King Cake probably takes the crown as the most popular dessert during Mardi Gras — “Fat Tuesday.”
Hundreds of thousands get sold each year. I read that Antoine’s Famous Cakes and Pastries in Gretna, Louisiana, alone sells as many as 3,500 a day.
Traditionally, a King Cake is braided dough formed in the shape of a ring, symbolic of the wise men’s crowns. Much like a coffee cake, The King sometimes gets filled with a pecan praline mixture, cream cheese or just brushed with butter and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.
The cake has a simple sugar icing, decorated with royal colors — purple representing justice, green for faith and gold for power, all symbolic of the gems in the wise men’s crowns.
A plastic baby, coin, bean or pecan, is baked inside as a prize. Whoever has the piece containing the prize rules as king or queen for a day. The winner also assumes responsibility for hosting a party and providing the cake for the next year.
I have yet to master braided breads but want a cake for my Mardi Gras celebration. So in keeping with the spirit, I’ve taken the liberty of substituting a pound cake — decorated with the royal colors. It’s much easier to make and every bit as good as the real deal, I’m sure.
For the cake:
3 cups gluten-free flour*
1-½ teaspoons xanthan gum
1 teaspoon of salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1-¼ cups butter, unsalted softened
2-¼ cups sugar
5 extra large eggs
2 teaspoons almond extract
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 ¼ cups sorghum flour
1 ¼ cups white rice flour
1 cup potato starch (not flour)
1 cup sweet rice flour
For the Icing:
3 tablespoons butter, unsalted and softened
4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
6 to 8 tablespoons half and half cream
Green, purple and gold sugar crystals
Bring butter, eggs and buttermilk to room temperature, which typically takes 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 10-inch (or 12-cup) Bundt pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Set the mixture aside.
With the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer, gradually work up to the highest speed to cream the butter until it is almost white. That usually takes three minutes. Slowly add the sugar and continue to beat on high. This might take five minutes or more. Once the sugar and butter are light and fluffy, add the eggs one at a time while occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl. Then, add the almond extract.
Reduce the speed to medium and alternate blending in the flour mixture with the buttermilk, one cup of flour and then ¼-cup of buttermilk — again occasionally scraping the sides of the bowl. It will be very heavy in texture. Once blended turn the speed up on high and beat for 2- 3 minutes.
Pour the batter into the prepared Bundt pan, place in the upper half of the oven and bake for 1 hour. The cake should be golden brown.
To test, insert a toothpick into the center of the cake. If the toothpick comes out dry the cake is done. Remove the cake from the oven, place on a rack and let it cool for at least an hour.
For the icing, beat the butter and one cup of powdered sugar. Add the almond extract. Continue beating and alternate adding sugar and cream and beat until smooth. Drizzle the cake with the icing and then alternate sprinkling the sugar crystals.