Laissez les bon temps rouler! Translated, that means “let the good times roll”, and that’s exactly what will happen when you present this beautiful peanut butter filled King Cake.
To the uninitiated, King Cake is a New Orleans tradition which proliferates early in the year, particularly between the Epiphany and Mardi Gras, that necessary bit of excess and naughty goodness before the solemn days of Lent. The cake itself is made with an enriched, slightly sweet brioche-style dough, simultaneously feathery in texture and buttery-rich in flavor. It’s typically topped with a simple confectioners’ sugar icing, and if filled, it’s often with a cream cheese or praline mixture. But this version is perfect for peanut butter lovers, because it’s filled with an entire jars’ worth of Smooth Operator peanut butter (go ahead, have an OMG moment). It’s a cake that is as good for breakfast as it is for dessert, so go ahead and eat it all day long!
Don’t forget the festive garnishes: this cake is decorated with traditional purple, green and gold carnival colors which represent justice, faith and power (respectively), and has a secret hidden inside: a “feve”, or a trinket (often an uncooked bean, or a tiny baby figurine) hidden inside of the cake. Whoever finds the trinket is officially crowned king of the party, but with great power comes great responsibility: they’re also responsible for supplying the cake next time!
Prep time: 2 hours
Cook time: 30 minutes, plus cooling time
Total time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Yield: 10-12 servings (1 large cake)
For the cake:
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup (2 sticks) melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 whole egg, plus 3 egg yolks, lightly beaten
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 jar Smooth Operator Peanut Butter
For the icing:
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup cream (you may not use it all)
Decorating sugar or sprinkles in gold/yellow, green, and purple
a bean or baby figurine, to place inside of the finished cake
- 1. Combine the milk, brown sugar, melted butter, and vanilla in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan. Heat over medium-low heat until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture registers between 105-110°F. Remove from heat (if the temperature is higher than the suggested range, wait until it cools to 105-110°F; you don’t want it to be so hot that it kills the yeast).
- 2. Add the yeast to the liquid, and wait until the mixture looks slightly foamy / the yeast is slightly bubbling. Once that happens, stir in the egg yolks.
- 3. Transfer the liquid to a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment). Add the flour, cinnamon, and salt, and stir to combine; once the mixture is cohesive, knead, either by hand for about 10 minutes on a floured surface, or using your mixer for 6-8 minutes, or until the dough has become elastic and supple. It will be somewhat sticky, so handle using slightly floured or oiled hands.
- 4. Transfer the dough into a large, oiled bowl and let rise until doubled (or slightly more) in volume, about 1 hour. Near the end of the rising period, set up a baking sheet with a sheet of parchment paper.
- 5. Using a fist, gently press down the dough to deflate it, and turn onto a floured work surface. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a long, skinny rectangle, about 8 by 16 inches.
- 6. Slather the entire surface of the dough with the contents of your jar of Smooth Operator Peanut Butter.
- 7. Roll the dough, jelly-roll style, toward you, so that you end up with a long, skinny log of dough. Transfer the dough to the prepared baking sheet, and form it into a ring, finessing the edges together and smoothing the seam to seal in all of that peanut buttery goodness. Make 2-3 slashes on top of the dough to allow steam to escape during baking.
- 8. Let the ring of dough proof for about 30 minutes. The dough will expand; if the hole in the center is reduced, you can use your fingers to re-form it, though I found that the dough will expand again when baking anyway.
- 9. Near the end of the proofing period, preheat your oven to 375°F. Place the proofed cake into the oven, and bake for 25-30 minutes, rotating halfway through baking, or until golden brown. Remove from the oven, and allow to cool for about 30 minutes. It will slightly deflate as it cools. Totally normal.
- 10. If you have a baby figurine or other little trinket, stuff it in one of those vents!
- 11. Make the icing. Place the confectioners’ sugar in a large bowl, and add the cream, a little at a time, until it has reached a thick but easily spreadable consistency. Spread the icing on top of the ring of the cake, and then immediately (while the icing is still wet) apply the sprinkles or decorating sugar.
- 12. Serve into thick slices to serve. Store well-wrapped leftovers at cool room temperature for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 1 month.