Let’s Make a Wedding Cake, Vol. 2: Swiss Meringue Buttercream & the Game Plan

For Let’s Make a Wedding Cake, Vol. 1, click here.
Swiss Meringue ButtercreamWedding Day is two days away and things are getting *real* around here. I have not lost my mind yet, but that’s a very big “yet.”

To be fair, this is probably the most prepared I’ve ever been for anything in my life. I’ve read all the homemade wedding cake information out there (especially Deb’s brilliant series) and done as much work ahead as I possibly could.Let’s Make a Wedding Cake, Vol. 2
In case you missed it, the cake will be three round tiers (14-inch base, 10-inch center, 6-inch top), all vanilla, with alternating mocha and caramel fillings and Swiss Meringue Buttercream. Each tier will be filled, frosted, and doweled (!) at my workspace in Brooklyn, and then transported via my friend David’s trusty Volvo station wagon to the Central Park Boathouse on Sunday afternoon. The cake will be assembled on site and finished off with a cascade of fresh flowers. And then I will go put on my ballet pink bridesmaid’s dress and support my friend as she marries the man she loves. Did I mention that I’m a bridesmaid, too?Let’s Make a Wedding Cake, Vol. 2
I baked, wrapped, and froze all the cake layers last week—that’s what I did to celebrate the Fourth of July. All the layers are made with my Vanilla Layer Cake recipe, but instead of baking them at the usual 350F, I went with a lower 300F. This helped keep them flatter—sort of the opposite of how I bake muffins—but also meant that each individual layer took 50 minutes to bake. Each layer was triple-wrapped in plastic and frozen flat.Swiss Meringue Buttercream
For those interested, I used Wilton Decorator Preferred pans that came as a set. Each 14-inch layer took 1.5x of the regular 9-inch cake recipe (10 cups of batter). The 10-inch layers were made with 0.75x the recipe (5 cups of batter), and the 6-inch layers were made with 0.37x the recipe (2.5 cups of batter). There was a lot of math and I’m sure most of it was inaccurate.Let’s Make a Wedding Cake, Vol. 2
Since this is my first-ever tiered cake, I had to learn some new skills, namely how to dowel a cake so that it will be structurally sound and not one big, sad mess. This meant watching many YouTube videos about tiered cake assembly and, of course, doing some practice.Swiss Meringue Buttercream
I made two miniature wedding cakes last weekend, each with a 6-inch base and 4-inch top. The first was hideous from humidity, but it was properly assembled and survived a ten minute walk to a friend’s house without incident. The second was properly doweled and pretty. It’s basically exactly what I hope the real deal will look like but, you know, bigger. A lot bigger.Let’s Make a Wedding Cake, Vol. 2Let’s Make a Wedding Cake, Vol. 2
FYI, my favorite part of doweling a cake is shoving a sharpened dowel through the whole thing. It’s very satisfying to break through the top tier’s cake board.Let’s Make a Wedding Cake, Vol. 2
On Wednesday, I picked up last second supplies—extra dowels, cake rounds, boxes, and a gold-foiled cake base. My beloved N.Y. Cake Supply is currently closed while it moves to a bigger space, so this meant going to The Sugar Room in Sunnyside, Queens. I don’t think I’ll be going to Queens for supplies from now on, but I will say that it was a great shopping experience and shockingly inexpensive given the amount of stuff I needed.Swiss Meringue Buttercream
I started thawing layers yesterday, so they can be trimmed and torted, AKA sliced in half. Yes, each tier is going to have six thin layers because I am freaking crazy.Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Flash forward to today, when I am making a triple batch of each filling. I think this may be too much, but I’d rather have too much than too little. Plus, after a long day of cake assembly, leftover pudding is the kind of problem I’d like to have. I am also making a batch of simple syrup to brush over the layers. Dryness is a common wedding cake concern, and I am determined to counteract it!

