Let the good times roll

I have to bake a King cake because last year at Joey Bunch’s Mardi Gras party I made the mistake  … I had the honor to nearly choke on the baby Jesus. If I’d known I had to provide the King cake this year, I would have secretly re-inserted it for someone else to find. Sorry, I’m whining. It’s not Joey’s fault. No, it’s my husband, who told Joey, “No, Jennifer won’t just order one online. She’ll have to bake it herself.”

So here I am online trying to figure out how to bake a King cake. If you’re not familiar with this oddly colored confection, it’s basically a post-Epiphany through Fat Tuesday Southern tradition. (It’s eaten in many countries, but it’s very popular in Louisiana and other sweaty states.) Originally, a dried bean would be added to the finished cake (essentially a brioche) after baking, and the person who finds the bean has to provide the cake next year, but the story goes that someone who found themselves with a lot of small porcelain baby figurines persuaded a baker to use the babies instead of beans. Over time, this became plastic figurines, but apparently now porcelain figurines are back in fashion. I hope to find a plastic baby at Hobby Lobby.

Of course I’ve found many recipes online and the common factors are brightly colored (yellow, purple and green) icing/sprinkles, cinnamon (or all spice or nutmeg), active dry yeast, flour, butter, eggs, sugar, etc. I think I remember the cake from last year had a cream cheese filling, so I’ll try that. Other popular ingredients/toppings include candied fruit (citron), lemon zest and pecans.

In texture, the cake looks like a braided cinnamon roll, but I’m unsure how to make the cake braided but still have a filling. For now, I’m contemplating the recipes I’ve found at SouthernLiving, which seems appropriate. The only problem is it results in two King cakes and is not braided. Paula Deen’s recipe uses almost the same amount of flour but makes one braided cake. I’ve also looked at the King Arthur Flour recipe, which only uses 3-1/2 cups of flour, but is baked in a ring pan (lots of complaints about the cream cheese filling basically melting into the dough).

I’d be happy to receive any advice.

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