King Cake with Caramel Crunch
Every year in New Orleans, the game of king caking starts to feel more and more like a full-contact sport. Local shops create and serve (and ship!) these cakes each year from Twelfth Night through Mardi Gras day (and yes, it is absolute blasphemy to consume king cake outside of season here). A traditional part of Mardi Gras for the last three hundred years in New Orleans (and beyond), these cakes are more like brioche than “cake” as we know it. The yeast-raised dough is braided, sometimes around various fillings, formed into a ring, and baked. Afterwards, it’s topped with green, purple, and gold sugar to represent faith, justice, and power, respectively, a nod to the “three kings.” A token of some sort, be it a bean or plastic baby, is stuffed randomly inside, and tradition states that whoever gets the slice of king cake with the token has to host the next party! There are as many thoughts, feelings, opinions, and preferences about king cakes in New Orleans as there are king cakes themselves. I take a pretty traditional approach with the dough, but my team and I dreamed up the idea of adding a layer of caramelized sugar to give our cake a fun, shattering crunch. With cream cheese icing for a less-sweet approach, I find myself craving this cake year-round.
Reprinted with permission from The Good Book of Southern Baking by Kelly Fields with Kate Heddings, copyright (c) 2020. Published by Lorena Jones Books, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC.