Time to celebrate Mardi Gras! It seemed like Mardi Gras snuck up and came a bit early this year…maybe that’s just me. Anyways, I wanted to do something special in celebration of Mardi Gras this year. Really I just look for any holiday I can use as an excuse to create some sort of new and exciting recipe. I’m not even going to a party, parade, or hanging out with a bunch of people for Mardi Gras. I’m an introvert and much prefer small gatherings with just a few family/friends versus a big, raucous party. I really do mostly celebrate “non-major” holidays solely with food.
Okay, so I MIGHT consider wearing some beads while eating the cake. That doesn’t take much effort anyways because I already have a bunch of Mardi Gras necklaces and wearing beads is something fun and different. So why not? My mother had already planned on making her shrimp gumbo (which is to-die-for!) so I wanted to handle the dessert. Enter: the classic King Cake!
First a bit of a history lesson about the King Cake…
“The “king cake” takes its name from the biblical three kings. In Catholic liturgical tradition, the Solemnity of Epiphany – commemorated on January 6 – celebrates the visit of the Magi to the Christ Child. In the southern United States, the tradition was brought to the area by colonists from France and Spain and is associated with Carnival (also known as Mardi Gras). In the U.S. Gulf Coast since the 1950s, the most common trinket to hide in the baked King Cake has been a small plastic baby doll. While custom holds that the person who “finds” the baby will be rewarded with “good luck”, that person is also traditionally responsible for bringing the King Cake to the next party or gathering.”
Since I did not have a small plastic baby on hand to add to my King Cake I went with the only small plastic trinket of sorts I could find around the house. Which happened to be a small plastic heart shaped ring. Hey, whatever works! At least it’s green, one of the popular Mardi Gras colors.
I tried to lighten up this recipe to create a semi-healthy King Cake. I simply looked up a lot of different cake recipes and used certain ingredients and ideas from multiple sources to create the cake and filling. So now, without further ado…A Lighter King Cake!
Lighter King Cake
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup Splenda brown sugar blend (or 1/2 cup brown sugar)
2 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
1/2 cup 2% milk (warmed to about 110 degrees)
1/4 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. unsweetened applesauce
1 Tbsp. coconut oil, melted
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extractFor the Filling:
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup bourbon
1/4 cup and 2 Tbsp. Splenda brown sugar blend (or 3/4 cup brown sugar)
2/3 cup toasted pecans
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. grated orange zest (or 2-3 drops orange extract)
1 dry bean, small plastic baby (or small plastic green ring in my case)For the Glaze:
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 Tbsp. water
sprinkles in colors of yellow, purple, and green
Lightly grease 6-cup bundt cake pan with cooking spray or margarine. In large bowl, mix together 3/4 cup or each type of flour, sugar, yeast, and salt. Add in the warm milk, applesauce, and oil. Use a handheld mixer to beat the eggs in one at a time, making sure each egg is well incorporated in the mixture before adding the next. Stir in the vanilla.
Stir in the remaining of the flours gradually while using the handheld mixer to incorporate the flours. Continue to beat mixture about 1 minute until all is incorporated and it is starting to get really sticky and hold together well. Cover and allow mixture of dough to rest at least 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, begin making the filling. Add the raisins and bourbon to a small sauce pan and allow the raisins to plump over medium heat. For the bourbon, I used Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey Whiskey (so I used whiskey instead of bourbon technically…but it’s your own personal preference) Once raisins and bourbon have been heated through, remove from heat and add brown sugar, toasted pecans (toasted lightly in a small skillet until you just start to smell them), vanilla, cinnamon, orange zest or orange extract, and small trinket of choice. Mix together. There’s my little green ring thrown in right there!
Once the dough mixture has set, pour half of it into the greased bundt pan. Using a metal spoon, create a sort of trough in the middle of the dough and gently add the filling mixture all around the dough ring onto the cake. Add the remaining half of the dough on top, making sure to try and cover the mixture and edges. Cover with a damp towel and allow to rise for 1 1/2 hours.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Once dough has set and risen to roughly double in size, bake the cake for 25 minutes or until golden brown on top. Remove from oven and allow cake to cool in pan at least 30 minutes. Flip cake over onto cooling rack to cool completely before glazing.
To make glaze simply mix the confectioner’s sugar and water together until all clumps are removed. It should be not too thick, not too thin. Remember, you’re creating a glaze more than an icing. Using a spoon, gently pour the glaze over all the beautiful golden brown nooks and crannies of the cake. Finish off with some pretty purple, green, and yellow sprinkles. Unfortunately, I only had green and yellow on hand, but I will definitely add some purple pizzazz of sprinkles next time!
And there you have it. A gorgeous and regal King Cake that will impress all your buddies and family for the Mardi Gras parties and festivities. Whether you’re throwing a big party or just want to make a date night with this cake all to yourself….Hey, I won’t tell. Plus it IS a lighter King Cake. Definitely okay to go back for seconds.
Healthy Recipe Tidbits
- Used whole wheat flour in addition to all-purpose flour for extra fiber and nutrients
- Used Splenda brown sugar blend to cut back on calories and it also helps make the cake a bit more diabetic friendly. If you didn’t include the icing on top, that would be another way to cut back on the sugars to make the cake more diabetic friendly.
- Whiskey (should you choose to use whiskey instead of bourbon) is fat-free and contains antioxidants and has been shown to be beneficial to those concerned with cardiovascular disease because it aids in restricting oxidation of low density lipoproteins (LPL’s) in the blood which cause heart disease.