Baking my way through American Cake, I'm learning new techniques. The third cake in the book is the New Orleans King Cake. I knew what a king cake was before I baked this one; however, I had some questions. Mainly, how do you bake the porcelain trinket, or la fève, in the cake? What if I couldn't find a porcelain trinket and wanted to use plastic? Would it melt in the oven?
American Cake answered all of my questions.
Traditionally, the trinket in the cake represents the baby Jesus. King cake is a Mardi Gras favorite, but it was baked for Epiphany, or the twelfth night after Christmas. I baked it for hatsugama--the first tea of the new year.
Welcome the year of the rooster! As my tea group and I planned an informal hatsugama, I searched for a porcelain rooster to place in my king cake. I found one at a shop in the Far East Center in southwest Denver. It is more of a chicken than a rooster, but with my porcelain trinket procured, the baking began!
When I think of cake, I don't think yeast. In my mind, yeast is reserved for breads and cinnamon rolls. The king cake is a yeasted cake and was just as good, if not better, than a cinnamon roll.
The trick to adding the trinket is to place it in the cake after baking. Fresh from the oven, I lowered the cake onto the little chicken. It slid into the cake and was a fun surprise at the hatsugama.
For my version of the king cake, I substituted earth balance butter for the 1/2 cup unsalted butter and almond milk for the whole milk. The substitutions were successful. Because it's made with bread flour, I stuck with glutenous flour. I haven't tried many gluten-free bread recipes, but if you're trying to make this gf, I would choose Bob's Red Mill pizza crust mix. Making cinnamon rolls with the pizza crust mix is wildly successful. Since there are many similarities between cinnamon rolls and this king cake, I'm confident the substitution would turn out.