Mardi Gras

Louisiana King Cake ft. Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting + Sugar Coating

Now that the month of January has ended and resolutions have been ditched, get ready for the month of February and the widely-accepted celebration of debauchery and richer, fatty foods - Mardi Gras. This year, 'Fat Tuesday' falls on February 12 - which will either complement or interfere with your Valentines Day plans on the 14th - and this appropriately flavored and themed cake will help get your party started. Just add feathers.

The cinnamon-roll-esque King Cake is traditionally associated with the celebration of Mardi Gras and Carnival in the Gulf Coast area. With King Cakes circling the Superdome and others available for delivery to your doorstep, it is the pumpkin pie of the Mardi Gras season. This remix re-imagines the traditional brioche King Cake as a colorful cinnamon-and-bourbon layer cake and the sugar glaze as a bourbon cream cheese frosting.

The sanding sugar still stands though. King Cakes are usually topped with a gaudy amount of purple (justice), green (faith), and gold (power) sugar and so is this remix. I created my own mask stencil from a sheet of cardstock and used this to mask the top of the cake, and then used an offset spatula to press the crumbs against the side of the cake as well. Finish it off with a border of icing beads - instant glitz and gaud.

Another tradition is to insert a tiny trinket, bean, or a Baby Jesus (not baby cheeses, mind you) into the cake, and the lucky one to receive that slice is crowned the next King or is obligated to buy the next King cake or receives a 10% discount off your next purchase!

louisiana king cake
1 box french vanilla cake mix
2 tbsp. cinnamon
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1/4 c. butter, room temperature
3/4 c. buttermilk
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tbsp. bourbon
3 eggs
food coloring (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease three round cake pans with butter or PAM spray. In a medium bowl, sift cake mix, cinnamon, and brown sugar together until fine. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter until creamy. Add buttermilk, oil, vanilla, and bourbon and beat until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each.

Slowly add cake mix into wet ingredients and beat on high until batter is smooth. Divide equally into 3 bowls and add gel food coloring, if desired. Pour batter into greased pans until each is 2/3 of the way full. Bake according to the times on the back of the mix box, depending on the types of pans you are using. Use a toothpick to check doneness - if the toothpick comes out clean from the center of the cakes, remove from oven and let cool completely on a rack.

bourbon cream cheese frosting
1/2 c. cream cheese
4 c. powdered sugar
1-2 tsp. vanilla extract
1-2 tbsp. bourbon
water or milk as needed
Beat cream cheese, vanilla, bourbon, and milk in large mixing bowl until blended. Add powdered sugar into bowl one cup at a time, mixing well after each addition until frosting has thickened. Add water by the tablespoon if frosting is too thick.

sugar crumb coating
cake scraps
sanding sugar
After baking and cooling the cakes, use a serrated knife to level each cake flat and save the rounded top cake scraps. Cut off any pieces that are burned and use your fingers or a fork to crumble the soft cake into fine crumbs. Divide cake crumbs by color into 3 separate bowls and add colored sanding sugar into each (about 1:1 ratio of cake crumbs to sugar).

After doing an initial crumb coat to seal the cake layers, frost the cake with a 1/2" thick coast of white frosting. I chose to divide this cake into sixths (2 wedges each of yellow, green, and purple) so I drew these boundary lines into the frosting with a skewer. Without letting the frosting harden, set the cake flat on a plate and use an offset spatula to wet the frosting only of the segment you are about to sugarcoat.  Then use the back of the dry offset spatula to press the crumb/sugar mixture into the wet frosting, moving from bottom to top until the whole segment is covered.

I did both yellow segments, lifted the cake and wiped all the yellow crumbs from the plate, set the cake back on the plate and did the green segments, lifted and wiped the plate clean again, set the cake back and did the purple segments. This way you start fresh with each color and are only pressing the right color crumbs into the right segments.

For the mask, cut out a template from thick cardstock and position this stencil on top of frosted cake. Use a spoon to cover the area with sugar/crumbs and use the offset spatula to gently press the crumbs into the frosting. Carefully lift cardstock from the cake, trying to keep loose crumbs from falling onto the cake in unwanted areas. Wet the end of a bamboo skewer to carefully 'stick' off loose crumbs on the cake.