Come on a journey with me, my children. A journey of mystery and intrigue. A journey that is not nearly as exciting as I’m making it sound right now. It is a King Cake making journey! Kind of!
I have no connection to Mardis Gras or New Orleans. I just like King Cake. I make one every year, but I’ve never really been super happy with the results, you know? It got a whole lot more difficult post-gluten, too. Making a sweet dough that is substantial enough to be able to roll but won’t end up like pie dough has been tricky at best. Last year, I followed one of those recipes with a billion obscure ingredients and it turned out...fine? But the stress wasn’t worth it.
There are a bunch of recipes out there that use a bundt pan instead of rolling the dough, but for whatever reason last year I was staunchly Against It. But this year I was tired and my hands hurt. So I figured why not, let’s give it a try. As I type this, I have no idea how it’s going to turn out. It’ll be a fun experiment. Will it work? We’re gonna find out. Together! Hooray!
When it comes to King Cake fillings, there are two main schools of thought: 1. almond paste, or 2. cream cheese and cinnamon. I fall squarely into the almond paste category. Why? 🤷🏻♀️
I prefer to make my own almond paste, but you can absolutely buy it. It’s the same stuff. You can find it in the baking aisle of most major grocery stores. Making it is pretty easy if you have a food processor, but honestly if you don’t have the spoons then using the store bought stuff isn’t going to make a difference.
Put the almond flour and confectioners sugar into a food processor and pulse it to combine. Then add the almond extract and the water, and pulse some more. It’ll turn itself into a ball, at which point you can dump it out onto some plastic wrap.
You can wrap that sucker up into a log that looks like those slice and bake sugar cookie dough and keep it in the refrigerator for up to like 10 weeks. A lot of recipes use eggs, which probably help with the texture, but I don’t think they’re necessary.
And now the cake (which is more like a bread). I used a King Arthur Flour Bread and Pizza Dough mix and followed the bread instructions on the back of the box. I ended up adding some stuff that’s not in my ingredients picture because I didn’t know I was going to use them until I was using them. Yay for experimenting! I added:
1 tsp almond extract (with the wet ingredients)
1/2 cup sugar
1 combined cup almond flour and regular flour
a healthy few shakes of cinnamon
a little bit of nutmeg
After the first rising stage (in which it kind of puffed up a bit, but didn’t really rise), I assembled the dough in a bundt pan.
Fun tip for bundt pan prep- spray it with cooking spray, put some flour in it, cover it tightly with plastic wrap (I used the plastic that had been covering the dough), and shake it really hard to coat the whole inside with the flour. Hang on to the plastic wrap, because after everything is assembled you can use it to cover the pan again for the second rise.
Spread some of the dough in the bottom of the pan. Then layer on some almond paste. Keep doing that until you’ve made it through all of the dough (making sure you end with dough, not almond). How much almond you use totally depends on personal preference. When you’re done, smooth it out and cover it with plastic for the second rise.
Bake in a 350° oven for 50-60 minutes (probably?). It’s in the oven now, so we’ll see!
Incorrect! I took it out at 33 minutes. I haven’t cut into it yet, but the outside is golden and the interior temperature got up over 200° so it should be fine.
Typically, it’s iced with a simple glaze or royal icing and then covered with colored sugar. Sometimes I do that, sometimes I go with colored icing. I haven’t decided which way I’m going with this, but it miiiiiight depend on what’s in my pantry...
Icing it is!
Verdict: it’s not bad! It’s more bready and less pastry-y than I generally like. And it’s lacking that beautiful swirled center. But it tastes great and was way less labor intensive than making it the “right” way.
The search for the perfect gluten free King Cake is still on, but this is a lovely alternative for now.
1 3/4 cup almond flour
8-10 tbsp confectioners sugar
1/4 tsp almond extract
3 tbsp water
1. Put flour and sugar in a food processor and pulse until combined.
2. Add almond extract and water and pulse again, until ingredients form a dough-like ball.
3. Put paste onto plastic wrap and roll into a log shape.
1 box King Arthur Flour Gluten Free Bread and Pizza mix
1 tsp almond extract
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1. Make dough according to bread directions on the back of the box. Add the almond extract with the wet ingredients and the rest of the extras with the dry ingredients.
2. Before the second rise, layer dough and almond paste (from the previous recipe- to taste) in a prepared bundt cake pan.
3. During the second rise, preheat oven to 350°.
4. Bake 30-40 minute, until the exterior is golden brown.
5. Allow to cool for 5 minutes in the pan, and then invert it onto a wire rack (and remove the pan) to cool the rest of the way.
6. Once the cake is completely cool, it is ready for decorating!