Happy Mardi Gras! Put On Your Shirt & Eat Some Cake



kingcake600 This Monday, thousands of devoted travelers will descend upon New Orleans to mark the solemn festival of Mardi Gras. As tradition dictates, visitors will celebrate with the time-honored rituals of bead-catching, shot-taking, and public shirt-lifting. While you may lack the tireless fervor of these devotees, you can still celebrate the most important part of this (or any) holiday: CAKE.

King Cake is one of the most delicious and important parts of Fat Tuesday, combining the history of the holiday's biblical roots and the vibrant color of its current incarnation. (Yes, it is baked with a tiny plastic baby inside it, but don't let that throw you off.) This is a delicious, doughy confection, flavored with cinnamon and glazed in three vibrant colors. Bonus: Whoever gets the baby is King of the Feast — and gets to bake next year's cake.

To help you celebrate Fat Tuesday right (with calories), Bourbon & Boots lent us its know-how with this sweet, traditional recipe for King Cake. And remember: Even if you don't get the baby, you do get all the leftovers.

Ingredients
Dough
1 cup milk
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 pkg (envelope) active dry yeast
½ cup white sugar
4 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
3 eggs

Filling
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 tbsp cinnamon

Icing
1 stick butter, softened
1 ½ cups powdered sugar
3 oz cream cheese, softened
½ tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
Decorating sugars (purple, green and gold)

Heat the milk and butter in a saucepan until it reaches a temperature of about 110 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in the milk and butter mixture. Add the sugar, 3 cups of the flour, salt, and eggs; stir well to combine. Add the remaining flour, ½ cup at a time, stirring well after each addition. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and supple, about 8 minutes. (If you use a stand mixer, use the dough hook and knead on low speed for about 4-5 minutes).

Lightly grease a large mixing bowl. Place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a lightly damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

Deflate the dough by punching it once and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Use a rolling pin and roll it into a rectangle that is about 10 x 14-inches. Spread the softened butter evenly over the surface. Combine the brown sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle it evenly over the butter.

Roll up the dough into a log and seal the seam by pinching it together.

Form the log into a ring, pinching the dough together at the two ends to form a seam.

Place in a greased 13 x 9-inch pan. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to rise again, overnight.

Next morning, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Take the ring out of the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes (still covered).

Remove plastic wrap and bake the ring for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden. While the ring is baking, combine the icing ingredients and mix with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.

When the ring comes out of the oven, coat it generously with icing. Then decorate the top with colored sugars (green, gold, purple), in alternating sections, about 2 inches each.

Don’t forget to hide the plastic baby charm inside! And don't forget to remind your guests it's in there!

Photo: Courtesy of Bourbon & Boots