In case you aren’t familiar with king cakes, they’re traditionally served during Carnival season (so Mardi Gras) and they’re made with brioche, often have a cream cheese filling, and then they’re drizzled with lots of sugary glaze. Oh, and there’s a baby trinket in the cake and whoever gets that piece has to buy the next cake (at least that’s what they say in my family).
This post has something for everybody. Just want bread? Okay. Here’s a nice brioche recipe. Make it with all white flour or all whole wheat. Both work. Want a filled king cake? Okay. Here’s some filling. Cream cheese and pecan! Don’t care about sugar? Great! There’s a traditional filling and glaze recipe. Think sugar is evil? The dough and filling use coconut sugar and the glaze uses honey. It’s completely refined sugar free. Woohoo! So everyone can make this and be happy. :)
One thing I couldn’t improve was the butter content. I just didn’t even want to try. It’s brioche!
I’ve made this with all white flour, half whole wheat, and today with all whole wheat. My favorite is definitely with white flour, but the 50% version is also really nice. 100% whole wheat king cake is reserved for the whole wheat lovers out there. I really wouldn’t recommend feeding it to people who don’t like whole wheat…
Those little specks are orange zest.
Something that I love about this recipe is that you make the dough the night before and let it sit in the fridge overnight. The next morning, you take it out, roll it up, and only have to let it sit for 45 minutes before popping it in the oven.
For the brioche:
- 1 envelope active dry yeast (or 2 1/4 teaspoons)
- 2 tablespoons warm water (115ºF / 46ºC)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons coconut sugar or granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup (60ml) milk
- zest of 4 oranges (or less if you’re not really into orange)
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 cups all-purpose flour or whole wheat (240 grams), or half whole wheat, half all-purpose, sifted
- 1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons / 142 grams) cold butter, cut into very small pieces
- 1 egg white beaten and 1 tablespoon water for the eggwash
- 1 plastic baby trinket
With the mixer on low, add the eggs, cinnamon, and then slowly add the flour. Knead on low speed for 10 minutes, or until a smooth elastic dough is formed. It may be that you need to add a little more flour. While still on low, add the butter until incorporated, a little at a time, but quickly enough so that the butter doesn’t melt.
Put the dough into an oiled bowl, cover loosely with plastic wrap and let it rise for 1 hour in a warm spot. Once the dough has doubled in bulk, punch it down, cover and place in the refrigerator overnight.
The next morning:
Take out the dough and roll it out to a 6 x 18 inch (15.5cm x 45.7cm) rectangle. Make sure to flour your mat or counter very well so that the dough doesn’t stick. It warms up pretty quickly and it will stick if you don’t flour the mat enough.
Spread the pecan or cream cheese filling (recipes below) out in the middle of the rectangle along the whole length, leaving about 1 1/2 inch on each side. Place the baby trinket in the filling.
You can see that the filling is kind of thick. And that I have an avocado army so that I can make raspberry avocado chocolate pudding.
Fold the dough over the filling and pinch the two sides together.
Flip the dough over so that the seam is on the bottom. Turn the roll into an oval, and put one end into the other end to hide the seam. Seal the circle.
Mine was really messy but that’s okay! It’ll be covered with glaze anyway. But your butter should be better incorporated than what you see above. Place the cake on a Silpat and place on a baking sheet. Loosely cover (I spray plastic wrap with PAM so that it doesn’t stick) and let rise until doubled in bulk, which could take anywhere from 45 – 60 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350ºF / 177ºC. After the dough has doubled in bulk, brush all over with egg wash, and then bake for 20 – 30 minutes until golden brown.
When the cake has cooled, brush with the glaze (recipe below). Add colored sugar if you like or color your glaze with some gel colors like I did.
Cream cheese filling:
- 12 ounces (337 grams) cream cheese
- 1/4 cup (40 grams) coconut sugar (or 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (50 grams) powdered sugar)
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
For the pecan filling:
- 1 cup (120 grams) pecan halves, broken up slightly and roasted until fragrant
- 2/3 cup brown sugar (135 grams) or coconut sugar (106 grams) + an extra tablespoon of cane syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1 pinch of salt
- 4 tablespoons of Steen’s Cane Syrup
For the traditional glaze:
- 1/2 cup (65 grams) powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon bourbon
- water (enough to make a paste that can be drizzled)
For the healthier cream cheese glaze:
- 1 8-ounce package (225 grams) low fat cream cheese
- 1/4 cup (55 grams) coconut oil, softened
- 2 tablespoons (40 grams) honey
- 1/2 cup 0% fat plain Greek yogurt (I used 10% fat because that’s all we have here)
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla (I added 1 tablespoon of Triple Sec instead)
- zest of 1 orange
Store the cake in the fridge if you use any of the cream cheese recipes, otherwise it can be kept at room temperature. I like to bring the cake to room temperature or even heat it up before serving.
Germans: You have to drain the cream cheese! It’s impossible to say by how much because each brand varies. I would recommend buying a third more than you need and drain it in a kitchen towel or cheesecloth until it’s stiff like the North American kind that comes in a brick. For the cane syrup, I used Zuckerrübensirup, which can be found everywhere except some of the discounters (although both types of Nettos in my neighborhood have it). Pecans are really difficult to find and cost a fortune. I recommend using walnuts. If you’re using all-purpose flour, use half Type 550 and half Type 405.
Sources: Healthier cream cheese glaze adapted from The Healthy Foodie’s Healthy Cranberry Orange Yule Log and the brioche, pecan filling, and traditional glaze recipes from Nola Cuisine.