King Cake 2022

THIS YEAR’S King Cake was entirely my own tinkering. The first time I had King Cake (1999?) I did not like the pastry so I tinkered, and eventually made my own recipe (based on the Brioche recipe in Essential Pepin). You need a food processor for this. Then I had to fix the filling. For a while I was happy with a traditional combo of sweetened cream cheese and pecans, but this year I tried a new thing that I made up. Then I topped it with a whisky buttercream. It is traditional to include a small baby toy in the cake. Whoever finds the Baby is supposed to host the next King Cake party. There’s more on this tradition at the end of the post.

So here’s the recipe for one small ring:

Brioche

  • 1/2 envelope (1.5 teaspoons) active dry yeast
  • 1/4 Cup warm water
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 large (pasture raised) egg
  • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 stick salted butter, softened
  • 1 large egg, beaten, for egg wash
  • minced orange zest (about 2 tablespoons) and the juice of 1/2 of the orange.

Combine the yeast, warm water, and sugar in a food processor. Let stand for 10 to 15 minutes, until bubbly.

Add the salt, eggs, orange juice, and flour to the yeast mixture and process for about 30 seconds. With the machine running, add the softened butter in chunks. Add the orange zest last and process for another 15 to 20 seconds. Transfer the dough to a bowl that has a lid (such as a Tupperware container, etc), cover with a cloth towel (not the lid yet), and let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free place for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until it has doubled in bulk.

Punch the dough down then put on the lid and put it in the fridge overnight. This step is very important: the dough has too much butter and not enough structure to be used until it firms up in the fridge. This overnight (or longer) step also hydrates the flour and makes for a softer dough. This step is unclear in the published recipe, but you can make sense out of Jaques talking through the recipe on the TV episode which, sadly, is not online.

Filling

Combine using a spoon or electric mixer. There should be no solid lumps of cheese. Let sit overnight to meld the flavors. There’s a lot of uber-sweet recipes out there for the filling – cream cheese, whipped cream, strawberries, pecan pie… I wanted something that was holiday flavored but tangy so, mincemeat it is.

To Assemble

For a cake about 8-9″ around (as in the picture), roll the solid dough out on a floured surface. You want a rectangle about 24″ x 8-9″. Trim the short sides so that there will be a smooth seam. The long sides can be a little rough. The dough should be about 1/8-1/4″ thick. You can make it longer if you like.

Place the filling in a line down the center of the dough. Wet one long side of the dough with water and then roll the dry side over to the wet side, letting the seam end up on the bottom of the cake. Then join the two ends into a circle and place on a round pan. (I use the removable bottom of one of my cake tins.) I have used a parchment paper liner, but it’s not needed. If your pan tends to stick, use your judgment.

Moisten the ends of the dough and slide one end into the other to make a better seam. I’m not yet good with this and it always ends up looking rather rough: we’ll cover it with frosting so don’t worry about it!

Once the dough has been rolled this thin it will not rise very much at all, but leave it sitting on the counter, covered with a towel, while the oven preheats.

Preheat oven to 425. When the oven reaches this temperature, put the cake in the oven and then set the temperature to 350. Bake for 40-50 mins. Remove from the oven and set it aside to cool fully before frosting.

If you’re going to add a small baby to this cake, now is the time to cut a slit into one side of the cake and insert the baby. You’ll cover the slit with frosting.

Frosting

  • 1.5 ounce whisky
  • 2-3 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1 stick softened butter (salted)
  • Food coloring (to make green, purple, and yellow frostings)

Place the sugar in a bowl. Dump in the whisky. Using a whisk, combine the sugar and the whisky. You may need to add additional sugar: keep whisking until there are no lumps of sugar and you have the consistency of a good, stiff frosting. Then begin whisking in the butter bit by bit. If you have an electric whisk this will make the frosting fluffier but it’s not needed. Once you have a good, rich buttercream, divide this into thirds. In three individual bowls, use the food coloring to make one yellow, one green, and one purple. Using the three colors frost the cake in any pattern you like. You can use stripes as I did, or swirl them together or whatever gets you excited. You can also use sugar sprinkles (etc) to make this even more festive.

