Monday, February 21, 2011

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

The fattest of all Tuesdays is upon us and as the French (and the fancy) say, Laissez les bons temps rouler! For those of us who have never had the chance to experience the bevy of beads and booze on Bourbon Street, home-thrown Mardi Gras parties are a great way for us to relish in the fanciful festivities even though we are miles away from NOLA. A featured dish at many Mardi Gras celebrations is the tri-colored, tear apart King Cake. The origins of the King Cake dates back to pre-Christian religions of Western Europe however, the King Cake is now most synonymous with Epiphany and Mardi Gras. Many moons ago, French settlers brought this cakey custom to Louisiana in the 18th century where it remained associated with the Epiphany until the 19th century when it became a more elaborate Mardi Gras custom. In New Orleans, the first cake of the season is served on January 6, Epiphany Night. A small ceramic (or new age plastic) figurine of a baby is tucked away in the sweet, decadent layers of the cake. The baby hidden in the cake speaks to the fact that the three Kings had a difficult time finding the Christ Child on that fateful night in Bethlehem. By tradition, whoever finds the baby is given the honor of hosting the next "King's Cake Party." The chromatic colors of the King Cake are also rich with sugary symbolism. The royal purple denotes justice, the true green represents undying faith and the bright yellow symbolizes power. Now that we know the roots of this "custom cake", let's get to baking!

King Cake


2-8 oz. cans crescent rolls

4 oz. cream cheese

2 tablespoon confectioner's sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoon butter

1/3 cup light brown sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Purple, Green, Yellow Icing


Preheat oven to 350*. Coat a 10-inch round pizza pan with cooking spray.

Separate crescent rolls at perforations into 16 pieces. Arrange crescent rolls pieces in prepared pan in a circle, with points in the center. About halfway down from points, press seams together. Beat cream cheese, confectioner's sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer until creamy. Spread over dough where seams have been pressed together. In a small bowl, using a fork, combine butter, brown sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle over cream cheese. Fold dough points over filling, then fold bottom of dough triangles over points, forming a circular roll, like a king cake. Bake 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool slightly. Drizzle King Cake with Mardi Gras colored icing. (Don't forget the baby!)

The recipe above is a fun and fast version of this party pastry and would be a welcomed addition to any of your Mardi Gras themed Fetes. After your King Cake makes its hot debut from the oven, fasten your feathers, hold up your hurricane, and get ready to throw out some beads, Mister- it is time to let the good times roll!