Simple and delicious, this Mardi Gras treat clearly takes the cake.
If this crazy colorful dessert looks completely foreign, then allow me to introduce you: This is a King’s Cake, a traditional dessert served during Mardi Gras celebrations with a history just as rich as the cake itself. It takes its name from the biblical story of the Three Kings, celebrating their visit to the Christ Child. Today, the tradition of King’s Cake is still widely honored throughout the carnival season of Mardi Gras. For a more thorough history of the King’s Cake and its origin, click here.
The colors of the King’s Cake may seem wildly random, but are quite symbolic: The purple represents justice, the green represents faith and the gold represents power. Inside the cake, a token is hidden, that when discovered has several implications. For one, it means you are the Queen or King of the party… but don’t get too excited, because it also means that you are responsible for hosting the next party or baking the next cake. In some cultures it is also thought to bring good luck to the finder for the rest of the year.
While the tokens vary from cake to cake, most will hold either a small plastic baby (representative of the baby Jesus) or a small bean. Make sure to warn the newbies to chew carefully… As I didn’t have an abundance of tiny plastic babies on hand, I decided to put my own Mardi Gras tiwst on it, including a Fleur de Lis charm as my special token. My roommate was lucky enough to find it… although I’ve yet to inform her that this means she has to make the next one!
I always loved King’s Cake when I was younger. Bright colors, surprises… what more could a kid want? It’s one of the first things that comes to mind when I hear the words Mardi Gras, and I just love the years of tradition that it represents. I decided that this year, I would try making my own for the very first time. While this is usually a pretty difficult recipe, with a few shortcuts it turned out to be quite simple, and more importantly, fun! It may sound a bit complicated, but don’t worry- I’ve included plenty of pictures, to guide you through it.
2 (8-ounce) cans reduced-fat crescent rolls
4 ounces cream cheese
1 tablespoon butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup walnuts (or pecans, pralines, etc)
4 ziplock bags
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Red, Blue and Gold icing coloring or food coloring
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat 10-inch round pie pan with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Separate crescent rolls into triangle slices. Place slices around prepared pan with points towards the center, folding the top of the dough over the sides of the pan. Press the seams together halfway down each piece of dough.
3. In microwave safe bowl, soften cream cheese in microwave for 20 seconds, then mix in brown sugar, cinnamon, butter, vanilla and walnuts.
4. Add mixture to a ziplock bag to pipe over the dough. Put the mixture in one corner of the bag, snip the corner, and and slowly spread on dough around the outside edges of the dough at the bottom of the pan. Add token somewhere inside the filling. (See pictures below)
5. Fold dough from the top of the pan over the filling, then fold each of the triangle points over the top, forming a circular roll like a giant donut. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown on top.
1. In small bowl, combine all icing ingredients, except food or icing coloring. Divide mixture into three bowls.
2. In first bowl, add a few drops each of red and blue food or icing coloring (I prefer icing coloring as it tends to give it a richer color) to create purple icing. In second bowl, add a few drops each of blue and gold food coloring. In third bowl, add gold food coloring.. Add to ziplock bags and pipe over cake in a zigzag pattern.
3. If you want to add a little extra sparkle to your cake like I did (as if it isn’t gaudy enough…) then add a touch of Wilton’s Pearl Dust edible glitter. You can find it at any craft store in the cake decorating aisle.
I found this to be one of my favorite baking adventures so far! Even if you’re far from New Orleans, it’s a great way to get in the Mardi Gras spirit, and pay homage to a time honored tradition. Try it out for yourself and let me know how it goes!