It's that time of year.......the time of year for that yummy deliciousness called king cakes. King cakes are enjoyed starting after Twelfth night (the night of Jan. 5th, twelve days after Christmas) throughout Carnival (Mardi Gras) season. Although many bakeries start selling them prior to January 5th many consider it bad luck to eat king cake before January 6th. :) They signify the three Kings who bring gifts to baby Jesus. While I have only been living in the New Orleans area for a couple of months I have enjoyed king cakes for many years. What is a king cake you might ask? Well, a king cake is more of a bread than what most people think of when they hear the word cake. The traditional king cake is filled with cinnamon/ sugar and is in the shape of a crown or an oval. It is topped with icing and sugars in the colors of mardi gras (purple, gold and green) and a little plastic baby (representing the Baby Jesus) is hidden somewhere in the cake. It is said that whomever gets the baby in their piece of cake has good luck and must purchase the next king cake to share. Most bakeries place the baby in the open center of the cake and allow the purchaser to hide it in the actual cake. Don't want anyone forgetting about it and choking or breaking a tooth! Here in Louisiana you can get king cakes at many places and with many different fillings: cinnamon/ sugar, cream cheese, apple, chocolate, pineapple, cherry, praline, etc.
At Bittersweet we offer two types of fillings in our king cakes, the traditional cinnamon/ sugar, and a chocolate cream cheese........oh yea baby.....chocolate and cream cheese together! I have pretty much taken ownership of most of the king cake production at the shop and let me tell you I am loving it! I make many, many of the items in the shop, but it is rare that I have a hand in it from beginning to end. There is something so satisfying about make something completely from start to finish and knowing that people are buying it and enjoying it.
I start by making a huge batch of brioche and then portioning out the amount needed for each individual king cake. I round the ball, wrap it in layers of plastic and store them in the freezer (although they don't stay there for long since I am rolling king cakes on a daily basis....lol). They day before they are needed I take the appropriate number of dough balls out of the freezer and once they have thawed I roll them out into a rectangle and coat them with the cinnamon/ sugar butter, or pipe rows of the chocolate cream cheese filling. I then cut the rectangle into three even pieces lengthwise and starting with the longest side I roll each piece up to seal in the filling (just like when you make cinnamon rolls). The three pieces are then braided together, formed into an oval shape on a sheet pan that is wrapped in plastic and placed into the cooler to rest overnight. The next morning the pans are taken out and placed on a rack near the oven to proof. Once they have proofed to twice their size they are baked to golden perfection! The cinnamon/sugar cakes can get a little messy when baking because no matter how well you seal them a little of the filling always leaks out. After the cakes have come out and cooled I ice them with either a white chocolate fondant (cinnamon/ sugar king cakes) or a chocolate fondant (chocolate cream cheese king cakes) and decorate them with the colored sugars. They are then placed in a box along with the ever important baby and set out for purchase or set aside for pick up if there is an order.......which it seems like there always is at least one or two or three or four. Have I said how busy we are????
Check out these beauties!!!!
Oh, we also make individual king cakes for those wanting just a little taste. I make a 3 oz. brioche ball, place it into a muffin tin to rise, and bake it until, of course, golden brown. Once it has cooled I core it and fill it with cream cheese icing, chocolate cream cheese icing, or sometimes apple filling. It is of course then iced and decorated with the traditional sugars as well. Yummy in your tummy!!!
I wish I could send each of you a King Cake to enjoy, but for those of you in Tallahassee you can bet I will be making these for Mardi Gras season at Sweet Inspirations!
Now, go wipe the drool of your mouth and remember Life is Sweet! Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler!!! (Let the Good Times Roll!!!)