King Cake – A Year Later

Same recipe as last year… but I used sanding sugar from a party supply store instead of attempting to make the colors myself. We have a gas oven this year and it seems that the even distribution of heat prevented the yeast from turning the cake into a huge donut. It looks far more authentic and tastes so good!

The recipe.

Homemade King Cake 2

Homemade King Cake

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King Cake

It’s that time again. Today is the eve of King’s Day/Feast of the Epiphany/Twelfth Night/Little Christmas AKA the last day of Christmas. Tomorrow is when we take the Christmas trees and lights down and put up the Mardi Gras decorations. This year Mardi Gras is somewhat early (February 20th) so Carnival season is short and there’s less time to eat King cake. The following recipe is for a traditional King cake which is more like a sweet brioche than cake. I am no fan of the modern King cake which is at best treated like a glorified coffee cake. A few years back, we bought a king cake without knowing it was filled with cherry. Normally, I would have liked cherry coffee cake, but it was a bit like taking a drink of soda thinking it’s coke only to find out it’s root beer. I like root beer, but not when I want coke. When I was growing up, we always had the McKenzie’s or Schweggman’s King Cake which were made in the traditional style; I guess my mind is stuck on those cakes.

Traditionally the cake was baked on Epiphany Eve and served the following afternoon to family and friends. Nowadays the cake is made throughout Carnival season and served until Mardi Gras. By the Middle Ages, veneration of the three wise men had spread throughout Europe and Epiphany became known as The Feast of the Three Holy Kings. The cake was baked in honor of the Magi. According to Wikipedia, related culinary traditions are the tortell of Catalonia, the gâteau des Rois in Provence or the galette des Rois in the northern half of France. Latin Americans, like New Orleanians, place a figure representing the Christ child inside the cake. In other cultures, the king cake might contain a coin, bean, pecan or pea. In New Orleans, the person who receives the piece of cake containing a “baby” must provide the king cake for the next gathering of the season.

King Cake

King Cake

1/2 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
2 packages dry yeast
2 teaspoons sugar
4 to 5 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/2 cup warm milk (105 to 115 degrees)
1/2 cup melted unsalted butter, cooled
5 egg yolks
1/2 cup finely chopped candied citron
1 pecan half, uncooked dried bean or King Cake Baby

Glaze:
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
Purple, green and gold sugar crystals

Combine the warm water, yeast and 2 teaspoons sugar in a small bowl. Mix well and set aside to a warm place for about 10 minutes.

Combine the 4 cups of flour, 1/2 cup sugar, salt, nutmeg, lemon rind and add warm milk, melted butter, egg yolks and yeast mixture. Beat until smooth. Turn dough out on a lightly floured surface. Knead in enough remaining flour until the dough is no longer sticky. Continue kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes). Place the dough in a well-greased bowl. Turn once so greased surface is on top. Cover the dough and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk (about 1 1/2 hours).

Preheat the oven 350 degrees. Punch the dough down and place on a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle with the citron and knead until the citron is evenly distributed. Shape the dough into a log, about 30 inches long. Place the dough on a buttered baking sheet. Shape into a ring, pinching ends together to seal. Place a well-greased 2-pound coffee can or shortening can in the center of the ring to maintain shape during baking. Press the King Cake Baby, pecan half or dried bean into the ring from the bottom so that it is completely hidden by the dough. Cover the ring with a towel, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove the coffee can immediately. Allow the cake to cool. For the glaze: Combine the ingredients and beat until smooth. To assemble, drizzle cake with the glaze. Sprinkle with sugar crystals, alternating colors.

Warn your friends that there is a potential baby/bean inside so there are no broken teeth.

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Russian Cake (Creole Trifle)

For whatever reason, this recipe is nowhere to found in most Louisiana Creole/New Orleans cookbooks (never mind the Internet). Legend has it that the cake dates back to 1872, when the Grand Duke Alexis of Russian visited New Orleans for Mardi Gras (the song “If I Ever Cease to Love” was written for the very same occasion). The trifle is made with leftover pieces of cake, pie crust, muffins, and cookies which are moistened with a binder (in this case seedless raspberry jam, anise flavoring and rum). I have heard that the original Russian cake used vodka and not rum, but I am not able to verify that.

