|The King Cake made from the NOLA mix|
|The box of goodies Jen brought me from Gambino's|
|The King Cake from Gambino's, surrounded by Mardi Gras beads|
|The King Cake Mix I bought in New Orleans|
King Cake is essentially a brioche dough, with a ribbon of brown sugar cinnamon (or praline sugar) running through it, baked in an oval shape, glazed with royal icing and sprinkled with the aforementioned Mardi Gras colors. Tradition decrees that a plastic baby (or sometimes a much more edible pecan) is hidden amongst the slices and whoever finds that plastic baby in their piece is responsible for hosting the next round of Mardi Gras parties. (Note to any novice bakers: you do NOT bake the plastic baby inside with the cake - it'll melt and make your cake unsafe to eat. The baby is usually tucked underneath the slice of cake after baking and serving.) I'm a personal fan of the Mardi Gras colors and I like a good brioche as much as the next person so it's hard not to like king cake.
The mix made for a soft dough which was a little concerning but I followed the instructions to the letter and hoped for the best. After the first rising, the dough was still soft so I had to flour it liberally to handle it. I didn't bother with a rolling pin since it was so soft and I was able to shape it out into a rectangle with my hands, brush it with melted butter, sprinkle the praline sugar all over it and roll it up, jelly roll style. With careful handling, it wasn't too hard to bring the ends together to form an oval and pinch the edges shut. Then I let it rise a second time until it had doubled in size then I baked it off. I didn't bother brushing with egg wash to make it brown nicely since it was going to get covered in glaze anyway. The glaze packet also came with the mix and was likely just powdered sugar that I added vanilla and a little milk to until it was the consistency I wanted. The fun part was sprinkling the colored sugars on top: purple for justice, green for faith and gold for power.
The king cake from the mix actually wasn't bad. It was a little more cakey than the one from Gambino's (that one was really good) but still tasty and the "cake" (more like a brioche) was complemented nicely by both the sweetness of the glaze and the crunch of the colored sugars. Next time I definitely want to make one from scratch and see how it turns out.