My plan for tonight is to have all the tiers filled and wrapped tightly in plastic before I go to bed. This means that I’ll be able to get up and start frosting tomorrow. I am hoping to complete the top tier before I leave to attend the rehearsal luncheon, and then to complete the other two that afternoon.Swiss Meringue Buttercream
And speaking of frosting, that’s today’s recipe 🙂 Swiss Meringue Buttercream is a dreamy, fluffy bright-white frosting perfect for any occasion, but especially beautiful on wedding cakes. It’s made from whipped egg whites, sugar, and softened butter, so it’s airy and light, but has a rich, pleasing mouthfeel. I also like to add a little cream of tartar for stability (like in Lemon Meringue Pie) and a pinch of salt for flavor balance.Swiss Meringue ButtercreamSwiss Meringue ButtercreamSwiss Meringue Buttercream
If you feel like you’ve heard me talk about Swiss Meringue Buttercream before, you’re right—I posted a chocolate version a few weeks ago. That recipe is literally the exact same as this one, except that there’s no chocolate here and I reduced the salt slightly because there’s less sugar in this recipe overall. Basically what I’m saying is that if you can make that recipe, you can make this one, and vice versa.Swiss Meringue ButtercreamSwiss Meringue Buttercream
I’m using Swiss Meringue Buttercream not only for its aesthetic beauty and flavor, but because the egg white base means it’s less likely to melt than an American Buttercream, i.e. most of the frostings on this site. There’s still butter in there, of course, so melting during transport is a possibility, but the risk is much lower than it would be otherwise. I plan to have all the frosted tiers spend the night in the refrigerator, so they should survive the trek to Central Park just fine.Swiss Meringue ButtercreamSwiss Meringue Buttercream
The recipe I’ve written here is just to frost a 9-inch round layer cake, not a full-on wedding cake. I am not exactly sure how many egg whites I’ll need to make frosting for all three tiers, but I have two dozen in my refrigerator, ready to go. That should be enough to leave some for piping a border at the base of each assembled tier. If it’s too much, Swiss Meringue Buttercream keeps well in the refrigerator and can even be frozen! It just needs to return to room temperature and be whipped again before use. Easy peasy.Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Whew! That’s a lot of information for a Friday. Thank you all for the enthusiasm, encouragement, and general showing of support during this exciting and challenging project. Please send me some good vibes this weekend! I’ll be documenting it on my social media and do a full post-cake rundown next week.

In the meantime, have you ever made a wedding cake? Got any tips?Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Swiss Meringue Buttercream
makes enough to fill, frost & decorate a 9-inch layer cake

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
4 large egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar*

Egg whites will not whip properly if they are not treated well. Before beginning, please ensure that all equipment used in this recipe is very clean and dry. I like to wipe down the bowl(s), whisk, and mixer attachments with vinegar before starting the recipe. There is no way to salvage this recipe if the egg whites are contaminated with oil, yolk, or even water.

Cut butter into 16 one-tablespoon pieces. Set aside.

Fill a small pot with 1-2 inches of water. Set a very clean, dry heatproof bowl over the top, ensuring that the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Remove bowl and bring water to a simmer.

Combine egg whites, sugar, salt, and cream of tartar in the heatproof bowl. Place bowl over simmering water and whisk frequently until sugar dissolves. Test for readiness by rubbing a drop of the mixture between your clean, dry fingertips to feel for granules. Remove bowl from heat and wipe off the bottom to remove any condensation.

Use a very clean, dry electric mixer (preferably a stand mixer) with a whisk attachment to beat egg white mixture until room temperature and doubled in size, about 7-10 minutes. At this point, the mixture (a meringue) should hold stiff peaks and be glossy.

Add butter 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing to combine. Buttercream will probably curdle before re-forming; this is normal. Continue to whip until it thickens and becomes airy and frosting-like. If the buttercream is taking a long time to thicken, it may be too warm. Simply pop the bowl in the refrigerator for 15 minutes before whipping again. Swiss Meringue Buttercream is ready when it goes from being runny to being fluffy.

Leftover frosting will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Let come to room temperature and whip until fluffy before using.

