King’s Cake

King's Cake
one 10-inch tube cake

My friend, Elinor Kuhn, shares her recipe for King’s Cake with us. It does not have yeast in its make-up as do many of the King’s Cake recipes and requires less work. Traditionally King’s Cake is served during the Christmas holidays on Twelfth Night, January 6, the beginning of the Feast of Epiphany, until the culmination of Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, the day/night before the beginning Lent. When the cake is served, a man receiving a piece of cake containing a dried bean/pea (in New Orleans…. a very tiny plastic replica of a human baby) is chosen king for the festivities. A woman receiving cake containing a dried bean/pea is chosen queen for the evening.

  • 1/4 cup each dark and golden seedless raisins and dried currants
  • 1/4 cup chopped candied orange or lemon peel, or 2 tablespoons each
  • About 1/3 cup brandy
  • 5 cups sifted cake flour
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 cups butter or margarine, or 1 cup each butter or margarine and shortening, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 10 eggs, at room temperature and separated
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon peel
  • ½ cup heavy cream (see note)
  • 1/3 cup cognac (see note)
  • 1 dried navy or other bean (optional)
  • 1 dried pea (optional)

In a deep medium bowl, combine raisins, currants, and candied orange and/or lemon peel; pour brandy over fruit, cover, and allow to stand at room temperature for 12 hours. Fruit should absorb all of the liquid.

Sift together the flour and baking powder. In a large bowl, cream butter thoroughly. Gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add grated lemon peel and vanilla extract, mixing well. Alternately add dry ingredients, cream, and vanilla extract, mixing well. Stir in brandied fruit and bean and/or pea, if desired.

In a large bowl, beat egg whites until frothy; add lemon juice. Continue to beat egg whites until stiff, but not dry, peaks are formed. Fold beaten egg whites into cake batter. Evenly spoon batter into a greased and floured 10-inch tube pan with a removable bottom. (Cake pan will be almost full but will not overflow pan during baking.) Bake in a preheated slow oven (300 degrees F. for 3 hours or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Check cake after 2 hours but do not disturb batter. Cool cake in pan for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire cake rack to finish cooling. Store in an airtight container. Note: Cream may be reduced to 1/3 cup and cognac increased to ½ cup, if desired.

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