Mardi Gras King Cake
This moist, tender, buttery yeast bread, lightly sweetened then drizzled with vanilla glaze, sprinkled with colored sugars, and sometimes crowned with candied cherries, is a traditional New Orleans favorite. Served beginning on Epiphany, or Twelfth Night (January 6), it's enjoyed right on through Mardi Gras, a sweet symbol of this festive season. The sugars decorating the top of the cake mirror the color scheme of many a Mardi Gras parade float: gold (yellow) for power, green for faith, and purple for justice.
Originally King Cake was a rather plain bread whose flavor was almost all in its sweet toppings. Beginning in the late 1980s, however, customers began to demand something a bit more special. These days, most King Cakes are made with rich, brioche-like dough, and filled, most often with cream-cheese filling. While we give that version here, feel free to dream up your own filling: other New Orleans favorites include butter/cinnamon/sugar; almond (see "tips," below); various kinds of fruit; chocolate, and praline.