If you’ve never had one of these, it’s quite an experience for the senses. My grandparents used to get one of these every year for their birthdays (they were 2 days apart) from Mr. Lawrence’s Bakery (Mr. Wedding Cake) on Elysian Fields. My grandmother would come home with one of those pink bakery boxes and out would come this fragrant and colorful cake. It smells vaguely of licorice and something almost tropical. It’s also this very bright almost garish ruby red and the top is covered with white frosting and colorful sprinkles, you can imagine how appealing that is to a kid. I was only allowed a very small piece as a kid (I’m not sure if actual rum was used in Mr. Lawrence’s recipe, but my grandmother seemed to think so) and I loved every bite of it. This past March, I was reacquainted with Russian Cake when we were shopping at Dorignac’s in Metairie. G. and I split one piece before bed and apparently I tossed all night like a rotisserie chicken. I think it was worth it.

Russian Cake part deux

Russian Cake (Creole Trifle)

6-8 cups of diced cake pieces
1 box yellow or white cake mix (plus ingredients needed to bake this; will vary from brand to brand)
8 tablespoons seedless raspberry jam
1 to 1-1/2 cups white rum (will depend on amount of cake pieces)
1 teaspoon anise flavor (look for the real stuff)
red food coloring (just in case, my jam wasn’t red enough)
pre-made (or homemade) buttercream frosting
colored sprinkles (the spherical kind)

Mix rum, anise, jam and (optionally) the food color with a wire whisk until everything is well integrated; the alcohol in the rum helps dissolve the jam quickly so it shouldn’t be more than 30 seconds. Pour evenly over your cake pieces and place bowl in fridge for a few hours or overnight (covered). The more cake pieces you use for the inside, the denser and heavier the cake will be. The Russian cakes I remember weighed several pounds and seemed very heavy for their size. When ready to assemble cake, bake your boxed cake according to instructions in a 9-inch cake pan. When cool split the cake evenly down the middle. Place one half in a 9-inch springform pan (one used for cheesecakes) and “fill” with your soaked cake pieces. Try to get this even as possible. Place top layer over “filling” and cover with saranwrap, the plastic touching the top of the cake. I placed my cleaned cake pan over the top of this and weighed it down with jars from the fridge. The reason I did this was to make sure that the cake was flat, number one, but also I wanted some of the “juice” from the middle to seep into the top and bottom layer, thereby binding the cake together. Place in fridge overnight (make sure it’s covered). The next day, frost the top and cover with sprinkles. Voilå!

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Top Secret

Pssst…

I am going to be experimenting this weekend with something very New Orleanian and I’ll give you a couple of hints as to what it is (You can also tell by the categories what it might be.)

A) It’s impossible to find a recipe for it.
B) It’s going to be a pain in the ass to recreate.
C) It has an ethnic name (both names do, in fact).

Hopefully by Sunday, I’ll have something to report.

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Lemon Doberge Cake

Last Sunday, we made a Chocolate Doberge Cake, the gold standard by which all New Orleans Doberge cakes are held. You could also combine to make a half/half Doberge Cake like Gambino’s Bakery. Follow the same recipe for the cake as Chocolate Doberge Cake. the filling is essentially a lemon curd recipe, I would bet that a straight lemon curd would be very good in this cake. The first frosting is a simple flavored decorator’s icing.

However, the traditional Doberge Cake uses a poured fondant frosting, the kind that “snaps” under the knife, I am also including that recipe for purists. I highly suggest that you make the frosting 24 hours before you are ready to assemble your cake. It is also wise to make the filling the day before so that it is nice and chilled when you go to spread it on your cake layers. EDIT: to get the fondant frosting to stick well, many bakers will frost with another kind of frosting first. Use the first frosting recipe as a first layer and then use the poured fondant for better coverage and a more professional looking cake. No one said we didn’t like sugar in New Orleans!

Lemon Filling

1 1/2 cup sugar
6 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup water
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons lemon peel
2/3 cup lemon juice

Mix sugar, cornstarch and salt in a saucepan and slowly add water. Bring to a boil while stirring, boil mixture for 1 minute. Add half of hot mixture to egg to temper, then blend in rest of mixture. Bring back to a boil and boil for another minute. Remove from heat and add butter, lemon peel and juice. Refrigerate before filling cake layers.

