Have you ever had New Orleans King Cake? The best way I can describe it is a sweet bread ring – which tastes like processed sweet rolls from the grocery store – covered in icing and sprinkles. You serve it cut into slices and hopefully someone finds a little plastic baby in their piece. The baby represents the next person to put on a party during Mardi Gras. The tradition continues on and on eating bad king cake and finding babies from January 6th (the 12th day of Christmas) until Fat Tuesday (the day before the start of Lent = Ash Wednesday).
Side Note: That awesome colored background was created by artist Atelier Tremè, who created a wooden quilt from pieces of buildings destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. My absolutely favorite piece of art.
When I was small, my mom wanted to follow this tradition because her side of the family was from Louisiana, but she dreaded the thought of eating a cardboardy king cake. I can’t say I blame her. Ever since I can remember as a family tradition on January 6th, my mom will make a chocolate cake, frosted in her secret frosting – no, you can’t have the recipe, I promised – and she uses a whole almond as the “baby” because, well, it tastes better than a plastic baby obviously.
This year, my mom cut and served the cake – clockwise so there is no cheating. It was one of the few years where not a single person got the almond in their first piece! Which meant we had to eat the rest of the cake! Unfortunately there were only a couple slices left and ten people at the table. Of course Juliet was the first to ask for seconds, and she got the almond! Her prize? She gets to pick an entire family dinner with anything she wants.
I guess it’s good I didn’t get the almond because I would be looking for some steak and lobster coming my way. Fourteen year olds are much simpler. Macaroni and cheese, fresh artichokes and more cake. Well that sounds good too, so I’m in.
Now, I love my mom’s cake. It’s our own family version and it works pretty well. I don’t want to change it but I was interested in updating the sweet bread king cake that I never look forward to eating. The cake itself is dense but just a tad sweet, exactly like it’s traditional counterpart. The filling was my own design, a praline cream filling which adds moisture and sweetness to the cake itself.
For the icing, I have never been a fan of super sweet icing, so that was out. I made a swiss meringue buttercream which is amazingly easy on the sugar but heavy on the butter. Hey, it’s cake, no one said it had to be healthy. It is hands down some of the best icing I have ever had. I threatened to eat it with a spoon many times before the cake was even frosted. By the way my mom was the best, she totally frosted my cake for me because she’s really better at it than I am. She’s the best!
And who got my almond? (Almonds still taste better than plastic babies.) My best friend’s husband got it. I’m sure he’s THRILLED that he has to put on the next party! Looking forward to it Jesse!
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, soft
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/4 cups milk
- 2/3 cup chopped pecans
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ¼ cup sugar
- 3.4 ounce box instant vanilla pudding
- 5 egg whites
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 pound unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, room temperature
- 1 ½ vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour three 9-inch round baking pans, set aside.
- Beat butter with an electric mixer on medium speed until creamy. Add sugars; beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time; beating well after each addition. Add vanilla extract; mix well.
- Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add one fourth of flour and combine, and then add a third of milk and combine. Repeat with flour and milk until all is incorporated. Divide batter evenly into prepared pans and place in oven. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until center bounces back when gently pressed or a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let stand for 10 minutes before removing from pan. Let cool on wire rack.
- In a saute pan melt the butter and sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Turn off the heat, add the pecans and stir to coat. Spread thinly on a silpat or wax paper, let cool. Mix the pudding according to package directions.
- Break the cooled pecan mixture into small pieces and mix into the pudding. Set aside.
- In a saucepan, bring 2 inches of water to simmer on the stove. In a mixing bowl add egg whites and sugar placing over the simmering pot of water. Whisk until temperature reaches 150 degrees. Remove from heat and with the whisk attachment beat for 10 minutes on medium high (8 on Kitchen-Aid) until the mixture doubles in size and gets thick and glossy. The mixing bowl should be cool on the bottom.
- Add in butter 1 tablespoon at a time until fully incorporated. Add vanilla and salt. Mix for another 5 minutes or until smooth and silky.
- Layer cake filled with praline filling and frost in swiss meringue buttercream.