The early French settlers brought to New Orleans their culture, along with some of their traditions. The famous King Cake is one of those traditions that has stayed with us. The Cake was baked and served during Mardi Gras in the settlement days. Although it is called a "cake", to me it is nothing more than a sweet bread. The name "king cake" comes from the biblical three kings Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar. The Catholic tradition states that the kings traveled to offer presents to the newborn messiah. The journey to Bethlehem took twelve days. So this cake is popular from the arrival of the kings on January 6th thru the day before "Ash Wednesday". That is why the cake has a small plastic baby "sometimes said to represent Baby Jesus" inside, and the person who gets the piece of cake with the baby will have many blessings for the rest of the year. He or she has the obligation to buy or make the cake for the next celebration.
This year we decided to make beignets and use the same dough to make the king cake. It was a great idea. The beignets turned out great and after putting the cake all together, it was baked and ready for a good quick, sweet breakfast for the following morning. If you try this cake, the recipe to make the dough is in the beignets blog entry.
Roll dough out flat onto a large floured surface to make a large rectangular sheet of dough and prepare the cake filling.
Cream Cheese Filling:
1 8-oz. package cream cheese
1 c. confectioners sugar
2 T. flour
1 tsp. vanilla extract
a few drops of milk
cinnamon to taste (we love cinnamon, so we used 1/4 cup)
In a bowl mix cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, flour, vanilla, and milk on high speed until well blended. Spread filling on top of the dough and sprinkle with cinnamon.
Roll dough and seal the ends. Bring both ends together and place the completed ring on a greased baking sheet.
Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for 25-35 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack and hide the plastic baby inside the cake (or just place on the top of cake to avoid someone biting into it). Pour the icing that came with the rolls on top of the cake while hot and sprinkle with colored sugar (gold, green and purple).