So today is Fat Tuesday. Interestingly enough I had no idea what this supposed holiday was before one of the guys on the floor approached me and asked me if I was partaking in the pot luck that was planned for the next day. After agreeing I promptly went home to look up just what this whole thing was about.
It turns out that Fat Tuesday is actually Mardi Gras. Does that sound a bit more familiar? I'm the one who's supposed to know French and even then it didn't click with me. Mardi = Tuesday and Gras = Fat. Simple? Good. Moving on.
Mardi Gras is the last day before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. It turns out that this particular day is just an excuse to party big time before the ritual fasting begins. With that in mind I figured I would get into the spirit of things and hunted down the perfect recipe for the party. I came across an interesting little pastry and I decided I wanted to try called the Mardi Gras King Cake.
I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
Apparently, the Mardi Gras King Cake is a rather famous dessert that is found in every shop during Mardi Gras. The tradition is that you bake the cake and while it's hot stuff a plastic baby into it somewhere, symbolizing baby Jesus. The person who gets the piece of cake with the baby inside either has to make the cake next year or host the party or something to that degree. As I was making this for a work function I opted out of stuffing a baby into the cake and went with the just desserts. SO! How did it turn out?
I think it went great over all - I'm a little disappointed that it dried out after it was cut because it was sitting out on the table, but I had a piece of it (several in fact) and they were great. I was even more disappointed at the people unwilling to even try it because it had pecans in it. Makes me wish I hadn't put them in there. Because of that fact I'll be working on designing another version of this cake without the pecans just to make the nut haters happy. Me personally? If I make it for Shawn and I again I'll be leaving them in. So take that nutters!
Mardi Gras King Cake
- 1 cup milk
- 1/4 cup butter
- 2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
- 2/3 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 2/3 cup chopped pecans
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1/2 cup melted butter
- 1 cup confectioners' sugar
- 1 tablespoon water
- Scald milk, remove from heat and stir in 1/4 cup of butter. Allow mixture to cool to room temperature. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in the warm water with 1 tablespoon of the white sugar. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
- When yeast mixture is bubbling, add the cooled milk mixture. Whisk in the eggs. Stir in the remaining white sugar, salt and nutmeg. Beat the flour into the milk/egg mixture 1 cup at a time. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes.
- Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 2 hours. When risen, punch down and divide dough in half.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease 2 cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.
- To Make Filling: Combine the brown sugar, ground cinnamon, chopped pecans, 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup raisins. Pour 1/2 cup melted butter over the cinnamon mixture and mix until crumbly.
- Roll dough halves out into large rectangles (approximately 10x16 inches or so). Sprinkle the filling evenly over the dough and roll up each half tightly like a jelly roll, beginning at the wide side. Bring the ends of each roll together to form 2 oval shaped rings. Place each ring on a prepared cookie sheet. With scissors make cuts 1/3 of the way through the rings at 1 inch intervals. Let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
- Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Push the doll into the bottom of the cake. Frost while warm with the confectioners' sugar blended with 1 to 2 tablespoons of water.
So this wasn't nearly as hard to make as I feared it would be. Essentially what I realized is that this was more of a heavy sweet bread than a cake really which was kind of neat. But, it involved kneading the dough and letting it rise and working with it some more and letting it rise again which was different for me. Having never made bread before I imagined this was going to be a lot tougher. I was pleased to find it wasn't.
I did, however, change a few things. The first was that I halved the entire recipe. Why? Because this is A LOT OF CAKE otherwise. I mean if you plan to feed a load of people at a party or something then by all means, go for it. But, as I feared, I knew this wasn't going to be a very big hit at work and Shawn and I are bad at eating stuff like this in a timely manner around the house so I wanted less cake to waste. I found it to be quite successful so if you want to halve the recipe you can and it doesn't take away from the final product.
I also used milk instead of butter in the glaze that goes on top of the cake. I found it to be much creamier. However, the next time I make this I will not be halving the frosting as well. I found I didn't have enough glaze and longed for more.
On top of the glaze I made my own colored sugar in the Mardi Gras colors, and I almost wish I hadn't. It was more about the texture than anything else and having those colors, while festive, annoyed me more than anything. The picture of the cake I found had the colored sugar on it and thought that was really neat. I even had fun shaking the bejeebus out of a container with food coloring and sugar in it. But the final product wasn't worth it. Next time I plan on coloring the glaze itself and pouring it over the top and that should be enough if I ever color it again. Otherwise just the glaze was pretty and tasty.
For the next time, I will be shaving about 5 minutes off the cook time. While thirty minutes gave me a very nice dark and crispy crunch it was just almost too dark. So next time I plan to watch it a little more. I think less baking will help keep the insides nice and moist.
Also, next time - I want to use Applesauce instead of butter. And along with that I want to make more of the filling to put inside. The cake itself was good, but that filling, that was just amazing and with the applesauce I'm going to be begging for more of it. Not to mention it's much healthier to use the applesauce instead of the butter. Might as well. Not to mention something about Apple, Cinnamon, Raisin filling sounds AMAZING!
Anyways, there you have it.
Happy Fat Tuesday everyone!