Mardi Gras means “Fat Tuesday” in French, and is the celebratory carnival that leads up to the beginning of Lent. This year, Mardi Gras is on March 1. The name “Fat Tuesday” refers to the practice of consuming all of the food forbidden while fasting during Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday. Have a little fun celebrating this Louisiana holiday by baking your first King Cake at home.
This easy recipe inspired by Taste of Home magazine is really delicious and reminiscent of a cinnamon coffee cake.
What’s fun and unique about king cakes is that after baking, a plastic baby is tucked into the cake, and tradition dictates that finding the baby in your slice symbolizes luck and prosperity, and the finder becomes the “king” or “queen” of the day. The traditional colors of Mardi Gras — purple, green and gold — were introduced in 1872 and later assigned a meaning: gold for power, green for faith and purple for justice.
The first time I baked the famous cake, I hadn’t considered just where I would find a small plastic baby. Funny story — we searched the toy aisle of a big box store after coming up empty-handed in the baby shower section and found the smallest baby we could, but it was still rather large. We shared the cake with my church small group, and everyone joked that we had the biggest King Cake baby they had ever seen. It made for some good laughs.
Today I’m sharing the recipe with you, so you can have some fun in your own kitchen. Laissez les bon temps rouler (pronounced Lay-say le bon tom roo-lay), meaning let the good times roll!
Easy One-Dish King Cake
FOR THE CAKE BATTER:
Unsalted butter to grease the pan
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 teaspoons rapid rise or instant yeast
2/3 cup very warm milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 large egg, lightly beaten
FOR THE CINNAMON MIXTURE:
• 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
• 2/3 cup lightly packed light brown sugar
• 1–1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
• pinch of kosher salt
FOR THE GLAZE:
• 1 cup powdered sugar
• 1 to 2 tablespoons milk
• 1 tablespoon butter, melted
• 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• purple, yellow, and green sprinkles
and a plastic baby
Grease an 8-inch round cake pan with butter. Add the dry ingredients including the yeast to the cake pan and whisk to combine. Add the milk, melted butter, oil, and beaten egg. Whisk to combine and use a spatula to coax any flour from the corners of the pan. Allow the batter to rest in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes. While the cake rests, make the cinnamon topping.
In a small bowl stir together brown sugar, cinnamon or nutmeg, melted butter, and salt until the mixture is moistened and sandy. Top batter evenly with cinnamon mixture. Use a butter knife to swirl the cinnamon sugar into the batter. Allow to rest for 5 more minutes.
To bake the cake, place pan in a COLD oven; set temperature to 350°F; bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until lightly browned and firm in center. Allow the cake to cool for 20 minutes. Combine icing ingredients in the same bowl used to make the cinnamon mixture and drizzle over the just warm cake.
Sprinkle generously with Mardi Gras colors and tuck a little baby inside. Enjoy!