This cinnamon sugar king cake is a must have for Mardi Gras! It's just the right sweetness, paired with a mildly sweet, chewy but tender bread, topped with a contrasting white icing and colorful sanding sugar.
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!
I prefer my king cake slightly warm. If you do too, simply microwave for 10-15 seconds and enjoy!