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!

The Hunger Games

Westin St Francis Hotel in SF, 1904

JMJ

The Readings for the 6th Tuesday of Ordinary Time (B2)

Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras

Nemo cum tentatur, dicat quoniam a Deo tentatur : Deus enim intentator malorum est : ipse autem neminem tentat.
Let no man, when he is tempted, say that he is tempted by God. For God is not a tempter of evils, and he tempteth no man. 

The Apostle, St James, points out here the oldest bugaboo: Original Sin or, as the Byzantines call it, Ancestral Sin. It’s a weakness – not a “mark” on the soul, but more like that shopping cart that has one wheel that’s wonky and always pulls to the right as you make the first left  at the end of the bakery aisle in Ingles. The cart just will not drive the way you want it. God does not tempt us, nor did God make the wheel go wobbly wobbly to the right at the end of the aisle.  

For the Mediaeval philosophers, it was the eyes that led the soul astray: the eyes are the windows of the soul! Temptation comes in (like rocks thrown in from outside) when we see something we might want – be that a physical thing, or a thing to do, or a person, the idea is first cast in through the eyes.  Our temptations are not of God, nor are they a call from God to indulge. Maybe you really do want more stuff in the bakery aisle. Unusquisque vero tentatur a concupiscentia sua abstractus, et illectus. Every man is tempted by his own concupiscence, being drawn away and allured.  You are tempted to get the Red Velvet Cake…

This is the patience we began talking about yesterday. Beatus vir qui suffert tentationem. Blessed is the man that endureth temptation. Temptation is not pretty. It’s boring usually. It’s the same thing, over and over, working against the will: one thought pestering you until you swear you will go mad if it doesn’t stop or you don’t give in.

In CS Lewis’ Perelandra there is this most frightening of scenes which I’ve referenced before. In this scene, Dr Ransom, the protagonist, is tempted by Dr Weston, the antagonist (who is possessed by the devil). In the absolute darkness of a night with no artificial light and no stars, the Devil calls out Dr Ransom’s name.

Ransom.
What?
Silence.

Ransom.
What?
Silence.


Ransom.
(Obstinate refusal to reply)
Ransom.

Ransom.
Ransom.

What?
Silence.


This repeats all night long. When Dr Ransom gets used to ignoring the voice, the voice changes: and becomes a woman’s voice in horror, or a child’s voice, or a growl to frighten him.

Ransom.
Ransom.
Ransom.
Ransom.
Ransom.
Ransom.
Ransom.
Ransom.
Ransom.
Ransom.

I swear to you this is the scariest scene I have ever read in a book! Scary, because it is so real. It takes patience and perseverance to get through that. And giving in to your desires is not the answer. This is the patience we were talking about yesterday. To sit there, asking for help, while something inside is calling out your name, over and over. And over. Again. That power to call out your name does not mean it is you.

In fact, the concept of Original Sin means we don’t have the ability to self-diagnose in these areas. Quite the contrary: we are most susceptible to this Weston Effect in those places where we feel most secure, where we are mostly blind to the possibility of error. (This is true of things that might be called “evil” as well as things that might be called “good”! Is that call to marriage really what God wants for you? What about that call to ordination? This is why we have father confessors, spiritual directors, and processes of discernment in the Church: to weed out Weston.)

So what are you giving up for Lent? A reminder, by the way: in the West the traditional fast is still to say “Carnivale” today. To give up meat from now to Easter. It’s ok if you want to substitute another sort of penance: but meatlessness seems to scare a lot of folks.

In both the East and the West it is traditional to Fast – meaning to give up some part of your food. Until about 60 years ago, the fasting rules were rather more extreme than just “no meat on Friday”. 

From the Key of Heaven, a Roman Catholic book of prayers and piety. Published in 1901


Read that! No meat all Lent (except Sundays) and one meal a day plus one side salad. My understanding is that by the mid 20th century the only change was “two side salads”. At the Monastery we kept the 1 side salad rule.

In the East, Lent is, essentially, Vegan. No fish is allowed, nor dairy, nor eggs (this even on Sundays). There is no alcohol allowed either, although some folks bend the rule for beer. 

The purpose of any of these fasts was not because food was bad, but because we tend to over indulge all the time. This is increasingly true: we eat most meals as if we were feasting (when compared to the rest of the world). The function of saying no to things we want is to train the will to say no to other things we might want as well. Avoiding hamburgers and milkshakes for 40 days does not save one or make one pious. It makes one stronger willed. And with that will, then, to avoid the Weston Affectus, the simple responding to each call of one’s name by the desires within. Giving up something for Lent is not intended to make one holy. But it is intended to give one a tool for becoming holy. 

So what are you giving up tomorrow? If it’s something easy, maybe it’s time to think about something else. As long as you realize your not doing itYou’re the shopping cart and, even with a wobbly wheel, God will get you to the Feast of Pascha. God will give you the strength to compete in this game as long as you rely on him. 

Ransom.

(Obstinate refusal to reply)

Ransom.
Ransom.
Ransom.
Ransom.
Ransom.
Ransom.
Ransom.
Ransom….




























































Ransom.