The Baby and the Traditional Next Party

OK King Cake is intended to be served from Epiphany (it’s named for the Three Kings) until Mardi Gras, the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, the last day for all this silly feasting to happen. It’s best to serve this with friends. When you slice into the cake someone will get the baby. They are supposed to host the next party. If you serve the first King Cake on Epiphany (6 January) and then host your friends weekly, there can be up to 7 weeks (I think) of time here, so that’s a good few parties! Have coffee with friends – maybe do a book group? The person who gets the Baby this week brings the treats next week. The person who gets the Baby on Mardi Gras hosts the Epiphany Party next year. It’s really quite fun!

Manifest Destiny

The Readings for the Epiphany (A2)

Gentes esse cohaeredes, et concorporales, et comparticipes promissionis ejus in Christo Jesu per Evangelium
Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

JMJ

Rome knew what it was like to be the Chosen One. They ruled almost the entire world. Sure: they didn’t know about the Americas or even China, but if they had known they would have tried to conquer them as well. Stop being Marxist about your history: every empire has tunnel vision. In their Tunnel, by the grace of Jupiter and the might of Caesar, they ruled the world. God, however, had other plans. They had only cleared the field. They had only laid out the roads, networked the mass transit, taught two common languages to everyone. Rome had done their part. The plan was not about them.

King Herod knew what it was to be the chosen one. He had been chosen King of the Jews by the Senate of Rome. Granted, he had finagled it. But still he was chosen. When the folks back home decided to complain about it he killed them all. Herod was known for killing them all. So when these three wise men showed up and asked for the king of the Jews, yet not Herod, Herod was upset.

King of the ‘oo? No, Majesty: King of the Jews. What? I’M THE KING OF THE JEWS! Caesar said so! A baby? In a Small Town? SAD! I can wipe him out with a drone! He’s the number one enemy in the world!

In the end, as we all know, Herod lost. To a baby. Sad. For Herod. Herod was part of the plan: but the plan was not Herod.

Paul says Israel was chosen, but she misunderstood the why and the mechanics of being that chosen nation: Israel had a place in the plan but Israel’s place was not for Israel’s sake. It was for the sake of the plan. John the Baptist says God could raise up sons of Abraham from the stones if it was needed. Israel is part of the plan: but not the plan itself.

We totally understand why Herod would be so annoyed that three heads of government and three heads of state walked across his boarders and totally ignored him. I’m not comparing Donald Trump to King Herod at all. I mean, you know, the judges… but we – as a people – totally understand why Herod would be annoyed at being ignored. We The People will not be ignored. Even those of us who take a principled stand against various politically objectionable things… we hate it when we’re ignored. I don’t mean we dislike it in the way someone might dislike liver. I mean we dislike being ignored because NO ONE HAS A RIGHT TO IGNORE ME!

America knows what it means to be the Chosen One. We love to play up being God’s chosen, God’s savior who runs to the rescue of the weak and the lost. Is your country being attacked by pirates? We’re on it! Is the island being invaded by communists? We’re on our way! Are the Guerrillas or Juntinistas bothering you? We’ll be right there! We can fix anything: just ask. Sometimes you don’t even have to ask: we have agents, drones, and client countries that can rush in… hold on we can do this covertly if you want. You know, because what would the neighbor say if you needed help from US? Shhhh.

We need to learn that we have a part in the plan, but the plan is not for our sake: rather we are here for the sake of plan.

God’s Epiphany, God’s response to this is a crying baby in a food trough.

Again, this is not something Americans (maybe Westerners in general) like to hear. We’re quite convinced – like Rome – that we’re too big to fail. Culture needs us. Already, the Church in the West is dying and corrupt from our attention to power and, well, the Judges, you know. But the Church in the Global South and other places we like to bomb is growing stronger, more powerful and more evangelical. I am thankful for African Priests who come here to teach us the Gospel!

