Cracking my knuckles I find myself behind the computer after a brief hiatus to clumsily lead you all on a culinary caravan of warm yeasty doughs, blocks of full fat butter, and thick ass frosting.
Today we are honored to bring you our very important and very 2019 take on a nearly 300 year old historical bake known as The King Cake. Traditionally celebrated and enjoyed from the end of Epiphany through the start of Mardi Gras, this charming dessert has many variations all over the world. From the flaky puff pastry of the galette des rois in Northern France or the colorful roscon de reyes in Spain, to the cinnamon filled brioche-style cake we’re most familiar with down in beautiful New Orleans--their recipes are all completely different, but the spiritual significance is the same. This humble ring of dough, to me, represents renewal, the closing of a chapter and the splendor of a new beginning. To facilitate these sentiments we began by rallying around the kitchen table with armfuls of friends, bottles of fermented grapes, and farkle.
For the W&B crew, it’s the New Orleans variant adorned with purple (for justice), green (faith), and gold (power) that we’ve always held most dear, so we scoured the internet to hunt down the most authentic recipes we could find and, in true Wake & Bake fashion, added our own little flare. Spoiler alert: it involves cookie butter.
Still reeling from the previous night’s exploits (Spiderweb Salon’s New Year’s Revolution!!) we gathered in Caitlin’s kitchen, ferociously craving frittatas, advil, and let’s be honest, more booze. Chicago-based writer, performer, & spiderpal Chelsea Fiddyment arrived to delight us with her presence, scribbling postcards at the kitchen table and waxing sentimental about our collective creative exploits (if you missed your chance to score her & Reba Elliott’s Trash Baby Manifesto at the show it’s available online too!). We also had the pleasure of a visit from the talented writer, documentarian, and curator of Dallas’ Ash Studios (among about a billion other wonderful projects): Darryl Ratcliff!! We welcomed Darryl’s effervescent presence in the kitchen as he got acclimated to our aggressive hospitality practices, which involved offering him obscene amounts of food + beverage choices before even having the chance to sit down. What can we say? We love having special guests join us in the kitchen!
As we started working the dough, it hit us like a royal smack across the face: this should be a Queen Cake. If 2018 taught us anything, it’s that we can redefine, reinvent, and reclaim the expectations put upon us by lesser men. In that moment, our culinary Queen Caitlin had the genius idea of mixing cookie butter into the cream cheese filling which is what elevated and set this apart from the standard King Cake. While our dough was rising, everyone assembled around the kitchen table to throw dice, talk shop, and sing praises for Hamilton the musical. In a discussion about building artistic empires and owning one’s Queendom, the phrase “kiss the ring” was uttered by Darryl and lit up like a firecracker in my brain; I thought how incredibly apt that was, considering we were literally making a ring of pillowy dough with a royal moniker.
This simple recipe makes two rings of dough, which is perfect if you’re feeling adventurous and decide to add your own flare on one or both*! We made one with the traditional cream cheese, cinnamon filling and the other was layered with the cookie butter mixture. In lieu of buying sprinkles, we made our own colored sugars, which can be done easily with a ziplock bag and food coloring! You don’t have to slice these cakes up prior to baking--they can be served in a simple ring as is, but this dough was such a joy to work with that we felt she deserved a little more accessory. Don’t be afraid to try different scoring techniques and let those inner swirls be seen! Tradition calls for a small baby figurine or trinket be hidden inside the baked pastry. Whoever finds the baby is supposed to have good luck and/or buy next year’s cake, but we skipped this step altogether, because we were hungry and frankly, we don’t need a fake baby telling us how to live our lives.
Go channel your inner Queen and watch in delight as your loyal subjects bow down to kiss these rings!
Feel free to play around with the cream cheese filling. Follow the filling recipe, then add a bit of caramel sauce, Nutella, cookie butter, brown butter, cinnamon, cardamom or even citrus zest! The dough is neutral enough and everything goes with cream cheese! Go wild!