Note:

There is no substitute for cream of tartar. It is mandatory for this recipe.
Swiss Meringue ButtercreamLet’s Make a Wedding Cake, Vol. 2

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Banana Cream Pie

Banana Cream PieOutdoor entertaining season is so close, I can taste it…and it tastes like Banana Cream Pie.Banana Cream PieCold and creamy, with a soft banana-scented filling and a crumbly, buttery Nilla Wafer crust—it’s basically everything that’s good about banana pudding, made from scratch and layered into a pie plate.Banana Cream PieThis pie is a little kitschy and very retro—the sort of dessert that everyone forgets they love until they are presented with it…and then they fall in love all over again.Banana Cream PieBanana Cream PieI defy you to find a warm weather occasion that can’t be improved by Banana Cream Pie.Banana Cream PieBanana Cream PieRooftop cookout? Banana Cream Pie for dessert. (Pro Tip: this is especially good on nights that involve fireworks.)

Birthday? Banana Cream Pie > cake. Well, most cake.Banana Cream PieBanana Cream PieBeach weekend? Don’t forget a box of Nilla Wafers.

Picnic in the park? If you can find a way to keep it cold, absolutely.Banana Cream PieBanana Cream PieNetflix and chill…and Banana Cream Pie.Banana Cream PieTrust me. This is a pie capable of winning you new friends.Banana Cream PieBanana Cream PieI mean, I don’t know about you, but if I come to a gathering and someone has made Banana Cream Pie, I want to find that person and make them my friend.

It’s always good to have friends that make pie.Banana Cream PieBanana Cream Pie
makes one 9-inch standard pie

Crust:
60 Nilla Wafers*
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Filling:
2 medium bananas, thinly sliced, divided
2 teaspoons lemon juice (or apple cider vinegar), divided
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
3 cups whole milk
4 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Topping:
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2-3 tablespoons confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Nilla Wafers (optional)
banana slices (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Make the crust. Place Nilla Wafers in the bowl of a food processor and process until no large pieces remain. Add light brown sugar, melted butter, and salt. Process until the mixture resembles wet sand, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Transfer the mixture to a 9-inch standard pie plate and use clean hands to press the mixture onto the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Bake crust for 10 minutes. Cool it on a rack while you prepare the filling.

Thinly slice 1 banana and toss it in 1 teaspoon lemon juice. Line the cooled crust with banana slices. Set aside.

In a medium-large saucepan, whisk together sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Place the pan over medium-high heat. Whisking constantly, pour the milk into the dry ingredients. Continue to whisk until the mixture boils for 1 minute. Reduce the heat to low.

Whisk egg yolks with a fork. Remove 1/3 of the warm milk mixture from the pot. Whisking constantly, slowly pour milk mixture into the egg yolks until completely combined. Add egg yolk mixture to the pot and turn heat back up to medium-high. Continue to whisk until mixture boils for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk in vanilla extract and butter. Pour filling into prepared crust.

Slice remaining banana and toss in remaining teaspoon of lemon juice. Arrange slices over the top of the filling. Cover the pie with plastic wrap, pressing so it adheres to the surface, and chill for at least four hours or overnight. Bananas will brown a bit.

Make the whipped cream. In a medium-large mixing bowl, combine heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla. Use an electric mixer to whip cream until stiff peaks form. Remove pie from refrigerator and top with whipped cream. Slice and serve pie, topping individual slices with Nilla Wafers and banana slices immediately before serving, if desired.

Pie will keep covered in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.

Note:

I use boxed Nilla Wafers for this recipe and recommend that you do, too. I have not tested this recipe with my homemade Vanilla Wafers. If you do, please let me know how it works out.

