Advocate-tested recipe

King Cake

Makes 1 cake; serves 10 to 12. Recipe is from “A World of Cake: 150 Recipes for Sweet Tradition From Cultures Near and Far” by Krystina Castella (Storey Publishing).

1 tablespoon active dry yeast

1 cup warm water

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup milk, warmed

43/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

5 egg yolks

11/2 cups Cream Cheese Filling (see recipe)

1 (1-inch) plastic baby or hard candy

1 egg white

1 tablespoon milk

1 cup Lemon Icing (see recipe)

1 tablespoon each red, green and gold colored sugars

1/4 cup candied cherries, halved (optional)

1. Dissolve the yeast in the water. Add 1 tablespoon of sugar and the milk. Let sit for 10 minutes.

2. Combine the flour, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon and lemon zest in a food processor or blender. Pulse three to five times to combine.

3. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and the remaining sugar until fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks. Gradually add the butter mixture to the flour mixture and process until coarse. Then add the yeast mixture. Pulse eight to 10 times, until the dough forms a ball. If it is too sticky, add more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. If it is too dry, add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time.

4. Place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover. Let sit in a warm, dry place for at least 2 hours, until the dough doubles in volume.

5. Butter a large baking sheet. When the dough is ready, punch it down a couple of times to flatten it a bit. Divide the dough into three equal pieces. Roll out one piece on a floured work surface to about 12 inches by 4 inches wide with a thickness of about 3?8 inch. Spread one third of the Cream Cheese Filling over the dough, leaving a bare 1 inch on all sides. Then roll up the long side of the dough, forming a long cylinder, and pinch the edges to seal. Repeat with the other two pieces of dough.

6. Braid the three cylinders together, then wrap the braid into a circle. Where the ends come together, insert the plastic baby, and pinch the ends together to seal, smoothing the dough to hide the seam. Transfer the ring to the prepared baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit for 45 minutes, or until the dough doubles in volume.

7. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Beat the egg white with the milk. When the dough is risen, brush it with the egg white mixture. Place the cake in the oven and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until golden, or a thermometer reaches 200 to 210 degrees. Let cool.

8. Pour or pipe Lemon Icing over the cake. Sprinkle immediately with colored sugars and candied cherries, if desired. Let the topping set before serving.

Cream Cheese Filling

Makes about 11/2 cups.

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup sugar

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 egg yolk

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine the cream cheese, sugar, flour, egg yolk, lemon juice and vanilla in a bowl and blend until smooth.

Lemon Icing

Makes about 31/2 cups.

4 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup lemon juice

11/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

Yellow food coloring (optional)

Cream the sugar and butter until smooth. Mix in the lemon juice, lemon zest and a drop of yellow food coloring, if using.