Each one of us is a part of the plan, but the plan is not about us. As Paul realized talking to the Ephesians, God had just revealed something that wasn’t clear to the ancients. God hadn’t set aside Israel to be set aside, special: rather God wanted to bring everyone up to Israel’s level of relationship with God. What is revealed or manifested here in this baby, this manger is not just a cool thing, but the Manifest Destiny of the entire human race: not just the Israelites, not just Americans, not just Westerners, not just Whites, but rather everyone.

When God was done with Rome, he cast it off like an old overcoat but keeping what is good in the Roman Church. When God is done with America, he will do the same and we need to be ready. When God is done with you, you will be in union with him – like it or not. Liking it will be heaven, not liking it will be hell.

Where will you be? Come kneel at the manger and find out.

Venite Adoremus

JMJ

The Readings for the Solemnity of the Epiphany of Our Lord:

Prout potestis legentes intelligere prudentiam meam in mysterio Christi: Gentes esse cohæredes, et concorporales, et comparticipes promissionis ejus in Christo Jesu per Evangelium.

As you reading, may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ: That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and copartners of his promise in Christ Jesus, by the gospel.

This is the real Christmas Joy and let us celebrate it today, the Epiphany, which is the Crown of Christmas. In twelve days all of the Mystery of the Gospel is Revealed – and I don’t mean the song, thank you.

Bishop Barron, in his Catholicism, starts this story with “God’s answer to human dysfunction was forming a people after his own heart.” God called Abraham out of the family of Man to be the Patriarch of that people, and of the seed of this man was born the people of Israel. God gave them the Law and the Prophets, and the Kingship. God gave them his own Temple, the place where God lived on earth, and called that people out from among the nations – time and again. And then from that people, God himself was born to us. But that was not the goal, per se. God was tearing down all the divisions, all the ways we keep ourselves apart. God started by tearing down the division between himself and us, then between his people and the rest of us. God is uniting all peoples into one in himself, in Christ.

This is why Epiphany is so important: the Magi represent the peoples of the Gentiles as they were known in the world at that time (traditionally, Caucasian, Asian, and African, hence three kings, although the Bible doesn’t say how many there were) coming to God’s people, the People of Israel, to honor their king and own him as King of the World. Epiphany is the Crown of Christmas. God is not just born for the Jews, but for all of us.

To us, today, this sounds odd. There are no real differences, to us, we even imagine we can ignore science in this regard and pretend our chromosomes don’t exist. What is this idea of a division between peoples? But this idea of no division is something our Modern Secular state actually inherits from the Church, which was intended to be the Mother of All Peoples. God is unifying all into himself. It was she who taught it to tribe upon tribe of gentiles, coming from beyond the Pale to join the Israel of God. We are no longer Saxon and Celt, but one in Christ. We are no longer Vandal and Roman, but one in Christ. We are no longer Barbarian and Greek, but one in Christ. We are no longer Slav and Byzantine, but one in Christ. We are no longer Black and White, but one in Christ. We are no longer K’iche and Spaniards, but one in Christ. 

Still, we all have our reasons for staying apart, do we not? We, each of us, have our petty sins and our most treasured vices that we would hide alone, cutting us off from our neighbours and thereby holding us further from God at every moment until we are all alone in the shadows. How are we to be united if we insist on holding on to the very things that tore us apart in the first place?

Epiphany, the Crown of Christmas, is the feast of the undoing of our Divisions. We have only one King. But how is this to be lived out? St Paul is full of ideas and we’ll read them over and over in Ordinary Times of the Church Year. Today, though, we hear the proclamation that all the peoples of the Earth, Jews and Gentiles, all races and nations, all have now only one King. Born in an animal feeding trough, in a town named after the staff of life, he is the real food come down from heaven and given to us all. 
Come let us adore him!