M&Ms Surprise Cake

M&Ms Surprise CakeI posted pictures of a big M&Ms-stuffed chocolate cake on my social media last week and y’all went crazy for it!M&Ms Surprise CakeI get it—chocolate cake + buttercream + M&Ms inside + more M&Ms on top = MAGIC.M&Ms Surprise CakeThat original cake was for a friend and not intended for the blog, but given the response, I thought you might like to know how to make your own!M&Ms Surprise CakeFirst things first. You’re going to need four 9-inch round layers of chocolate cake. This one is a super easy no-mixer recipe that makes four soft, moist, perfect layers. You may recognize this recipe from my my Chocolate Cake with Malted Chocolate Buttercream—it’s exactly the same except that I scaled it up by 50%.M&Ms Surprise CakePlace one of the layers on a serving plate or your favorite of all your cakestands. Spread a little frosting on top.M&Ms Surprise CakeTake two of the layers and punch out holes in the centers. I use a 6-inch ring for this, but you can use a wide-mouthed glass or even just a paring knife and a circle of parchment. Layer those on top of that bottom round, frosting between and on top.M&Ms Surprise CakeAt this point, you’ll have a three layer cake with a hole in it. That’s where the surprise M&Ms are going to go ❤Spread a thin layer of buttercream on the “walls.” This will help keep the moist cake from melting the color off the M&Ms too quickly. And speaking of M&Ms…M&Ms Surprise CakeM&Ms Surprise Cake…pour in almost 2 cups of them ❤ ❤ ❤M&Ms Surprise CakeM&Ms Surprise CakePlace your last intact layer of cake on top, effectively hiding all that surprise candy. Frost the cake. For a sort-of photo tutorial on that, see last week’s Cinnamon Buttercream post.M&Ms Surprise CakeM&Ms Surprise CakeI decorated the top with even more M&Ms and used the last of the frosting to pipe a border. The dollops are all different sizes and I love it!M&Ms Surprise CakeM&Ms Surprise CakeM&Ms Surprise CakeM&Ms Surprise Cake

Gather all your family, friends, neighbors, coworkers—really, anyone will do. Get them all around the table so they can see this amazing thing you’ve made in all it’s rainbow candy avalanche glory. This cake is delicious—with that much chocolate and butter, it has to be—but the magic is in the presentation.M&Ms Surprise CakeThen again, I was alone when I sliced this sucker open and it was still pretty damn magical. But I also took 200+ photos of it for you, so I suppose you were practically there.M&Ms Surprise Cake

M&Ms Surprise Cake
makes 1 large 9-inch round cake

Cake:
2 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup + 2 Tbsp natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon (3 teaspoons) baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher or sea salt
3/4 cup neutral-flavored oil (I like canola)
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 cups strong, hot coffee

Chocolate Buttercream:
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
5 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1 1/4 cups natural unsweetened cocoa powder
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2-2/3 cup heavy cream

For Assembly:
1 3/4 cups M&Ms candy, plus more for decoration

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease 4 9-inch round cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment and grease again. Set aside.

Make the cake batter. In a large mixing bowl to sift together flour, cocoa powder, granulated sugar, dark brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk together oil and eggs, followed by vanilla, buttermilk, and coffee. Whisk in dry ingredients in three installments, just until combined. Divide batter evenly among the pans. Tap full pans on the counter five times to release any air bubbles. Bake 20-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Let cakes cool in pans for ten minutes before running a small, thin knife around the edges. Invert cakes onto cooling racks and allow to cool to room temperature.

Make the chocolate buttercream. In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter until light and fluffy (about two minutes). Beat in confectioner’s sugar, followed by cocoa powder and salt, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Add in vanilla and 1/2 cup heavy cream. Beat on high for 1-2 minutes, until very fluffy. Add up to 2 more tablespoons of heavy cream, until desired consistency is reached.

Assemble cake. Place one round on a serving plate and top with a layer of frosting. Set aside.

Use a 4-6 inch cutter (or a wide-mouthed cup or jar) to cut the centers out of two layers. Set centers aside for another use. Place one cut-out layer on the bottom layer and top with a layer of frosting. Place the other cut-out layer on top and frost. Coat the inside of the hole with a thin layer of frosting.

Fill the hole in the cake layers with M&Ms. Top with the last (fully-intact) layer of cake. Frost cake as desired. Decorate with more M&Ms, as desired.

