Chances are, if you're reading this, you already know what a king cake is. If you don't, here's a good article to get you started. This year, I wanted to simplify the process a bit and make it a little easier for home bakers. Over the years, I've learned that not a lot of people really want to deal with a huge multi-step process. Enter Rhodes frozen dough. You've probably seen their frozen rolls in the grocery store. They look like this:
You can find them at pretty much any supermarket. I've also seen them at Walmart and Target. They have a handy store locator on their website. As far as I can tell, these two are the same dough. The nutritional information is just different because the "Texas Rolls" are larger. For my king cakes, I used Rhodes White Bread. It's sold in the same place (frozen foods) but it can be a little bit harder to find. Here's what the package looks like, but any of the packages I've uploaded here will work.
"Non-GMO, Made with Cane Sugar, No preservatives, Vegan, Vegetarian, Kosher Pareve. Made In The USA."
No matter which package you find, you will need to plan in advance because they have to defrost and rise. There are instructions on the package that explain how to do this and how long it takes. One way is to put the frozen dough in the refrigerator the day before you're baking. At very least, plan for 4 hours of defrost and rise time. You will take the frozen dough out of the package, put it in an oiled vessel (9x13, baking pan), cover it with saran wrap, and let rise in a warm place. NOTE: if you purchase Rhodes rolls (not white bread loaves), you will need to combine them to make the cakes. Buying the dough in loaves eliminate that step. But, combining them is pretty easy once they've defrosted and risen. Just take about a third of the rolls and form them into a larger ball.
This is what the loaves look like once they've risen (and you stuck your hand into the dough when pulling it out of the microwave where they were being held). It's at least twice the size it was when it was frozen. I wanted two different kinds of cake for this demonstration, so I defrosted two. You can absolutely just do one at a time.
We are going to take two different approaches to the king cake design. The first is the harder one because it's kind of braided. If that is more than you want to deal with, keep reading because there's a much simpler one after this.
1. After dusting both sides of the risen dough with a little flour, roll it out until it's about 15" long and maybe 4" across. It won't be exact. Don't worry. The dough stretches. 2. Spread your filling out down the center (see recipe below for suggestions). Do your best to spread it out, leaving around 3/4 of an inch on all sides with no filling so we can get the edges to stick together.
3. Roll the furthest edge toward you until the filling is entirely encased by dough.
If that isn't clear, watch this quick video to see what I mean by rolling it (he rolls the other way, away from him, but it's the same process)
4. Now go along the seam and pinch it closed. You don't want it to pop back open, so make sure you get every little piece (especially if you used a lot of flour, you might need to brush some off).
5. Flip it over so the seam side is down (on the table) and cut the length of it with a pizza cutter, leaving 1.5 to 2" connected at the top. In my instagram story, I described this as "making a pair of pants."
6. Grab each leg of the pants from the bottom and twist it a quarter turn so that the filling and lines of dough are visible from the top. Just a quick twist upward. We want nothing but dough touching the table.
7. Fold one leg over the other until it's a long twisted piece of dough. Form into an oval, pinching the ends together. It doesn't have to look pretty, just get them connected. If you need to see this in action, I made some miniature ones with the kids on instagram that shows the rolling, filling, sealing, and cutting process. 8. Set on a parchment lined pan with a lip (because that filling can be sticky and will spill out a little as it bakes).
9. Let rest on the baking sheet for about 30 minutes while you preheat the oven to 350°. 10. Then bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
I added a little purple, green, and gold luster dust from the baking supply shop, but you don't have to do that. You can drizzle with glaze, add sprinkles, or just leave it as is. I love that this version isn't so incredibly sweet as its glazed counterpart.
Option 2 is much easier. You will need one of the Rhodes loaves (or an equal amount of rolls, combined into a dough ball). Roll it out just as we did in the pecan version above. The filling this time is a cherry one (Solo brand cake filling would be great. If you can't find the fruit ones, the almond paste is delicious.)
This is cherry cake filling from my bakery supply place, not the Solo brand. It's a lot more processed, but I already had a tube of it on hand.
Then you're going to roll it up and pinch the length of it just like we did above for the pecan. This time, DO NOT CUT the dough. It is going to stay in a long tube shape.
Bend it into a ring shape, tucking one end into the other so the filling doesn't leak out during baking. You can pinch the ends here the same way you did along the seam. Optional: brush with a vegan egg wash substitute. I used a reduced aquafaba that I already had in the fridge. You can also just use a nondairy milk.
Let it rest for 30 minutes while you preheat the oven to 350°. Then, bake for 20 minutes.
After the cake has cooled, the traditional topping is a poured fondant (or a thick glaze). Recipe below. Add copious amounts of purple, green, and gold (yellow is okay) sprinkles.
Share with friends and Laissez les bon temps rouler!
Quick & Easy King Cake
For the dough:
1 package of Rhodes white bread dough or rolls
For the pecan praline filling, combine the following:
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2/3 cup corn syrup
3 TBSP milk
3 TBSP melted butter
3 TBSP cornstarch
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups pecans
For a basic cinnamon roll filling mix together: 1 cup brown sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
1/3 cup of butter
Alternate: Solo almond paste or canned cake filling. Optional poured fondant glaze:
3 cups of powdered sugar
4 tablespoons of water or nondairy milk
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract Bake at 350° for 20 minutes.