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I’m so happy to be back home for Mardi Gras! People think it’s just New Orleans, but here in Hot Springs we too know how to “laissez les bon temps rouler” before giving it all up for Lent tomorrow. (But no giving up chocolate or desserts for me, not this year …!) I thought I’d make a big ol’ sugary, fattening King Cake for a little bit of a celebration. Maybe even Juliette will eat some …

King Cake

A little history: This coffeecake-like sweet honors the three kings who visited Christ on Epiphany – also known as King’s Day – which was traditionally the start of the revelry that ends today on Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday. The colored sugars match Mardi Gras beads: gold for power, green for faith and purple for justice.

Makes 2 cakes

1-16 oz. container sour cream

1/3 cup sugar

1/4 cup unsalted butter

1 teas. salt

2 envelopes dry yeast (I use rapid-rise because I am usually impatient!)

1/2 cup warm water

1 tbs. sugar

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

6 to 6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup unsalted butter, very soft

1/2 cup sugar mixed with 1 1/2 teas. cinnamon

Glaze (recipe follows)

purple, green and gold sugar for sprinkling

Place first four ingredients in a saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring often, until butter melts. Set aside and cool until mixture is 100-110 degrees.

In a glass measuring cup, combine warm water, 1 tbs. sugar and yeast. Let stand for five minutes – it should puff up as the yeast is activated.

Scrape the sour cream mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add yeast mixture, eggs and 2 cups flour; beat at medium speed until smooth. Reduce speed to low and gradually add enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough.

Turn dough out onto a floured board and knead until smooth and elastic – adding more flour if necessary (This will take 5-10 mins., depending on your kneading skill). Grease a bowl generously with butter, place the dough in the bowl, turning to coat it, cover the bowl with a dishtowel and place in a warm spot for 45 mins. to an hour or until it has doubled in bulk. (Tip: I use my oven for this, I turn it on to 200 for a few minutes while I’m kneading the dough, then turn it off before I put the dough in.)

Punch the dough down and divide in half. Roll one piece into a rectangle, 22 x 12; spread with half the softened butter and sprinkle with half the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Starting at a long side, roll the dough, jelly-roll style and form into an oval shape, pinching to seal the ends. Place seam side down on a greased baking sheet and cover with a clean dishtowel while you repeat this process with the other half of the dough.

Let the cakes rise again in a warm place for 20 mins., or until doubled in bulk.

Preheat the oven to 375 and bake the cakes, switching shelf positions if necessary, for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown (be careful not to over-bake them).

Let the cakes cool on the pans for 10 minutes before removing them carefully to a wire rack. Ice immediately with the glaze and sprinkle with the sugars in alternating, wide bands of the three colors. Let cool before slicing (always the hard part!)

Glaze: (make this while the cakes are baking)

3 cups powdered sugar

3 tbs. unsalted butter, melted

2 tbs. fresh lemon juice

1/4 teas. vanilla

2-4 tbs. milk

Combine first 4 ingredients and 2 tbs. milk, mix until smooth. Add additional milk a little at a time until the glaze is a spreading consistency.

Recipe adapted from Southern Living magazine.

by Susan Sherrill Axelrod
photos by Ted Axelrod

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