Layer cake will keep covered at room temperature for up to three days, or in the refrigerator for up to a week. M&Ms may lose their color over long periods of time.M&Ms Surprise Cake

Funfetti Petit Fours

Funfetti Petit FoursHave you ever had petit fours? They’re tiny cakes that are coated in sweet poured fondant—somehow the perfect combination of cuteness and class. They’re often seen at weddings, baby showers, and brunches. In my family, we like to eat them on Easter Even (aka Holy Saturday).
Funfetti Petit FoursGrowing up, we’d forego Easter morning Mass in favor of the Easter Vigil service the night before. While choosing this service did allow us to miss the crowd on Sunday morning, it began at 8:30pm and lasted more than two hours. Luckily, if you’re into liturgical pageantry, the Vigil starts with candles in the dark, ends in the light, and has all sorts of incense, bell ringing, beautiful music, and probably another ten things I’m forgetting. Forgive me—I’m a lapsed Episcopalian.
Funfetti Petit FoursOnce the service was over, we’d race home in my dad’s Cadillac, put on pajamas, and reach for the box of petit fours in the fridge. There are few pleasures greater than a cold late-night petit four from Blue Bonnet Bakery (the place with the gingerbread men and florentines). The dense cake was flavored with vanilla and almond, coated in a layer of poured fondant, and topped with a flourish of crusting buttercream. These once-yearly treats border on sickly-sweet, but my whole family loves them.Funfetti Petit FoursI haven’t been home for Easter in many years now, but I always try to have petit fours on Easter Even. I’ve tried them at a few places around Brooklyn, but most that I’ve found are layered with jam. They’re delicious, but not what I crave this time of year.
Funfetti Petit FoursI know my petit fours will never quite live up to the almond-scented Blue Bonnet Bakery version of my dreams, so I’ve decided not to try to recreate those, and instead to make a version that celebrates one of my favorite things: rainbow sprinkles! Funfetti Petit Fours, y’all. They’re a thing now.
Funfetti Petit FoursFunfetti Petit FoursI’m positively in love with this combination of buttery Funfetti cake, vanilla frosting, homemade poured fondant, and rainbow sprinkles. It’s like having everything I love (including nostalgia for my childhood) in one perfect 1 1/2-inch bite.
Funfetti Petit FoursFunfetti Petit FoursI should say that this recipe is very long, but not too terribly difficult. In fact, as it has no layering or filling, it’s one of the simpler petit fours recipes you’ll find. With the exception of coating the petit fours with poured fondant (easier than it sounds), it’s a lot like making a regular frosted cake. But again, there are a lot of parts, and you will need to use three pans and at least three bowls. It’s a lot for one baker—this might be the sort of recipe you make with a friend.Funfetti Petit FoursNo matter how (or with whom) you choose to address this recipe though, if you follow the directions, you will be rewarded with the sweetest, tiniest, happiest, most colorful petit fours you’ve ever seen ❤ Happy Easter, y’all!Funfetti Petit Fours

Funfetti Petit Fours
makes about 2.5-3 dozen 1 1/2-inch petit fours

Cake:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/8 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 large eggs + 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon imitation butter extract, optional
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, room temperature
1/2 cup rainbow jimmies (not nonpareils)

Vanilla Buttercream:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons heavy cream

Poured Fondant:
1/3 cup hot tap water
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 lb. confectioners sugar (about 3 3/4 cups)
pinch of Kosher or sea salt

For Decoration:
rainbow sprinkles (jimmies or nonpareils)

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9×13-inch pan. Line with parchment and grease again. Set aside.

Make the cake batter. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and granulated sugar. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Add eggs and egg yolk one at a time, beating completely after each addition. Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients, followed by 1 cup of the buttermilk. Continue alternating until all ingredients are used and batter is just combined. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold in jimmies. Scrape down the bowl as necessary.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Tap full pan on the counter five times to release any large air bubbles. Bake cakes 30-32 minutes, rotating back to front at the halfway point. Cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cake cool in pan for fifteen minutes. Remove cake to a rack to cool completely.

Cake may be made up to a day in advance.

Place cake on a cutting board. Use a serrated knife to even out the top.

Line a jelly roll pan or quarter sheet pan with parchment. Place cake on prepared pan. Freeze for 30 minutes.

