardi Gras-colored sprinkles, then allow to set for at least 30 minutes before serving.
To Serve: Once all of your guests have arrived, slice the cake into 2-inch pieces. It should be great fun to discover who has received the baby in their slice!
Tips and Techniques
* Make sure that everyone is aware of the hidden baby - and never hide a toy that is small enough to swallow!
Makes 1 cake
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