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King Cake for Exiles with Ovens

I need to do a little I-hope-helpful bragging: last night, I successfully made a recognizable King Cake. Being of the simple McKenzie's school, I have tried every pseudo-brioche recipe in the Times Picayune's archives, various Junior League cookbooks, and other New Orleans sources, to no avail, and I was beginning to think I was doomed to shipped iced cinnamon swirls or Tastee simulacra sent through the mail. Then, as I browsed for flour tortillas, king cake far from my mind, in Diana Kennedy's MEXICAN COOKING, I found it--the yolky, sticky, messy dough that comes out moist and even crumbed--her Rosca de Reyes. Now, that's a king cake, as long as you pat colored sugar on it. If anyone wants the recipe, I'll type it up--but the book's a good thing to have anyway!

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  1. Hmm..this sounds dangerously as though it is actually _good_. I suspect those recipes you got from Da Pic an Junior League cookbooks might have been authentic. I grew up with King Cakes that must be choked down with coffee and view with suspiscion the onlys that actually taste good (with teh exception of Haydel's) Not that the new cream cheese jobbies are not welcome....just not authentic.

    5 Replies
    1. re: hazelhurst

      Haha. I don't know... This one might be too authentic for you. It bears much less resemblance to Haydel's (my husband's favorite) than it does to old McKenzie's extra larges. As brioche, it's pretty bad, but it scratches a hard-to-scratch itch.

      1. re: LostBread

        Sounds like you got the McKenzies product down pat. (You could always tell where the baby was b/c the flap was obvious)

        1. re: hazelhurst

          Congrats to you for the effort!

          I will never know how cinnamon roll coffee cake with icing and fillings that are beyond day glo and gross to boot have become the norm.

          The now closed La Spiga in the Marigny had a great brioche/almond Queen's Cake.

          I always liked Mckenzie's brioche with tri color sugar and bright cherry pieces.

          1. re: Suzy Wong

            Don't forget the late Bill Long, on Freret Street. His stuff would induce a diabetic coma at four hundred yards

            1. re: hazelhurst

              Oh, Bill Long's! My father muses monthly about roll-mops and jelly donuts after church. I wish it had stayed around for me to see it!

      1. I would so appreciate the recipe. I've tried many times and my King Cakes come out with a hard crust like bread. The last one looked authenic but was dry, dry, dry.

        2 Replies
        1. re: kathielamb

          You can find several king cake recipes at this site. Just click on the blue link below.

          To prevent the cake from getting too brown on top tent the top with foil when it is just golden brown.

          1. re: speyerer

            Thanks for the link. Your list of recipes even included the Rosca de Reyes mentioned in the original post.

          1. I do want the recipe. Please do type it up! McKenzie's was the best, no question - chewy, gooey, anything but brioche, a sugar OD, but oh, so good!

            1. I'd love it if you'd be so kind to type it up for me too! I'm trying out various recipes myself and would like to see how this one turns out. Thanks!

              1 Reply
              1. re: kaiser1778

                Hey, sorry for the delay--here it is:

                KING CAKE (adapted from "Rosca de Reyes" in THE ART OF MEXICAN COOKING by Diana Kennedy)

                THE STARTER
                1 lb (4 scant cups) unbleached flour
                1/2 oz (1 1/4 tsp) salt
                scant 1 oz (3 scant tbs.) cake yeast OR 1 1/2 scant tbs dry yeast
                1/2 cut plus 2 tbs water
                3 large eggs, beaten

                Combine the flour, salt, sugar and yeast in the bowl of your mixer and gradually beat in the water and eggs. Continue beating until the dough forms a cohesive mass--about 5 minutes. It will be sticky and shiny. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in a draft free place for 2 hours to rise.

                THE DOUGH
                1/2 lb (1 cup) sugar
                7 oz (14 tbs) unsalted butter, softened
                1 lb (4 scant cups) unbleached flour
                8 egg yolks
                1/4 cup water
                1 tsp orange flour water
                1 tsp vanilla
                1 tsp cinnamon
                several gratings of nutmeg

                Tear the starter into pieces and beat in the sugar and butter. Continue beating, gradually adding the flour and egg yolks. Beat in the water and flavorings. The dough should be smooth, shiny, and sticky, and it should just hold its shape.

                Cover the bowl and leave to rise for about 1 1/2 hours (or overnight in the refrigerator).

                Grease a large baking sheet or two half-sheet pans. Turn the dough out of the bowl and form into a cushion. Poke a hole in the middle and work it into a circle. (If you're using two pans, make two circles!). Hide your baby or fava bean. Cover with plastic wrap and let them double in size yet again.

                Preheat the oven to 375. Set a roasting pan full of water on the bottom rack (the humidity will prevent the crust from getting too hard and bread-like). Brush the cake with beaten egg. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, until well browned and springy. Turn off the oven, crack the door, and let the bread sit for 5 more minutes. Cool on a rack.


                COLORED SUGAR
                3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
                food coloring

                In a food processor, grind 1/4 cup of sugar with a good amount of food coloring (5-15 drops, depending on the color). Start with yellow, then do green, then purple so that you don't have to clean the bowl between colors!

                ICING (tastes like Randazzo's to me)
                2 cups confectioner's sugar
                1 tbs lemon juice
                1 tsp vanilla
                6 oz. condensed milk

                Mix it all together, adding the milk a little at a time so that you can stop when you have a spreadable consistency.

                If you're just sugaring the cake, brush it with butter to help the sugar stick, then alternate purple, green, and gold. If you're icing it, there's not need to brush with butter--just spread the icing on top and then sugar.