Miniature King Cakes A La Mode with Bourbon Creole Cream Cheese Icing
There's always a reason to eat in this damn city. Most people in the country are still trying to keep to their New Year's resolutions and melt away their winter weight gain, but in New Orleans, we are celebrating Carnival. Which means king cake. And more booze. Oh, dear.
Of all the "party" holidays, Mardi Gras is hands down my favorite. On Halloween there's too much pressure to find the perfect costume and mine usually sucks. On New Year's Eve, you're expected to do something amazing with all of your closest friends that will set off the New Year right. I mostly find myself celebrating by finishing my second bottle of wine and watching fireworks with whoever didn't go home for the holidays - which is super fun, but not quite "watching the ball drop in NYC while being fed caviar from David Beckham himself" fun.
Mardi Gras is different, though. You don't have to try and find the perfect plans or the best costume. Walk outside and the whole city turns into a party, wear some crazy outfit if you want...or don't! Mardi Gras is a party that everyone's invited to, just as they are. It's a time of year when the city's upsetting race and class barriers dissipate, where you can find people from literally every walk of life partying together, celebrating life and the beauty of New Orleans.
Back to the food. I made miniature king cakes a la mode, featuring bourbon creole cream cheese ice cream. This ice cream is for serious whiskey lovers and features nearly a shot of bourbon per half cup serving (you're welcome), so definitely don't feed it to your kids, unless they are resisting nap time. I'm kidding. Don't give this to your kids.
The bourbon flavor is super potent, and makes this ice cream kind of more like a frozen cocktail than a dessert. If this doesn't appeal to you (for whatever crazy reason), substitute half of the bourbon with heavy cream. It'll freeze a bit harder but still be delicious. The king cake portion of this recipe is adapted from Saveur Magazine, and turned out exactly as I had hoped. Enjoy, responsibly!
- 1 (¼-oz.) package active dry yeast
- ¼ cup sugar
- ½ cup milk
- 2 tbsp. light brown sugar
- ½ tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 egg
- 1 egg yolk
- 2¾ cups flour
- ¾ tsp. kosher salt
- 8 tbsp. softened butter
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 4 T cinnamon
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1/4 cup buttermilk
- purple, green and gold sanding sugar (if you can't find this in your supermarket, I've included a how-to color granulated sugar below).
- In a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the yeast, 1/2 t of sugar, and 1/4 cup warm water and let sit until bubbly, about 10 minutes
- Add remaining sugar, milk, brown sugar, vanilla, egg and egg yolk and beat on low until combined
- Add flour and salt, mixing on medium speed until the dough just begins to come together
- Turn mixer to high and knead for four minutes
- Add the butter and continue kneading until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about six minutes
- Remove from bowl, cover in plastic wrap and let sit for two hours, until doubled in size
- After the dough has rested, place it on a clean surface and roll out into a circle about 1/4" thick (I made four miniature cakes with this dough, but you could do one large one, or two medium-sized cakes as well)
- Cut a hole in the center (about 2-3" for a large king cake, but smaller for miniature king cakes, its really up to you how you want the shape to be)
- Sprinkle brown sugar and cinnamon evenly across the dough and roll dough inward towards the hole you created, it should end up looking like a giant doughnut
- Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and cover with plastic wrap, let rise for one hour
- Bake at 350* until golden, about half an hour (though time varies depending on size of king cake)
- Remove from oven and allow to cool completely
For the icing
- Whisk together powdered sugar and buttermilk until smooth
- Drizzle over cooled king cake
- You'll need 1/3 cup of granulated sugar per color you're using, so 1 cup for doing purple green and gold
- Using icing food colors, combine 1/3 cup of sugar with a tiny dab of color in your food processor (I used a Magic Bullet and it was totally fine) and pulse until the color is evenly distributed
- Add more color as desired, but be careful not to over process it, as you'll end up with sugar dust
- Repeat for each color
Bourbon Creole Ice Cream
- 3 cups heavy cream
- 16 oz cream cheese, room temperature and cut into 1/2" cubes
- 8 egg yolks
- 1 cup brown sugar
- Seeds of 5 vanilla beans
- 2 t vanilla extract
- 1 cup bourbon (I used Bulleit Bourbon)
- Bring cream to a boil
- Whisk egg yolks until pale, slowly whisk in the sugar until fluffy
- While still whisking, gradually pour one cup of the hot cream into the yolk mixture to temper it
- Whisk for about one minute longer and slowly add the remaining cream
- Transfer to a large pot and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until the mixture has begun to thicken.
- Remove from heat and strain out any lumps (there shouldn't be too many if you don't over-cook it, the lumps form from the egg cooking)
- Fold in cream cheese and mix until most of the lumps have melted
- Add bourbon, vanilla seeds and extract and combine.
- Chill for 3-4 hours and process according to the instructions on your ice cream maker
- Due to the high bourbon content, the ice cream does not freeze as hard in the ice cream maker as other ice creams, don't worry though, after about two hours in the freezer it'll be perfect for scooping