C.A.R.N.I.V.A.L.E. This is the celebration that occurs before the Christian season of Lent. It starts on January 6th, which is the Feast of the Epiphany. It’s believed on this 12th day after the birth of Christ the 3 Kings – Wisemen – came to visit Baby Jesus. In my Italian house, the Epiphany was the ‘true Christmas’ and that Christmas tree stayed up until that date.
So, the King Cake celebrates this event. It’s decorated with three rich colors: Purple, Green and Gold. These colors mean something. Purple means Justice, Green equals Faith and Gold represents Power. And, this Carnivale celebration all comes to a crescendo on Shrove Tuesday, aka Fat Tuesday. This year, it’s celebrated on February 9th, the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. And, that’s the biggest celebration of all – culminating in huge parades – lots of costumes and floats and beads and coins.
If you’ve never been to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, you must go! If you’ve never been to New Orleans ever, this exciting, history-filled city must be on your bucket list. There are so many well-known restaurants and fun places to hang out – like Nola’s, Acme Oyster Company, Pat O’Brien’s and Cafe du Monde. But, there are some other obscure places like The Corporation, Snug Harbor, Mother’s (great for breakfast) and Tipitina’s (great music). My husband and I went to some speakeasy type restaurant under an underpass where we had to give the name of a friend before they let us in. The best meal and experience we ever had in New Orleans. Of course, we can’t remember the name of it, which was actually a number. It’s great getting old. In addition to Mardi Gras, I’ve also been to New Orleans for a Super Bowl and numerous conventions and have never been disappointed.
And, yes, I know the locals stay as far away as possible from Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras, but it’s an experience of a life time. Leave before it gets too late and the craziness starts and it’s all good.
The dough for the King cake is a rich Brioche dough – made with milk and butter and eggs. This is a super sticky dough and it’s so much easier to handle if you make the dough and refrigerate it overnight. I know it takes some extra time, but this is a special cake and it’s worth it. There’s also the tradition of baking a plastic baby in the cake. What does that all mean? Well there are a couple of opinions. One thought is that the person that gets the baby will have good luck. Another opinion is that the person that gets the baby will get pregnant. But, one more practical meaning is that if you get the baby, you are responsible for providing the next King Cake and the party that goes along with it.
I’ve found that it’s best to roll out the dough between two pieces of parchment, but because this dough is so sticky, it’s best if you flour the parchment, place the dough down and flour the top of the dough and place the parchment on top and roll out to a 12″ x 20″ rectangle. You’ll spread the filling on one side of the dough and, using the parchment to help you move the dough, you’ll fold the other half of the dough over the filling. The dough gets cut into 3 even 2″ wide strips and gets braided. This dough starts to warm up pretty quickly and you may struggle a bit with the braid. If it gets too soft, just pop it back in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes and try again. Basically, it truly doesn’t matter how mangled it looks. It’s going to raise for about 45 to 60 minutes until double. You’ll bake it and once it’s cool, you’re going to drown it with a Buttermilk Glaze and colored sugar. No one will ever know what’s under there. All they’ll know is that it is perfect for breakfast with a good cup of Chicory coffee (just like at Cafe du Monde). You’ll need a nap in about an hour, but no problem.
Buon Appetito! xoxo
Gluten Free King Cake
This Gluten Free King Cake represents the Three Kings that visited Baby Jesus on the Epiphany. The three colors represent Purple: Justice, Green = Faith and Gold = Power. A baby, whole pecan or bean is placed inside the cake. The person that finds the prize is responsible for making the next King Cake and hosting the party that goes along with it.
8 hr, 30 Prep Time
30 minCook Time
9 hrTotal Time
- Brioche Dough for King Cake
- 4 ounces (1/2 cup) Milk, scalded, cooled
- 1.1 ounces (1/4 cup) Gluten Free Farina All Purpose Flour
- 1 Tablespoon Active Dry Yeast
- 8 ounces (1 and 1/4 cups + 2 Tablespoons) Gluten Free Farina All Purpose Flour
- .6 ounces (2 Tablespoons) Psyllium Husk
- 1 teaspoon Baking Powder
- .5 ounces (1 Tablespoon) Granulated Sugar
- 5 ounces (this is about 2 and one half eggs) Large Eggs (Whisk them up, measure in your liquid measuring cup and save the rest for an egg wash)
- 6 ounces (12 Tablespoons) Butter, unsalted, softened
- 12 ounces of cream cheese
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 Tablespoons Maple Syrup
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Zest from 1/2 lemon
- 1/2 c chopped, toasted pecans
- Buttermilk Glaze
- 1 lb. Confectioner’s Sugar
- 1/2 cup Buttermilk – if you don’t have buttermilk, regular milk will work as well
- Purple, Green and Yellow Crystal (aka Sanding) Sugar
- You can make your own. Check out this site to learn how to do this.
- Brioche Dough
- For the Sponge: Combine the cooled milk, the Gluten Free Farina AP Flour and the yeast in a glass measuring cup. Cover with plastic wrap and rise until double – about 45 to 60 minutes. I like to mark the measuring cup with a marker before the rise so I know when it’s doubled.
- For the Dough:
- In bowl of electric mixer, combine GF Farina AP Flour, psyllium husk, baking powder, sugar and salt and mix on low for 1 minute. Add eggs and mix for 20 seconds. Add sponge. Add softened butter and mix until dough is combined. Mix for an additional 2 minutes to hydrate dough. Move dough to a greased glass or plastic bowl, cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight. (I use butter for this one). This dough is so sticky, that working with this dough cold is the best, most sanity saving approach.
- Filling: In the meantime, make the filling. In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix the cream cheese until it’s softened. Add the brown sugar, maple syrup, cinnamon, salt and lemon zest and mix until combined, scraping down sides, if necessary. Refrigerate overnight or make right before putting dough together. It’s best if it’s a room temperature to spread.
- Dough: Roll out between 2 pieces of parchment. Flour the bottom piece of parchment, place the dough on top and flour the top of dough. Place the 2nd piece of parchment on top and roll out to 1/8″ thickness to a 12″ x 20″ rectangle.
- Spread room temperature filling on one long half of the dough. Using a GF Floured knife or a pastry wheel, cut into 3 equal strips – the long way. Attach strips at top and braid the strips. Form into a circle, place your plastic baby in the dough and connect the ends. So you don’t have to try and lift this to a cookie sheet, cut the parchment around the circle of dough to fit your cookie sheet. You can then easily pick up the parchment with the dough and move to your cookie sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel, place in a draft-free place and let raise 45 to 60 minutes until double in size.
- Take your reserved egg and whisk. After dough has raised, brush with the egg wash.
- Preheat your oven to 350F.
- Bake cake for 20 to 30 minutes or until golden brown.
- Let cool. Move to your serving tray or cake board.
- Glaze: Combine Confectioner’s Sugar and buttermilk and whisk by hand until combined.
- With your colored sugar close by, drizzle the glaze over the entire surface of the King Cake. While the icing is still wet, starting with purple, drop the sugar in about a 3″ wide section. Continue with yellow and then green. Repeat until the entire top of the cake is covered with sugar.
- Slice and serve.
- Keeps at room temperature for 1 to 2 days. If you’d like to keep it longer, slice it up and wrap individual servings and freeze for up to 3 months.