Lemon Frosting

1 box (1 lb.) confectioner’s sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1/2 cup shortening
2 egg whites
pinch of salt
yellow food dye

Sift sugar and cornstarch over shortening and mix thoroughly. Blend in egg whites, salt and flavoring. You may need to add a little water to thin this out, weather and humidity can affect this frosting. Add dye at the end, add as many drops to achieve desired hue of yellow.

Poured Fondant Frosting

2-1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup corn syrup

Heat sugar, water and corn syrup to the soft-ball stage (238°F; 114°C). Pour into a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Wash the candy thermometer well and reinsert into the syrup. Let the syrup cool undisturbed in the workbowl to 140°F (60°C), about 30 minutes. Remove the thermometer.

Add any coloring or flavoring (1 to 2 teaspoons lemon oil and/or 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel, 2 to 4 ounces melted unsweetened chocolate, etc.) and process 2 to 3 minutes, until the syrup completely converts from a glassy syrup to an opaque paste. When thoroughly cooled. store sealed at room temperature for 24 hours. Use or refrigerate for later use.

Here is a picture of a cake I made recently. I used the fondant recipe for frosting and it was only 7 layers but tasted so good! I wasn’t going for looks, mainly just testing out the recipe.

Lemon Doberge Cake

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Chocolate Doberge Cake

Better known simply as birthday cake to those of us from New Orleans. I grew up hearing this pronounced alternately as “DOUGH-bash”, “Doh-BAREzh” and as “Dow-BAWHzh”. Doberge cakes are closely related to Boston Cream Pies (which aren’t pies!) and they are the closest approximation to a Doberge cake you will find outside of the Greater New Orleans area. These come as chocolate (this recipe), lemon, caramel or any two of those flavors together. Not the easiest of recipes, but if you are a good baker, this should come out excellently for you as it is a fairly standard layer cake recipe. EDIT: to get a fondant frosting to stick well, many bakers will frost with another kind of frosting first. Use this frosting recipe as a first layer and then use the poured fondant (see Lemon Doberge recipe) for better coverage and a more professional looking cake.

Chocolate Doberge Cake

Cake:

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening
2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 eggs, separated
3 cups sifted all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla

Filling:

2 cups sugar
10 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons salt
1 quart milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 squares unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 whole eggs and 4 yolks, slightly beaten

Frosting:

1/2 cup butter
8 squares unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup boiling water
4 cups sifted confectioner’s sugar

Cake: Cream butter, shortening, sugar and salt together until smooth. Add egg yolks and blend mixture until smooth. Add sifted dry ingredients alternately with milk and water and beat until well blended. Be careful not to overbeat, you don’t want to overactivate the gluten and make a tough cake. Add vanilla and fold in stiffly beaten egg whites. Grease 9-inch cake pans and line with wax paper. Pour 3/4 cup batter into each pan, spreading evenly over bottom. Bake in preheated 375 degree; oven for 12-15 minutes. Repeat process until all of batter is used. The result will be 8 layers. When cool, put layers together with filling, reserving the top layer for the frosting. Chill cake before frosting.

Filling: Mix sugar, cornstarch, salt, milk and chocolate. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil 1 1/2 minutes. Remove from heat and pour a small amount of mixture over the eggs to temper them. Blend into mixture and cook over very low heat, add vanilla. Chill until set.

Frosting: Melt butter and chocolate over very low heat, use a double boiler if you have one. Blend in sugar and water, beat until smooth. Frost top and sides of cake.

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Banana Peanut Butter Bread

OMG, so good. This is a VERY sticky batter because of the peanut butter and sticks to itself, the spoon, the bowl, anything and everything it touches. Still, so good.

Banana Peanut Butter Bread

Recipe Summary
Difficulty: Easy
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 70 minutes
Yield: 15 servings

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 bananas, mashed
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Directions
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly grease a 5×9 inch loaf pan. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs; beat well. Stir in peanut butter, bananas, flour and baking soda until blended. Fold in walnuts. Pour into prepared pan. Bake at 325 degrees F for 70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center of the loaf comes out clean. Remove to a wire rack to cool.