Mardi Gras King Cakes

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History behind the King Cake…

As part of the Christian faith, the coming of the wise men bearing gifts to the Christ Child is celebrated twelve days after Christmas. This is referred to as the Feast of the Epiphany or Little Christmas on the Twelfth Night. This is a time of celebration, exchanging gifts and feasting. Today, the tradition continues as people all over the world gather for festive Twelfth Night celebrations. A popular custom was and still is the baking of a special cake in honor of the three kings called “A King’s Cake.”

Inside every cake is a tiny baby (generally plastic now, but sometimes this baby might be made of porcelain or even gold). The tradition of having King Cake Parties has evolved through time, and the person who receives the slice of cake with the baby is asked to continue the festivities by hosting the next King Cake party.

Originally, King Cakes were a simple ring of dough with a small amount of decoration. Today’s King Cakes are much more festive. After the rich Danish dough is braided and baked, the “baby” is inserted. The top of the ring or oval cake is then covered with delicious sugar toppings in the traditional Mardi Gras colors of purple, green and gold.

In more recent years, some bakeries have been creative with stuffing and topping their cakes with different flavors of cream cheese and fruit fillings.

January 6, the Twelfth Night after Christmas, is also the day our Mardi Gras season begins. Mardi Gras Day is always 47 days prior to Easter Sunday (Fat Tuesday is always the day before Ash Wednesday).

Soooooo…. In anticipation of the Mardi Gras spirit, you can follow this delicious recipe & make your own KING CAKES for your next Mardi Gras celebration!!

Here’s what you will need:
PASTRY:
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
  • 2/3 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • FILLING:
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • FROSTING:

  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • Directions

    1. Scald milk, remove from heat and stir in 1/4 cup of butter. Allow mixture to cool to room temperature. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in the warm water with 1 tablespoon of the white sugar. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
    2. When yeast mixture is bubbling, add the cooled milk mixture. Whisk in the eggs. Stir in the remaining white sugar, salt and nutmeg. Beat the flour into the milk/egg mixture 1 cup at a time. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes.
    3. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 2 hours. When risen, punch down and divide dough in half.
    4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease 2 cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.
    5. To Make Filling: Combine the brown sugar, ground cinnamon, chopped pecans, 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup raisins. Pour 1/2 cup melted butter over the cinnamon mixture and mix until crumbly.
    6. Roll dough halves out into large rectangles (approximately 10×16 inches or so). Sprinkle the filling evenly over the dough and roll up each half tightly like a jelly roll, beginning at the wide side. When both are rolled, twist the rolls together and transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet, form into a circle, and seal the edges together. With scissors make cuts 1/3 of the way through the rings at 1 inch intervals. Let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

    Twist the 2 parts together

    Join ends of twisted dough

    7. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Push the doll into the bottom of the cake. Frost while warm with the confectioners’ sugar blended with 1 to 2 tablespoons of water. Add pruple, green, and yellow sugar crystals to garnish~

    Bake for 30 minutes

    Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez!

    ~Let the Good Times Roll~

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    AIDS: Give the Children of South Africa a Fighting Chance

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    I was born in 1980, the same year that the first cases of AIDS were diagnosed. In this limited amount of time, AIDS has grown into the worst public health crisis in human history.

     It’s amazing to think that all this has happened since I was a child and that myself and people younger than me have never lived in a world without this devastating disease looming over us.

    I spent my childhood in Memphis, Tennessee where I was exposed to the consequences of AIDS at an early age. I remember a friend of my mother’s who used to work at a salon where we would get our hair done.

    He always seemed healthy and strong; but over time, I noticed he grew weaker and didn’t understand why. Then he stopped showing during our regular appointments all together.  My mother did not discuss the difficult subject, but I later learned that he had died of AIDS. I was about 7 years old. “Advocacy is a basic right of every individual and organization and may be practiced without limit- it is an exercise of free speech protected by the U.S. Constitution (Worth, 2009 p.342). This is why I choose to advocate for AIDS.

    I have not had the privilege of meeting many of the brave children, women and men affected by HIV and AIDS, but I never forgot about my mother’s friend Michael. During my research of the AIDS epidemic in Africa, one of the most heart-wrenching touching statistics that I discovered is that of children in the southern region of Africa.

    “South Africa’s HIV and AIDS epidemic has had a devastating effect on children in a number of ways. There were an estimated 330,000 under-15s living with HIV in 2009, a figure that has almost doubled since 2001. HIV in South Africa is transmitted predominantly through heterosexual sex, with mother-to-child transmission being the other main infection route. The national transmission rate of HIV from mother to child is approximately 11%. Because the virus is transmitted from the child’s mother in cases of mother-to-child transmission, the HIV-infected child is born into a family where the virus may have already had a severe impact on health, income, productivity and the ability to care for each other (AVERT, 2010)”

    If millions of Americans died every year from polio or the flu, we’d be shocked and appalled because polio is preventable and the flu is treatable. With the proper attention, HIV is both preventable and treatable, yet millions of Africans die needlessly of the virus every year. We wouldn’t consider this acceptable in the U.S. so why would we stand for it anywhere else?

    What hurts me most are three words that should never be allowed to go together, have now become commonplace in Africa: child-headed households. Children orphaned by AIDS claiming the lives of their parents are often forced into crime, or sexual exploitation, or enrolled as child soldiers to fend for their families. This is unacceptable to me and very painful.

    The truth is we wouldn’t, and through globalization and awareness that comes from our increased interconnectivity online and off, more and more of us are taking a stand against this injustice. “We realize that this disease does not discriminate between national borders, and neither should the cure (Who 2006).”

    We must never give up until AIDS treatment and realistic prevention measures go hand-in-hand and become equally accessible worldwide; until we realize that keeping mothers alive and empowering them is critical to the well-being of the world’s children; and until we stand together and say, “We did not sit idly by and watch an entire continent perish.”

    Helping keep a child, or mother, or father, or brother or sister alive means turning the worst epidemic of our lifetime into the greatest victory of our generation.

    The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.

    Refrences:

    AVERT. (2010). HIV & AIDS in South Africa. Retrieved November 27, 2010, from AVERTing HIV & AIDS : http://www.avert.org/aidssouthafrica.htm

    Human Sciences Research Council (2009), ‘South African National HIV Prevalence, Incidence, Behaviour and Communication Survey, 2008: A Turning Tide Among Teenagers?’ Retrieved November 27, 2010, from http://www.hsrc.ac.za/SAHA.phtml

    WHO (2006, August), ‘Antiretroviral drugs for treating pregnant women and preventing HIV infection in infants: towards universal access’ Retrieved November 29, 2010, from http://www.who.int/hiv/pub/mtct/antiretroviral/en/index.html

    Worth, M. (2009). Nonprofit Management. (pp. 342 ). Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications.