Traditional King Cake

Makes 1 king cake; 12-14 pieces. Recipe is by Stephanie Bernard, pastry chef at Tableau in New Orleans, who shares her personal king cake recipe.

Cake:

½ cup warm water

5 teaspoons active dry yeast

½ cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar

4 cups flour

1 teaspoon nutmeg

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon lemon zest

½ cup warm milk

4 ounces unsalted butter, melted

3 egg yolks

2 large eggs

Icing:

1 pound powdered sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 teaspoons vanilla

Milk, enough to make a glaze

Optional: purple, green and gold sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.

2. Make the cake: Combine the warm water, yeast and 2 teaspoons of sugar in a small bowl. Mix and set aside in a warm place for 10 minutes or until yeast begins to bubble.

3. In a bowl, combine the flour, ½ cup of sugar, nutmeg, salt, lemon zest, and add to an electric mixing bowl. Add warm milk, melted butter, egg yolks, whole eggs, and reserved yeast mixture. Beat with a dough hook until smooth.

4. Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface. Knead, adding small amounts of flour until the dough is no longer sticky. Continue kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes). Place the dough in a well greased bowl. Turn once so the greased surface is on top.

5. Cover the dough and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk (about 1½ hours). Punch the dough down and place on a lightly floured surface. At this point you can separate the dough in three and braid the dough, or you can keep it simple and make the dough into a cylinder, about 30 inches long. Place the cylinder on a buttered baking sheet. Shape into a ring, pinching the edges to seal. Cover, and let rise in a warm place for another 45 minutes. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.

6: Prepare the icing: Combine the powdered sugar and cinnamon. Add vanilla, mix, and then add enough milk to make a glaze consistency. When the king cake has cooled, pour glaze on top. Decorate with purple, green and gold sugar if desired.