When you mention the words “Mardi Gras” most people instantly think of New Orleans. Although I have never traveled to New Orleans, it is a place that I think many people, myself included, have dreamed of visiting. Although the thought of the overcrowding on Bourbon Street, at night, during Mardi Gras is enough to put me in a cold sweat, being able to visit the culturally rich area is something I would still love to do one day.
There are many culturally rich foods associated with Mardi Gras, and one of those is the King Cake. Having lived in southern Manitoba my whole life, there have not been a lot of Mardi Gras celebrations, and I had never heard of a King Cake until a few years ago. From my reading and research, it appears to be a bread dough that is rolled around a filling and formed into a ring before baking. It seems that everyone has their own idea of what the filling for a King Cake should be. Raisins. Cream Cheese. Spices. Strawberries. Chocolate. It seems there is a wide variety of fillings for different regions or time of year. I am going to be showing you how to make a gluten-free King cake with a cream cheese, brown sugar, cinnamon & pecan filling, but you are free to use your favorite filling in place of it.
And whether or not you place a baby figurine in or under the cake (after baking) is totally up to you. I’ve also read of people using dried beans, an orange slice, or a few whole pecans in place of the baby figurine. Whatever you use, make sure it is not something that someone can choke on while eating this delicious cake.
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour (see note)
- 1/2 cup tapioca starch
- 1 Tbsp rapid rise yeast
- 3 Tbsp white sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3 tsp xanthan gum
- 1/4 cup instant vanilla pudding mix (dry); OR 1/4 cup dry milk powder
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 4 Tbsp margarine
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 eggs, room temperature
- 1 tsp cider vinegar
- 2 Tbsp oil (I used Canola)
- 1 tsp vanilla
NOTE: 4 cups superfine brown rice flour, 1 1/3 cups potato starch (not flour), 2/3 cup tapioca starch. Combine all ingredients in a large zipper-top bag. Shake until well blended.
- 8 ounces cream cheese, very soft
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
- 2/3 cup finely chopped pecans
Egg Wash (optional):
- 1 egg white
- 1 Tbsp water
- 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 1 1/2 Tbsp melted butter
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1-2 Tbsp milk, to reach desired consistency
- purple, yellow and green food colouring, optional
- In the bowl of your stand mixer, mix all dry ingredients until combined. Set aside.
- Put water and margarine in a glass measuring cup and microwave just until the margarine has melted. Remove from microwave and stir. Add milk, stir. Add other wet ingredients and whisk to combine.
- With the stand mixer running (using the paddle attachment), pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Scrap down the bowl if you have to.
- Allow to mix on medium speed for 3 minutes.
- Take a piece of plastic wrap and lay it out on a slightly damp counter top, so it covers an area bigger than 8″ x 16″. Sprinkle about 2 Tbsp of granulated sugar on the wrap. Lay ball of dough on top of that. Gently lay another piece of plastic wrap over the top of the dough. Pat the dough down into a roughly squarish shape. Lift and reposition the top plastic wrap whenever you need to. Roll the dough out (with the plastic wrap on top) to a square approximately 10″ x 18″. If you find the dough too sticky, you can spray the top of it with a little bit of oil. I found that helped quite a bit. Remove the plastic wrap.
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine the very soft cream cheese, the brown sugar and the cinnamon. Mix until well blended.
- Using an offset spatula, or the back of a spoon, carefully spread the filling mixture evenly across dough’s surface. Leave 1 1/2″ along one long end without any filling, this is where your dough will be sealed. Sprinkle the pecans evenly over the cream cheese mixture.
- Starting along the long end, use the bottom sheet of plastic wrap to lift the edge of the dough and roll it up, forming a long cylinder. Start with the edge that has filling on it, that will be the center of your cake.
- Roll the plastic wrap UNDER, so that you end up with a thin strip of plastic wrap just under the dough. Prepare a large baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper, and place it right beside your rolled up dough. Carefully bring the ends of the plastic wrap up and lift the dough onto the baking sheet, placing the roll on its side, so the plastic wrap is now on the outside of the roll. Using the plastic wrap, form the rolled up dough into a circle, so that the ends meet. The dough will be very soft, and can not be moved much, so work carefully.
- Beat together the egg white and water. Using a pastry brush, brush the top of the King Cake with the egg. Loosely cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm, draft-free place for 30-40 minutes, or until nearly doubled in size.
- Bake in a preheated 350° oven for 30-35 minutes.
- Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes.
- Using two large spatulas (or turners), carefully lift the King Cake from the baking pan, and place it on a wire cooling rack set over a baking sheet.
- Mix all icing ingredients together until smooth. Divide the icing between 3 bowls, and colour each bowl a different colour; one green, one yellow and one purple. You can leave the icing white, and sprinkle the roll with coloured sugar, but I decided to colour the icing so that you did not have a crunchy texture from the sugar.
- Using a spoon, drizzle the icing onto the King Cake in stripes. Let the cake sit another 10 minutes, then using the large spatulas again, transfer the cake to a serving tray.
- This cake is delicious served warm, but is also wonderful the next two days, especially if you reheat it in the microwave for 15 seconds. Be sure to store leftovers in an airtight container.
For more gluten-free Mardi Gras recipes, check the following links, and have your own Mardi Gras celebration: