Mardi Gras is less than a week away! Have you gotten your fill on king cakes yet? I made my favorite cinnamon sugar king cake this past week, and it's to die for (I'm not exaggerating...it's soooo good)! So I thought, "I need to share this very amazing piece of Mardi Gras with everyone! It'd be a shame to miss out on this cinnamon sugar perfection."
But what is Mardi Gras? And what is a king cake?
Prior to living in Louisiana, I had no idea that a holiday like Mardi Gras existed. I've only read it in books. And believe me, it's one-of-a-kind sort of holiday that you should absolutely experience once in your lifetime. I highly recommend visiting New Orleans for Mardi Gras, when you are still energetic, so that you get the full experience 😉.
Here's my short, amateur explanation of Mardi Gras and king cakes:
Mardi Gras (aka Fat Tuesday) is a holiday that's legally observed only in Louisiana, usually it lands sometimes between mid February and early March. This holiday is known for its abundance of celebrations, feasts, parades, king cakes, and a good time.
King cake is actually not a cake. It's an oval shaped, sweet, rich bread, usually brioche, filled with a variety of fillings like cinnamon sugar, jams, chocolate, or cream cheese. In contrast, there's a french pastry also called king cake, or galette des rois, which is puff pastry filled with frangipane, a dense almond paste custard.
Cinnamon Sugar FAQs:
Is this recipe a brioche dough?
Technically, yes. This dough is a brioche dough because it contains butter, eggs, milk, and sugar. However, I like to consider it, brioche's leaner cousin because it has way less eggs and butter than a traditional brioche.
I used to make king cakes with rich brioche, but I wasn't happy with how heavy and eggy it made the king cake. So I went and experimented with other kinds rich doughs until I came up with this dough that's, in my opinion, perfect for king cakes. It's soft and moist, yet still have that chewy bread texture, and dangerous...because I can eat a load of them! 😅
How do I know if the dough is kneaded enough?
Once the dough no longer stick to the side of the bowl, is smooth, and feels supple, it's basically done. To confirm, you can try the window pane test.
For the window pane test:
Break off a small chunk of dough. Gently stretch the dough until you can almost see through it.
If the dough tears, there's not enough gluten, so knead a little longer.
It's a real struggle trying to stretch the dough with one hand and the other trying to get the camera to focus. 😂
Why do all the seams have to be pinched together?
The better you are able to pinch and seal your seams, the less filling will leak out. Keeping your seams clean will also help the dough stick together.
Must go back and re-pinch the opened seams!
If your filling still leaks, don't worry! Simply, transfer the king cake to another parchment paper once it cools for a few minutes. I highly recommend a couple of spatulas because the king cake is very fragile while it's hot.
Do I have to braid the king cake?
No, not at all. Braiding is totally optional. I was just feeling challenged and wanted to braid a four strand dough haha. 🤩
If you want to skip the braiding and make a normal king cake, simply tuck and roll the entire dough into one large log after sprinkling on the cinnamon sugar filling. Bring the ends together. Tuck one end into the other and pinch together the seams to make it a connected oval.
How to braid four strands of dough (if you feel up to the challenge!):
1.Lay all four strands out and pinch the tips of each strand together:
2. Bring strand 4 between 1 and 2:
3. Then, bring strand 1 between 2 and 3.
Adjust the strand's distance as needed, to make your life easier!
4. Finally, bring strand 2 over 1 (like criss-cross 2 and 1):
5. Now renumber the strands 1-4 and repeat the steps.
My hard work paid off...a beautiful braid!
Once the braiding is completed, bring the ends together to form an oval. Pinch the ends together so the bread doesn't separate while baking.
Laissez bons temps rouler!
Bake with love!
Cinnamon Sugar King Cake
For the dough:
For the filling:
- Activate yeast.Sprinkle yeast over warm milk (105-110°F). Stir every so often until the yeast dissolves, about 5 minutes.
- Make dough.Combine flour, sugar, and salt in the stand mixer bowl. Using the paddle attachment, mix on low for a few seconds to evenly distribute the dry ingredients. Add eggs and milk with dissolved yeast and continue to mix with the paddle attachment on low until the dough roughly comes together, about 2 minutes.Switch out the paddle attachment for the dough hook and knead on medium low speed. Add the softened butter 1 Tablespoon at a time, knead until incorporated before the next addition of butter. *You may have to pause the mixer and scrape down the side and bottom of the bowl in between mixing to help the dough knead better.*Increase the kneading speed to medium high and continue kneading until the dough is smooth, pulls away from the side of the bowl, and passes the window pane test*.*Window pane test: when the dough can be stretched till see through. Refer to post for more detail.*
- Proof dough.With the dough in you hand, pull the edges of the dough down to the bottom center to create a tight, smooth ball. Place it in a clean bowl. Cover with damp towel or plastic wrap and let it proof in a warm area until doubled, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
- Make filling.Combine melted butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Mix until thoroughly combined. Set aside.
- Preheat oven to 350°F.Optional: Beat 1 egg with 2 teaspoon of water for egg wash.
- Fill dough.Punch the proofed dough down. Pull the dough from the bottom edge and fold it into the center. Repeat all the way around.Transfer the dough onto a clean work surface. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a ¼ inch thick rectangle, around 12in x 22in x ¼in.Sprinkle and spread the cinnamon sugar filling across the entire sheet of dough. It will look a little spotty.
- Optional braiding or simplified shaping.For a 4 strand braid:Divide the dough into four even strips. Tuck and roll each strip into logs. Pinch together the seams and the ends of each log. *Try to keep the edges as clean as possible because the filling will prevent the dough from sealing at the seams.*Braid the logs of dough by bringing the 4th strand between the 1st and 2nd, then the 1st between the 2nd and 3rd, and lastly, the bring the 2nd over the 1st. Repeat the braiding steps until the entire dough comes together. *Refer to the post for picture demonstration.*Connect and pinch the ends together to form an oval.For simple shaping:Tuck and roll the dough into one large log. Pinch together the seams. Bring the ends together and tuck one end into the other. Pinch the dough together at the seams.
- Transfer and bake.Transfer the dough onto a lined sheet pan. Brush the top of the shaped dough with egg wash(optional). Let it the dough rest for 10-15 minutes in a warm area. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes.Remove from oven and chill until comfortable to handle.
- Make icing. Combine powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla extract. Mix until smooth. If there are some stubborn clumps, microwave in 10 second intervals and stirring in between until smooth.Drizzle icing on the king cake once it cools. While the icing is still wet, sprinkle gold, green, and purple sugar on the iced king cake in an alternating pattern.**You are welcomed to double the icing recipe if you wish to have more icing on the king cake.**
- Enjoy! Bring this king cake to a party or share with you family to wow everyone!
If you made this recipe or any recipe from our blog, please tag us on Instagram @twoplaidparons! We would love to see your creations! It makes our day 🥰