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by Sarah Steimer

I took French class in middle school and high school, and I'm pretty sure we often got king cakes for Mardi Gras in some of those classes. King cakes are typically topped with tons of green, purple and gold sprinkles, but I opted for gel streamers instead. The cake also usually has a plastic baby Jesus or a dried fava bean in it, but I omitted that part (didn't want anyone getting excited and choking).

I took French class in middle school and high school and, if memory serves, we sometimes got king cakes for Mardi Gras. It’s been a long time since I last had king cake, but my memory was jogged as soon as I mixed all the ingredients and I caught a whiff of that sweet, yeasty, lemony and cinnamon-y scent. Really, really phenomenal. (And probably not what I need to be in the house with in the dead of winter)

For the cake

  • 1 cup of warm milk, about 110 degrees (I put my milk in a mug and microwaved for two, 30-second intervals to reach 110 degrees)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons dry yeast
  • 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup melted butter (2 sticks)
  • 5 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    Naked cake! Just pretend it's flashing you for beads. Haaaa, Mardis Gras joke.

    Naked cake! Just pretend it’s flashing you for beads. Haaaa, Mardis Gras joke.

  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh lemon zest
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon
  • dash of nutmeg

In a large bowl, combine the milk, sugar, yeast and one tablespoon of the flour. Whisk until the sugar and yeast have dissolved.

After bubbles have formed on the surface of the milk, whisk in the melted butter, eggs, vanilla and lemon zest. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg and the remaining flour, using a rubber spatula to fold the dry ingredients into the wet.

King cakes are typically topped with tons of green, purple and gold sprinkles, but I opted for gel streamers instead. The cake also usually has a plastic baby Jesus or a dried fava bean in it, but I omitted that part (didn't want anyone getting excited and choking).

King cakes are typically topped with tons of green, purple and gold sprinkles, but I opted for gel streamers instead. The cake also usually has a plastic baby Jesus or a dried fava bean in it, but I omitted that part (didn’t want anyone getting excited and choking).

Once the dough has come together and pulled away from the sides of the bowl, form into a ball. Working on a well-floured surface, knead the dough for about 15 minutes (yes, 15, so this counts as your daily workout) or until the dough is smooth and elastic. My dough didn’t get super smooth, but I didn’t want to go over the 15 minutes and risk making a tough cake. Use good judgment!

Return the dough to the bowl and cover with a towel. Let rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours, or until doubled in size.

When the dough has risen, punch down and separate into three equal-sized pieces. Roll the pieces out into ropes of equal length (mine were maybe 18 or so inches). Braid the three pieces and pinch the ends together to form a circle. Careful place on a parchment paper-covered baking sheet. Cover again with a towel and let rise for another 30 minutes.

Bake the dough at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until the cake is a light brown color and sounds hollow when you tap on it. Let cool for 30 minutes.

For the icing:

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup milk (I used skim)
  • gold, green and purple sprinkles or gel icing

Mix together the sugar and lemon juice, adding the milk a little at a time until you reach a desired consistency. I used the entire 1/4 cup of milk so I could easily drizzle the icing over the cooled cake. Make sure your cake is totally cooled before icing!

If using sprinkles, add while the icing is still wet. If using gel, wait for the icing to set on the cake.

Makes 10-12 servings

Recipe adapted from: Epicurious

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