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

Friday Favorites: Holiday Breakfasts

How was your Thanksgiving? My family spent ours at my godparents’ ranch. The food and company were great and there were five dogs, so it was basically the best day ever.

Friday Favorites: Holiday BreakfastsBefore I start with the Christmas cookies, let’s talk about breakfast. It may be the most important meal of the day, but that doesn’t mean it has to be boring.

Today, I’m bringing you seven show-stopping recipes guaranteed to make your family and friends feel at home for the holidays.

Friday Favorites: Holiday BreakfastsMonkey Bread

Monkey Bread is basically cinnamon rolls, deconstructed. The sweet dough is cut into small pieces, dipped in butter, rolled in cinnamon-sugar, and baked in a tube pan. I like to finish it off with warm homemade caramel sauce.

Friday Favorites: Holiday BreakfastsScratch Biscuit Monkey Bread

Canned biscuits are a popular alternative to making Monkey Bread from scratch. If you’d like to cut down on time and skip the yeast without sacrificing flavor, this is the recipe for you. It’s made with a simple cream biscuit dough and can be ready in 90 minutes or less.

Friday Favorites: Holiday BreakfastsMarzipan Cinnamon Rolls

Cinnamon rolls are a popular Christmas morning breakfast for a reason. Swirls of buttery cinnamon-sugar goodness, fluffy rolls, and sweet glaze are hard to beat! But if you add in a can of marzipan, some almond extract, and some toasted slivered almonds, you might come close.

Friday Favorites: Holiday BreakfastsPuff Pancake {Dutch Baby}

Puff Pancakes were a common weekend breakfast in my house and remain a favorite to this day. The batter comes together in the food processor and is super easy to scale up and down to feed any number of guests! Everyone will love seeing you pull a big, puffy pancake out of the oven, and the crispy edges and custard-like center will have them coming back for seconds.

Friday Favorites: Holiday BreakfastsCaramel Apple Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}

Puff Pancakes are a classic for a reason, but this time of year, I go for this Caramel Apple version. Sliced apples and pie spices are tossed together and baked into the pancake batter. When it comes out of the oven, it gets a drizzle of homemade caramel sauce–totally impossible to resist.

Friday Favorites: Holiday BreakfastsApple Cider Coffee Cake

Speaking of apples, I cannot say enough good things about this Apple Cider Coffee Cake. It’s super moist from an apple cider reduction, sour cream and tart apples, and it has two layers of that crunchy coffee cake crumb we all love!

Friday Favorites: Holiday BreakfastsOvernight Yeast-Raised Doughnuts

If there were ever a time to pull out all the stops and make homemade doughnuts, the holidays are it. This recipe is formulated so that you can make the dough one day and cut and fry doughnuts the next. Give them a dip in a simple chocolate glaze and shower them with sprinkles (or crushed candy canes!) before serving. These are the best doughnuts I have ever had, and I know you’ll love them too.Friday Favorites: Holiday Breakfasts

Did you make any of my recipes for Thanksgiving? Let me know in the comments or on social media using #e2bakes 💗

Chocolate Cake with Malted Chocolate Buttercream

 My birthday is this weekend! I’m going to be 31 😁 I feel a little old, but I’m also really enjoying this phase of my life. 

In my 31st year, I have:

  • seen my family on six separate occasions (together and individually), including my 30th birthday trip to Santa Fe, a super-secret surprise trip to Austin for E3’s birthday, and visits to NYC from my mom, both sisters, and sister-in-law. That’s the most time I’ve spent with them since I moved to NYC in 2007. The older I get, the more I appreciate the amazing people who made me who I am.
  • spent some time off the grid in Maine, and enjoyed it way more than I ever expected. I can’t wait to do it again in a few weeks.
  • catered a dinner party for 300 people. I had three amazing helpers, and it went off without a hitch despite the six weeks of panic that preceded it. I hope to do it again this year…because I am insane.
  • moved. And moving in New York is horrible. Heck, moving anywhere is horrible. But I love my new apartment. Shoutout to my mom for coming to help me on the coldest weekend ever.
  • navigated my way through some major life changes and lessons with some modicum of grace and dignity.
  • opened my own Netflix account. #adulting
  • realized that I am still figuring out who I am. I hope this never ends.
  • made a lot of cookies. And eaten a lot of cookies.
  • really fallen in love with my friendships. My friends really stepped up and took care of me this year when I didn’t feel like I could do it myself. There’s nothing like laughing ’til you cry when you feel like your life is a mess. Thanks, guys.
  • started a baking blog. I dreamt of having this blog for six years before hitting “publish.” Thank you for reading, liking, sharing, and making the recipes. Thank you for making this little corner of the Internet what it is: a place filled with sugar and ridiculousness. Without you, I’m just talking to myself. 

…that got a lot mushier than I intended. 

This weekend, I’ll be celebrating at a cookout with those I hold nearest and dearest. My friends are making dinner, and I can’t wait! They offered to make dessert too, but being me, I just couldn’t leave well enough alone. I’ll be there with pie 😊

Of course, I thought about cake, but with the heat we’ve been having, I am afraid the frosting would melt. But I just can’t let my birthday go by without cake, so I’ve been celebrating a little early with this Chocolate Cake with Malted Chocolate Buttercream. The cake is moist, fluffy, and so, so easy. The best part? No mixer required! I’ve been making this cake for two years, and I can safely say that it’s the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had. And that’s coming from a self-proclaimed vanilla person. 