Make the frosting. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Beat in confectioner’s sugar in three installments, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Beat in salt, followed by vanilla. Add in heavy cream until desired consistency is reached.

Line a rimmed half-sheet pan with parchment and place a cooling rack over the top. Set aside.

Remove cake from freezer and return to cutting board. Use a large, sharp chef’s knife to slice off crispy cake edges (about 1/4-inch on all sides). Slice cake into 1 1/2-inch squares.

Use an offset icing knife to crumb coat squares on top and 4 sides. Place on prepared rack/pan. Chill for 15-30 minutes.

Make poured fondant. In a liquid measuring cup, stir together hot water, light corn syrup, and vanilla.

Fill a small pot with 1-2 inches of water. Set a heatproof bowl over the top, ensuring that the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Remove bowl and bring water to a simmer.

Place white chocolate chips in the heatproof bowl. When water simmers, place bowl back over the water. Whisk until melted. Alternate adding confectioners sugar and liquid ingredients, whisking constantly until smooth. Whisk in salt. Remove from heat and let cool a few minutes (it works best around 100F).

Remove cake squares from refrigerator. Working quickly, spoon poured fondant over the top and sides of each square. Use an offset icing knife to adjust sides as necessary. Top with another dot of poured fondant and more sprinkles. Re-warm poured fondant as needed.

Let poured fondant set for at least an hour. Serve.

Leftover petit fours will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 7-10 days.

Funfetti Petit Fours

King Cake

King CakeHave you ever been to New Orleans? I have a few times, including a three week stint of post-Hurricane Katrina relief work, but I’ve never been for Mardi Gras.

King CakeAs a college student in Texas, it occurred to me that it might be a fun thing to do once (I’m very into road trips), but then I remembered that I am a tried and true introvert and that spending a weekend in a loud, crowded city might be my idea of hell…

…so I moved to New York City instead. It never gets loud and crowded here 🙂

But back to Mardi Gras…

King CakeWhile I love the idea of a whole state with its own unique way of celebrating a holiday, my party days are well behind me and I don’t envision any circumstance in which I’ll ever find myself in Louisiana in early February. But I love King Cake. I mostly associate it with Epiphany (or Three Kings Day or Twelfth Night or January 6th, or whatever you call it), but I’m okay for breaking with personal traditions if it means I get to eat this:

King CakeIf you’ve somehow never had King Cake, you’re in for a treat. It’s a fluffy yeasted coffee cake served in Louisiana (and lots of other places) in the religious season between Christmas and Lent. To describe King Cake plainly, it’s sort of like cinnamon rolls that aren’t cut up. In fact, the dough I used here is just a variation on my favorite sweet roll recipe. It’s just a little richer and even more tender than that dough, and it’s flavored with cinnamon and nutmeg. Mmhmm.

King CakeFrom what I can tell from all my research, if you have a flavor preference, there is a King Cake recipe out there for you. The traditional filling is a mixture of butter and cinnamon-sugar (again, like cinnamon rolls), but I have seen pecan praline, strawberry, and cherry-almond variations. I have become entranced by the idea of cream cheese filling, so I did a little mash-up of my own: cinnamon cream cheese, y’all!

King CakeThe filling is rolled up into the dough like it is in sweet rolls. The cylinder of dough is formed into a ring and set aside to rise for about an hour, until it doubles in size. Then it’s painted with an egg wash and baked until golden brown all over.

King CakeKing CakeKing CakeKing Cakes are traditionally decorated with a thick white icing and yellow, green, and purple sugars (representing power, faith, and justice, respectively). I had a hard time tracking down sugars in the appropriate colors, so I just stirred a few drops of food coloring into 1/3 cup increments of granulated sugar.King CakeKing Cake

King CakeKing CakeKing CakeA tiny plastic baby doll is also traditionally inserted into the cake after baking. The person who receives the slice with the baby doll is king/queen for the day and is responsible for procuring next year’s cake. I didn’t put a doll in this cake because I simply don’t have it together enough to remember to order things in time for scheduled blog posts. But anyway…

King CakeIf you love the look of the golden cake, the white icing, and the sparkling, colorful sugars, just wait ‘til you slice it up.

