King Cakes are decorated in the traditional Mardi Gras colors; gold (for power), green (for faith) and purple (for justice).
Here is a bit of history;
The King Cake is believed to have originated in France around the 12th century. These early Europeans celebrated the coming of the three wise men bearing gifts twelve days after Christmas calling it the Feast of the epiphany, Twelfth Night, or King’s Day.
The main part of the celebration was the baking of a King’s Cake to honor the three Kings. The cakes were made circular to portray the circular route used by the kings to get to the Christ Child, which was taken to confuse King Herod who was trying to follow the wise men so he could kill the Christ Child. In these early King Cakes a bean, pea, or coin was hidden inside the cake. The person who got the hidden piece was declared King for the day or was said to have good luck in the coming year.
In Louisiana, Twelfth Night also signifies the beginning of the carnival season which ends with Mardi Gras Day. The bean,,pea and the coin have been replaced by a small plastic baby to symbolize the Christ Child. The person who gets the baby is expected to carry on the carnival festivities by hosting the next King Cake party.
1 package active dry yeast
2 tablespoons warm water (110°F to 115°F)
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
¼ cup whole milk
3 teaspoons orange zest, finely chopped
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 eggs, lightly beaten
¾ cup butter, cold
Small plastic baby (or a red kidney bean)
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons water
1 cup pecan pieces, roasted until fragrant
⅔ cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon ground allspice
4 tablespoons maple syrup
1 cup powdered sugar
¼ teaspoon almond extract
1–2 tablespoons milk
Green, purple, and yellow paste food coloring
2.Combine salt, sugar, orange zest and milk in a small bowl. Combine milk mixture with yeast mixture. Combine cinnamon and flour in a separate bowl.
3.With mixer on low speed, alternate adding flour and beaten eggs a little at a time, beginning and ending with flour, until completely incorporated. Knead on low speed for 10 minutes. Dough will be smooth and elastic. Chop cold butter into small pieces; with mixer at low speed, add butter slowly until incorporated. Do not melt butter.
4.Place dough into a well-oiled bowl and turn to coat top. Cover loosely with a damp tea towel and allow to rise in a warm place (85°F), free from drafts, for 1 hour or until dough has doubled in bulk. Punch down, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.
5.Prepare filling: Combine all ingredients, stirring until well blended.
6.Remove dough from refrigerator and allow to return to room temperature. Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface to a 6 x 18-inch rectangle. Spread pecan filling over surface of dough, leaving a 1½-inch margin on each side. Place the plastic baby (or kidney bean) somewhere in the filling.
7.Fold long side of dough over and roll tightly. Place the dough roll on a lightly greased baking sheet and form into a circle, seam side down, tucking one end into the other. With wet fingertips, seal the seam. Cover loosely with a damp tea towel and allow to rise in a warm place, free from drafts, until doubled in bulk, for approximately 45 minutes.
8.Preheat oven to 350°F.
9.Prepare egg wash: beat egg and 2 tablespoons water until well combined. Brush over surface of dough.
10.Bake until golden brown and bread sounds hollow when tapped, approximately 30 to 35 minutes. Remove to wire rack to cool.
11.Prepare glaze: Combine powdered sugar, almond extract and milk, stirring until glaze is a smooth fluid consistency. Divide between 3 small bowls; tint one batch purple, one green and one yellow, stirring until well combined. Place tinted glaze into 3 small zipper bags and seal, pressing air out. Snip one corner of each bag and drizzle over cooled bread. (Traditionally, the colors are applied to separate sections, but use your creativity here.)
source: Sister Schubert – Cast Your Bread Upon the Water- cookbook. www.sisterschubert.com