Happy Mardi Gras! It’s that time of year again, when the streets of New Orleans are covered in green, purple and gold beads. Well…actually they’re always like that. But after this weekend there are even more than usual!
The traditional dessert of Mardi Gras in general is a King Cake, a ring shaped doughy cake filled with cream cheese and cinnamon, covered in icing and doused in colorful sprinkles or sugar. And let me tell you…once you’ve had one? You’ll never survive another Carnival season without one. Unfortunately I’ve never seen a King Cake in Idaho, so unless I want to order one online (…I thought about it…) I have to make one for myself.
I made a traditional King Cake last year, and you can read more about the history of Mardi Gras on that post, but this year I wanted something a little bit easier. Cupcakes! The recipes I saw online though weren’t really King Cakes though, they were just vanilla cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and purple sprinkles. A King Cake has a texture more like a cinnamon roll, not a cake, so I knew these wouldn’t solve my cravings.
Instead, I simply made a smaller batch of a traditional cake recipe and divided it into muffin tins. It took a few tries to get the ratio right, but I finally created 12 cute little King Cake cupcakes! This is a much more reasonable amount of cake, too. Then again…they don’t call it Fat Tuesday for nothing!
The recipe is still a little long and I know yeast can be daunting to some, but your life really isn’t complete until you try a King Cake! So turn on some jazz, watch some videos for inspiration, and spend the afternoon pretending you’re in a second line marching down St Charles Avenue. And then make this Gumbo Poutine by Joy the Baker, because it looks like the best twist on a classic NOLA recipe that has ever been made.
Laissez les bon temps rouler! (Let the good times roll)
Mardi Gras King Cake Cupcakes (adapted from Mardi Gras King Cake)
*note: you will see some ingredients listed multiple times (such as sugar). I tried to separate them out by amounts needed at a certain time to prevent confusion. Make sure you read through the entire recipe before starting
For sugar topping
- 1 1/2 c sugar
- purple, green and yellow food coloring
- 4 ounces plain yogurt
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 3 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp warm water
- 1 tsp yeast (about 1/2 packet of instant yeast)
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 1/2 c bread flour
- 3 tbsp sugar
- 8 oz cream cheese
- 1 tsp vanilla
- zest of half an orange
- 2 tbsp melted butter
- 1/4 c sugar
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 3/4 c powdered sugar
- 1 tbsp melted butter
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp milk, more if needed
- Divide sugar into 3 small bowls. Add a few drops of each color food coloring to each bowl and mash with a fork to mix. Keep adding food coloring until desired color is reached. Set aside to dry.
- Combine the yogurt, baking soda, 3 tbsp of sugar, 1 tbsp butter and salt in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring until butter melts. Set aside to cool.
- Place the warm water into the bowl of an electric mixer then dissolve the yeast and 1 tsp sugar into the water. Let sit for 10 minutes.
- Pour the yogurt mixture, egg and 1 cup of the bread flour into the mixing bowl and using dough hook beat until blended. Continue adding 1/2 cup of bread flour at a time. Continue mixing for 5 minutes. The dough should be a slightly tacky ball and pulled away from the sides of the bowl. If it is still too sticky, add a little more bread flour.
- On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough until smooth, about another 5 minutes. Place in a lightly greased bowl. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
- While dough is rising, beat the 3 tbsp sugar, cream cheese, vanilla and orange zest until combined. Set aside.
- Once dough has doubled in size, punch it down on a floured surface. Roll dough into a rectangle, about 20 inches long and 12 inches wide (approximately).
- Brush the remaining 2 tbsp of melted butter over the top of the dough, stopping 1 inch from the long edges. Mix the remaining 1/4 c of sugar and cinnamon together and sprinkle over the butter layer.
- Spread the cream cheese filling in a thick layer over the top (don’t go past your 1 inch mark!)
- Starting on the long edge, begin rolling your dough making sure the cream cheese is tucked into the first roll. Continue rolling into a log with even thickness throughout. Using a dough scraper (or knife) cut roll in half. Cut each of those rolls in half. Now cut each of those into 3 rolls, resulting in 12 similar sized rolls. Place each roll “pinwheel” side up in a greased muffin tin.
- Cover the entire tin and let rest for 20 more minutes. Preheat oven to 375.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the outside is golden brown.
- While cake is baking, make the icing glaze. In a small bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, butter, lemon juice, vanilla and 1 tbsp milk. If the consistency is too thick, add more milk 1 tsp at a time until desired consistency is reached.
- Remove cupcakes from oven and let cool slightly on wire rack (if they are too hot the icing will slide right off). Drizzle the icing over each cupcake.
- Mash colored sugars with fork again to soften, then sprinkle in alternating colored bands over icing.