One of the wonderful traditions of Mardi Gras, and probably the most delicious, is the King Cake. These old-fashioned sweet cinnamon swirled Mini King Cakes are my twist on traditional King Cake. Cinnamon and brown sugar cake is marbled with a buttery yellow cake in this easy recipe, drizzled with cream cheese glaze in traditional purple, green and gold Mardi Gras colors and topped with gold coin sprinkles for some special Mardi Gras fun!
My family prefers this tender and moist King Cake to the more traditional bread-like King Cake. And it’s so much fun when everyone finds a baby tucked in their individual cakelet for good luck!
WHAT MAKES THIS KING CAKE SPECIAL?
While a "traditional" King Cake is made from twisted strands of cinnamon dough, covered with icing, and sprinkled with purple, green and gold colored sugar, my Mini King Cakes are truly a richer and tender coffeecake. So flavorful, moist, and loaded with cinnamon and brown sugar flavor, it will be your new favorite too!
These mini cakes don't require a lot of ingredients, but similar to pound cake, the ratio of those ingredients is imperative! An abundance of moisture and the cakes will taste wet. Too much flour and the cakes will taste dry - if you are able to weight your flour, all the better for accurate measurements! Too many eggs and your cakes will taste eggy. The ratio that works best is 2 cups of flour, 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of butter, and 4 eggs. Simple and easy - and a wonderfully balanced cake and crumb! Pure vanilla extract and a touch of almond extract gives this a perfect taste, but the brown sugar and cinnamon swirl really make these little cakes shine!
THE KING CAKE STORY:
On the Christian calendar, the 12th day after Christmas is celebrated as the date that the Magi visited the baby Jesus bearing gifts. This day, January 6, is known by several names including “Epiphany”, “12th Night” or “King’s Day.” The celebration of this event has evolved over the centuries with each culture adding its own unique rituals.
January 6th is the start of the Mardi Gras season, which ends on Fat Tuesday the day before Lent. As part of the New Orleans’ Mardi Gras celebration, it is traditional to bake a cake in honor of the three Kings – the King Cake. King Cakes are oval-shaped to symbolize unity of faith. Each cake is decorated in the traditional Mardi Gras colors: purple (representing justice), green (representing faith) and Gold (representing power). The small baby, symbolizing the baby Jesus, is traditionally hidden inside each King Cake.
Like the biblical story, the search for the baby adds excitement, as each person waits to see in which slice of cake the baby will be discovered. While custom holds that the person who finds the baby will be rewarded with good luck, that lucky person is also traditionally responsible for bringing a King Cake to the next party or gathering.
The ”traditional” King Cake is made from twisted strands of cinnamon dough, covered with icing, and sprinkled with purple, green and gold colored sugar.
Cinnamon King Cake:
1 and 3/4 cups (220g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter (softened to room temperature)
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
4 large eggs (room temperature)
1/2 cup (120g) full-fat sour cream (room temperature)
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/3 cup light brown sugar (packed)
2 tablespoons cinnamon
2 tablespoons milk
Cream Cheese Glaze:
2 ounces cream cheese (room temperature)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (room temperature)
2 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup half & half
Gel Food Coloring: bright yellow, purple & green
Gold, Green & Purple sprinkles
Miniature Plastic Babies (available on Amazon) or Whole Almonds
HOW I MAKE THESE:
YIELD: 9 mini cakes
INSPIRED BY: Great Gram and my Mom
Originally posted March 2012; revised and reposted February 2021.
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