We’re already few days into Lent, but I wanted to chronicle the attempts I made at Mardi Gras king cake for my first official #CajsianCooking food post. Mardi Gras season officially starts on Twelfth Night, also known as Epiphany or Kings’ Day, which celebrates the wise men arriving to see baby Jesus. And just like there were three kings, I made three attempts at king cake (not counting the cinnamon rolls I put colored sugar on). I’ve always loved baking, but had not yet delved into true bread baking or anything involving yeast. I used the Carnival season as my excuse—I’d eventually be covering the finished products with icing and sugar so I figured even if I somehow screwed up the bake (always likely), it’ll still be covered with icing and sugar.
- Traditional Plain: this recipe from LouisianaTravel.com is a plain king cake (growing up I thought ‘plain’ just meant cinnamon instead of a cream cheese or fruit filling) with some cinnamon flavoring the dough. There’s a good chance I overbaked it (enter icing and sugar topping) and rolled it a bit too thick. Drying out pretty quickly, it was still a tasty coffee-cake-like bread. If I ever attempted this one again, I’d roll it less thick with more room in the middle to try to get a shorter and more even bake, and maybe consider adding a filling of some kind.
- Cream-Cheese-Filled: This cream-cheese filled one from Southern Living was the one I made three times over the last few weeks. This recipe uses bread flour and includes directions for a cream cheese filling and a pretty delicious creamy glaze. I shaped them a little too close the first time so after proofing and rising the center closed in on itself and left it a bit raw in the middle. Second go-round I made one big one (pictured from a friends’ baby shower) filled half cream cheese and half an improvised cinnamon-sugar-butter (parents-to-be approved, so I was satisfied). Third time, I did one separate one of each filling and added a bit more lemon to the creamy glaze. Gave it a nice, but maybe too noticeable, tang. Biggest lesson I learned is not rolling it too thick.
- Galette des Rois: I finished off the king cake season à la française. Arguably the ‘original’ king cake, I discovered these during my year in France and fell in love but never made until this year. It shares the same seasonality and traditions but is typically an almond paste filling encased in puff pastry. I used this New York Times Cooking recipe. It happened to be my first puff pastry experience, though it was just store-bought (not attempting any British Bake-Off-level laminating just yet), but I was so green, I didn’t even know where to find it at the grocery (to save you the ten minutes I wasted, it’s by the frozen pie crusts). I made a little mistake in the oven, accidentally turning it off instead of reducing the heat, but it still rose nicely. It was actually the easiest of the three I did, but yielded an finish to our impromptu Superbowl gathering after grazing on chicken wings and pimento cheese.