King CakeThat swirl y’all! And the soft, fluffy interior! And the cinnamon in the cake and the filling! And the cream cheese! It’s a win all around 🙂

King CakeOne last thing: this recipe makes two King Cakes. Before you click away, never to return, here is a list of reasons to have two King Cakes.

  • It takes just as long to make one as it does to make two. Trust me on this.
  • It’s party food, so it’s good to have extra.
  • Need I say again that it bears a lot of similarities to cinnamon rolls? Best weekend breakfast ever!
  • You can freeze the second one. Do it after it’s baked/before it’s iced.
  • Or be the best friend/neighbor ever and give it away.
  • Or even put the spare in the break room at work.
  • Or call me and I will come help you eat it.

King Cake

King Cake
makes 2 cakes

Dough:
5 1/2-6 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 packet (2 1/4 teaspoons) instant yeast (I use Fleischmann’s Rapid Rise Yeast)
1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher or sea salt
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 large eggs + 2 large egg yolks, room temperature

Filling:
16 ounces (2 bricks) full-fat bricks-style cream cheese, cool room temperature
2/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 large egg, room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Egg Wash:
1 large egg
1 teaspoon water

Icing & Garnish:
3 cups confectioners sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4-5 tablespoons milk
2 small plastic baby dolls
yellow, green, and purple sprinkles or sugars

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together 5 cups all-purpose flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, instant yeast, and salt. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, heat buttermilk and butter until hot to the touch, about 115F. Buttermilk may curdle—this is fine, if less than beautiful.

Places eggs and yolks in a small bowl and beat lightly with a fork.

Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold warm buttermilk mixture into dry ingredients, followed by eggs. Add more all-purpose flour by the 1/4 cup until dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Knead the dough for 7 minutes on a floured surface before forming into a ball and placing in an oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 10 minutes.

Make the filling. Use an electric mixer to beat cream cheese, dark brown sugar, and cinnamon until combined. Beat in egg and vanilla.

Line two half-sheet pans with parchment paper. Set aside.

On a lightly floured surface, use a large sharp chef’s knife to cut dough into two pieces. Place one half back in the oiled bowl and cover again with plastic wrap. Roll the other half into a 10×28-inch rectangle. Spoon half the filling over the dough and use a silicone spatula or offset knife to spread mixture over the surface, leaving a 1/2-inch perimeter on all sides. Starting with the long edge furthest from your body, tightly roll filled dough toward you, smoothing any seams with your thumbs. A small amount of filling may squish out—just wipe it off and move on. Carefully lift the cylinder of dough onto one of the parchment-lined pans. Shape into a circle and tuck and seal ends together (a finger dipped in water may help with this). Loosely cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm draft-free environment for 60-90 minutes, until cake has doubled in size. Repeat process with remaining dough.

Place oven racks in the second-from-top and second-from-bottom positions. Preheat oven to 375F.

Once cakes have risen, make egg wash. In a small bowl, whisk together egg and water. Use a pastry brush to brush glaze all over the cakes, being careful not to tear the dough. Bake cakes for 12 minutes. Rotate pans top-to-bottom and front-to-back. Bake an additional 10-13 minutes or until cakes are golden brown all over and cooked through.

Let cakes cool completely on pans on racks.

Make icing. In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk together confectioners sugar and salt. Whisk in vanilla and milk. Icing should be very thick, but pourable.

Place cakes on serving dishes. Cut a small hole in the bottom of each and insert a small plastic baby doll.

Ice the cakes. Working with one cake at a time, pour half the icing onto the surface. Use an offset knife to coax icing over the top of the cake. Decorate with sprinkles or sugars as desired. Before decorating the second cake, give icing a stir—it may have thickened slightly. If necessary, add milk by the teaspoon until it returns to the desired consistency. Repeat icing and decorating process with the second cake. Icing should set after 20 minutes.

King Cakes are best the day they’re made, but will keep covered at room temperature for a day or two.

King Cake