The frosting is a tribute to one of my very favorite things: chocolate malts. Oh yes, I love a chocolate malt. I just *have* to have one at least twice a month. It only seems appropriate that I’d use it as inspiration for my birthday cake frosting. This is a super easy chocolate buttercream with a hefty dose of malted milk powder. It’s creamy, dreamy, chocolaty, malty magic. If malt isn’t your thing, I recommend replacing the cup of malted milk powder in the recipe with an additional cup of confectioner’s sugar. It’ll still be delicious 😊 

As for decorating, I went for a sort of naked cake approach here, using the bulk of the frosting to frost the top and fill the layers. This recipe makes enough frosting to fully frost and fill a two layer 9″ round cake, if you’d like to cover the whole thing. If you want to pipe, you’ll need to make 1.5 times the recipe. No matter which route you choose to go, your cake will be fantastic.

If you don’t have a reason to make cake this weekend, I give you full permission to use my birthday as an excuse. We’re Internet friends after all. And friends who eat Malted Chocolate Buttercream together stay together, right?!

Have a great weekend! 

 Chocolate Cake with Malted Chocolate Buttercream
cake recipe adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction
makes one two layer 9″ round cake

For the pan:
2 tablespoons neutral-flavored oil (I use canola)
2 tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder

Cake:
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch Process)
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light or dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup neutral-flavored oil (I use canola)
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk (low fat is fine)*
1 cup strong, hot coffee (decaf is fine)

Frosting:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
3/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup malted milk powder (I use Carnation)
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3-4 tablespoons heavy cream

chocolate chips, for decorating (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease the pans. In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk together oil and cocoa powder. Use a pastry brush to paint the entire insides of the pans with the mixture. Set aside.

Make the cake batter. In a large mixing bowl to sift together flour, cocoa powder, granulated sugar, 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 23-27 minutes, 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 frosting. 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. Mix in malted milk powder and salt, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Add in vanilla and 3 tablespoons of heavy cream, and beat on high for two minutes. Add more cream by the tablespoon until desired consistency is reached. Fill the layers and frost as desired. Decorate with chocolate chips, if desired.

Frosted cake will keep covered at room temperature for up to two days, and in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Note:

If you don’t have buttermilk, put one tablespoon of white vinegar in the bottom of a liquid measuring cup, then pour milk up to the 2 cup mark. Stir and let sit for five minutes, until curdled. Use as instructed in the recipe. Do not use skim or fat free milk.

Artichoke Dip

 My family is weird when it comes to Thanksgiving. We have almost no traditions, food or otherwise. We just have never established any of those things.

We’ve tried. Oh, we’ve tried. We have hosted the big family Thanksgiving. We’ve gone to my aunt’s house for dinner. We’ve traveled (England was a highlight). We spent five or six years skiing in Santa Fe, New Mexico, our home away from home. My older sister has hosted a big dinner at her home in Austin, where she serves lamb rather than turkey. All of those Thanksgivings were fun, but none have created long-lasting traditions. Now that my sisters and I are adults, getting together for Turkey Day has become nearly impossible. With significant others, work, and living in different places, it’s hard for all of us to get together, so we usually just try for Christmas. Case in point: this year my older sister is hosting her lamb dinner in Austin, my parents and little sister are going to Marfa (because why not?), and Henry and I are going upstate to spend the holiday with his family. I’m not sure we’ll ever have a traditional Thanksgiving together again, but that’s okay as long as we have good cell phone service and my mom’s Artichoke Dip. 
 
This dip is so, so good. It comes from a handwritten card in my mom’s holiday recipe box–a card so stained that you know the recipe has to be good. Hot, cheesy, creamy goodness that’s perfect for scooping up with tortilla chips and crackers. Plus, it’s so easy, it’s ridiculous. Stir together four ingredients, spread it in a small casserole dish, top with cheese and paprika, and bake until brown and bubbly. That’s it. Easy. It’s great for holidays and parties, and can be made up to two days in advance. You can either mix everything and bake when you’re ready to serve, or bake it, refrigerate, and reheat in the microwave. It’s totally perfect for those hectic holiday afternoons when you’re just trying to get something on the table. I have taken this Artichoke Dip to many Thanksgivings and holiday parties over the years, and people always go crazy for it. Be prepared: you will be bombarded with requests for this recipe.

Ten years ago, when my mom put me to work making this recipe for our holiday parties, I had no idea that it would become my tradition. I didn’t know that I would soon have it committed to memory, or that I would take it to Thanksgivings all over the northeast. Some people have holiday food memories with pie or cookies or Great Grandma’s stuffing, but for me it’s this dip. Making this puts me back in my mom’s Texas kitchen, at least for a second. That’s a good enough tradition for me.

 
Artichoke Dip
recipe from my mom’s holiday recipe box
makes one small casserole dish or pie plate

1 14oz can artichoke hearts in water, drained
1 4oz can chopped green chilies, drained
1 cup mayonnaise (I use Hellmann’s)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for sprinkling
paprika, for dusting

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a small casserole dish or pie plate. Set aside.

Chop artichoke hearts into small pieces. Place them in a large mixing bowl. Add green chilies, Parmesan cheese, and mayonnaise. Stir to combine. Scrape the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with additional Parmesan and dust with paprika. Bake for 30 minutes, until browned and bubbly. Let cool five minutes before serving with tortilla chips or crackers.

Note:


Artichoke Dip can be made up to two days in advance. You can mix together the mayonnaise, artichoke hearts, chopped green chilies, and cheese, and refrigerate, and then bake immediately before serving. Alternatively, after baking, let the dip cool to room temperature for an hour. Cover with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and refrigerate. When you are ready to serve, reheat in the microwave.