Filled with warm spices and almond cream, this may be the king of king cakes.
Classic King Cake
Yields: 1 (12-inch) wreath
- 4 to 4¼ cups bread flour, divided
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 1 (0.25-ounce) package instant yeast
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon water, divided
- ½ cup whole milk
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- 2 large eggs, divided
- 1 egg yolk
- Almond Cream (recipe follows)
- Cream Cheese Icing (recipe follows)
- Garnish: colored sanding sugar
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- ½ cup sugar
- 1⅓ cups almond meal
- 1 large egg
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon almond extract
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
Cream Cheese Icing
- 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
- 1 tablespoon whole milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1½ cups confectioners’ sugar
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine 2 cups flour, granulated sugar, yeast, and salt. Spray a large bowl with cooking spray.
- In a medium saucepan, heat ½ cup water, milk, and butter over medium heat until an instant-read thermometer registers 120° to 130°. Add warm milk mixture to flour mixture, beating at medium speed until combined and cooled slightly, about 2 minutes. Add 1 egg and egg yolk, beating at medium speed until combined. With mixer on low speed, gradually add 2 cups flour, beating just until combined and stopping to scrape sides of bowl as needed.
- Switch to the dough hook attachment. Beat at low speed until a soft, somewhat sticky dough forms, about 6 to 7 minutes, stopping to scrape dough hook and sides of bowl as needed. (Add up to remaining ¼ cup flour, adding 1 tablespoon at a time, if dough is too sticky.)
- On a lightly floured surface, shape dough into a smooth ball. Place dough in prepared bowl, turning to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free place (75°) until doubled in size, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
- In a small bowl, whisk together remaining 1 egg and remaining 1 tablespoon water.
- Lightly punch down dough. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface, and roll into a 24×2-inch rectangle. Spread Almond Cream onto dough, leaving a ½-inch border on one long side. Brush border with egg wash. Starting with other long side, roll up dough, jelly roll style; pinch seam to seal. Using a serrated knife dipped in flour, trim ½-inch off each end of log. Form into a circle. Brush ends with egg wash and press together, pinching dough to seal. Carefully place wreath on a piece of parchment paper.
- Using a serrated knife or kitchen scissors, makes cuts three-fourths of the way through the dough, 1 inch apart, leaving the center of wreath intact. Gently pull and turn each slice onto its side, slightly overlapping with the previous piece. Slide parchment onto a rimless baking sheet. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free place (75°) until puffed, 20 to 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350°.
- Brush dough with egg wash. Bake until lightly golden and an instant-read thermometer inserted in center registers 190°, 30 to 35 minutes, loosely covering with foil to prevent excess browning, if necessary. Let cool on pan for 10 minutes. Remove from pan. Spread with Cream Cheese Icing. Garnish with colored sanding sugar, if desired.
For Almond Cream
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar on medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Beat in almond meal until combined. Add egg and almond extract, beating on low until combined. Beat in flour and salt. Refrigerate until ready to use.
For Cream Cheese Icing
- In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese, milk, vanilla, and salt on medium speed until smooth. Slowly add confectioners’ sugar, beating on low until smooth.