Last year we took a trip down to the Gulf Coast, driving through Mobile, Alabama and vacationing for a week on Dauphin Island…a little piece of paradise we never knew existed. We added a day trip to New Orleans, Louisiana where we indulged in beignets at Cafe du Monde, danced to jazz music in the street and enjoyed sampling Cajun cooking. We even sampled a piece of their famous “King Cake” and learned about the history of Mardi Gras, something we knew very little about (being originally from the west coast).
Mardi Gras means “Fat Tuesday” in French. It is traditionally a time of fun and feasting before Lent which begins on Ash Wednesday. Many people give up certain foods and other luxuries during Lent to prepare themselves for Easter. When French settlers moved to North America, they continued their traditions and the first American Mardi Gras was celebrated in Mobile, Alabama or New Orleans (depending on who you ask). Now, New Orleans holds the largest Mardi Gras celebration in North America. Many parades, people dressed up in costume, beads, jazz music and celebrating take place leading up to and on Fat Tuesday, exactly 47 days before Easter.
As a mom I’m always looking for fun ways to make connections to the real world with my kids. We don’t traditionally celebrate Ash Wednesday or Mardi Gras but I’m always up for an excuse to bake. After experiencing the fun vibes of New Orleans, I decided Mardi Gras King Cakes were on my bucket-list to “bake with my kids.” I picked up an informational book from our local library (thank you library holds), purchased a few ingredients and we made our own “kid-sized” King Cakes.
King Cakes are traditionally eaten during Mardi Gras season. They are baked into the shape of a crown and taste similar to a cinnamon roll. Gold, green and purple sugar sprinkles cover the creamy icing as a reminder of power, faith and justice. A little doll is traditionally hidden in the cake and the person who finds it (sinking their teeth into it) buys a king cake for the group the next time they get together.
For our King Cake version, I decided to pull some candy out of the pantry and let the kids choose what they wanted to hide in their cake. I thought an edible version would be better than the potential for a cracked tooth. We rolled up the candy inside the dough, baked it and then the kids had to guess where it was when we cut into the cake. The anticipation seeing if they guessed right and looking for the mystery candies was a hit. The consensus was the caramels held together pretty well. Chocolate was second-best and the gummy bears melted away…but were still fun to find the colors left behind. Moral of the story: use what you have on hand (leftover Valentine…or even Christmas candy works great).
I hope you enjoy this recipe and that you have a chance to make a kid-sized version of this King Cake with your own kiddos for Fat Tuesday or any other day you’re looking for some delicious Mardi Gras fun!
Note: A traditional King Cake feeds around 18 people. The kid-sized version should feed around 8 (per cake). You can cut this recipe in half for smaller cakes (adjust bake time) or you can double the recipe for 2 large King Cakes.
Kid-Sized King Cake
Yield: 2 small King Cakes
Time: 20 minute mix, 2 hours rise, 15 minute shape, 20 minute bake (3 hours total)
- 8 oz sour cream
- ¼ cup white sugar
- 2 Tablespoons butter, cubed
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup warm water
- ¾ Tablespoon instant yeast
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 3-3 ½ cups bread flour (or all purpose flour)
- 3 Tablespoons butter softened
- ¼ cup brown sugar (or white, I prefer brown)
- ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
- ¼ cup cream
- ½ teaspoon vanilla (or other flavoring you like)
- Milk for thinning if needed
- Purple, Yellow and Green sugar sprinkles
- In a saucepan on the stove over low heat, cook the sour cream, sugar, butter and salt until the butter is melted. Cool to room temperature.
- Pour the mixture into a heavy duty stand mixer (Bosch, KitchenAid, etc…) and add the water and instant yeast. Mix in the egg and 1 cup of flour and beat until smooth. Gradually add in the remaining flour until a soft dough forms. Knead with your mixer 5 minutes or by hand about 10 minutes. Be careful not to over-flour your dough.
- Let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about an hour.
- Punch down the dough and divide it in half (this recipe makes two “smaller” King Cakes).
- Mix together your filling: butter, brown sugar and cinnamon and divide it in half (a portion for each cake).
- Roll your dough out to a rectangle about 16 inches long (or longer) and 6-8 inches wide. Spread the filling over the dough trying to get an even coating over all the dough (this should remind you of making cinnamon rolls). Place your candy on the cake at the edge nearest to you and where you begin to roll.
- Roll up each rectangle like a jelly-roll and then form a circle by bringing the ends of the roll together and pinching the seams together as you go.
- Repeat for the second king cake. You may want to put a small, circular, oven-proof dish in the center of the ring to help keep the circular shape in the middle when baking.
- Cover and let rise for about 30 minutes until puffy.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 20-22 minutes until golden and cooked through.
- While the cakes are cooling, mix up the glaze with a hand mixer. Add glaze to piping (or ziplock) baggies, cut off the ends and let your kids decorate their cakes!
- Top with purple, yellow and green sprinkles and have your child guess where their “baby” (or candy in this case) is located in their cake. Enjoy the deliciousness of a Mardi Gras King Cake!
These King Cakes are decadent, delicious and kids are in heaven with the amount of sprinkles they put on top. And while I would never recommend skipping this delicious dough, I won’t bat an eye if you pick up a refrigerated roll of dough from the grocery store and follow the rest of the recipe from there. Either way, get in the kitchen and have fun making a mess with all the sprinkles, living it up with your kid-sized King Cakes and “let the good times roll!”
Recipe adapted from Southern Living