I realize now that my first experience with King Cake wasn’t eating my first delicious slice with my friend Robin, but watching others “negotiating” with it in a movie. When we were dating, my husband and I went to go see The Umbrellas of Cherbourg at a rep theatre. There, we watched Madame Emery [Anne Vernon], finesse a match between her pregnant daughter, Genevieve [Catherine Deneuve], and the wealthy Roland Cassard [Marc Michel] by suggesting that, after Genevieve has found “l’enfant” inside of her slice of cake [a small white porcelain baby Jesus] she must choose “le roi,” a king, for herself from among the people in the room. The celebration shows us, then, that it is either Epiphany, Fat Tuesday/Mardi Gras, or somewhere in between, and the cake on the table suits the tricky, somewhat somber mood. It’s a basic ring or circular shaped bread, not unlike brioche, sliced into triangles. Madame Emery has served it up on dessert plates with a bit of cream or custard. Here, the king cake tradition becomes a tool for matchmaking. Looking up from her serving, porcelain baby in hand, Genevieve admits, wryly, she has no choice in the matter. [The father of her child and the man she loves is off doing his service for his country.] The only man she can choose as her king is Cassard, who, after thanking Genevieve for the favour, offers the his crown to wear on her own head.
We love the movie, and our kids do, too. And, while we know that King Cake, in the context of Umbrellas…, is not much of a celebration cake, per se, the kids still like the notion of finding the king in the cake, and in consequence, having the ability to make choices because of that lucky find. Of course, none of the ladies at the table are going to want to be forced to choose a king [despite our love for the fellas in the room]. We will want to be royal in our own right, and without having to ask anyone’s permission, first. So, this year, we decided to make a King Cake in which everyone who has a slice is King, and in which the joy of the experience is the treasure hunt of finding the king [or, in our case, the coin, itself].
King Cake aficionados will know that the recipe below looks and tastes nothing like a fine brioche or the traditional Louisiana King Cake derived from it. For a more traditional confection, check out last year’s post on King Cake Two Ways. There, we made a traditional King Cake, but with a fabulous Lemon Ginger Cream as well as a Chocolate King Cake with a Chocolate Cream. This year, since Mardi Gras falls just two days before Valentine’s and three days before my birthday, we thought we’d go ahead and make something that had a king cake “feel” [ie a hidden toy or trinket in the cake] but with a non-yeasted, cake base. So, we came up with loaded version of Carrot Cake. It is not only filed with spices, nuts, and pineapple chunks, but also with coconut and several large, clean coins. This fullness makes it an odyssey or adventure to find the hidden gems within. The fix is in! Each member of our dinner party will find that they, in fact, are king. We’ll also be making paper crowns for each of the family members to wear when they find their hidden treat(s).
This Carrot King Cake can be as easy or as difficult to bake as you choose to make it. Want to use canned pineapple? Be our guest. Don’t want to lightly roast your nuts or your coconut before baking? Fine, don’t. The only thing we suggest you do is to take good care of your coins if you choose to bake them directly in your cake! Count how many coins you’ve put into your cake several times before baking. [Or, if you are nervous or just want to take it easy, slice the cake, and place coins in each slice before you serve]. And, have each guest do a thorough search of their cake with a fork before they really dig in. We have gone with Canadian Loonies & Toonies [1 and 2 dollar coins] as opposed to loose change. [Quarters are the smallest we would ever think to go.] U.S. Silver Dollars are likely the best choice if you can get them in the States. We’ve put our coins into the closed utensil box in the dishwasher and run them on sanitize before baking. A good soak in strong vinegar [think “pickling” strength] would also do the trick. Same goes for the coins when they’ve been picked out of the cake. Wash them off best as you can, and then soak them in vinegar overnight.
Carrot King Cake
- 3 large eggs
- 1/2 c granulated sugar
- 1/2 c brown sugar
- 1 1/2 c finely grated carrots about 3-4 whole
- 2-3 tsp lemon or lime zest
- 2/3 c finely diced fresh or canned crushed pineapple for a measuring guide, see How To below
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2/3 c vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 c flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp tsp salt
- 1 tbs ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground cardamom
- 3/4 c flaked coconut [sweetened or unsweetened] lightly toasted if desired, see How To below
- 1 generous cup chopped pecan pieces, roasted if desired, see Hints below
- 8-10 Large Foil Wrapped Chocolate Coins [Optional] Cleaned, see How To below
- 2 9-inch round circular pans
Icing [can be halved]
- 2 c [2 80z packages] light cream cheese
- 1/2 c butter
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 4+ c icing sugar
- [optional] Coloured Icing sugars or additional chopped nuts or toasted coconut for decoration.
How to Prepare the Coins
- Soak dollar or two dollar coins in strong [pickling] vinegar overnight and/or place in utensil holder and run through the sterilize setting of your dishwasher.
- You can also wrap them in pieces of parchment paper before inserting into the cake.
How to Roast the Nuts
- Place nuts evenly on a baking pan and roast at 350 for 6-8 minutes, until pecans begin to darken slightly.
How to Barely Toast the Coconut
- Place coconut evenly on a baking sheet and roast at 350 for 3-4 minutes
How to Measure out the Pineapple
- If you are using fresh pineapple, finely dice pineapple until you have .66 cup. Try to scrape at least a tbs of the juice from your cutting board into your measuring cup as you go. If you are using canned, strain crushed pineapple, reserving juice. Add .66 c of pineapple and about 1 tbs of the juice to the recipe.
Make the Cake
- Heat oven to 350.
- Line each pan with a circle of parchment cut to size.
- Grease and flour lined baking pans or coat with baking spray.
- Place eggs, carrots, pineapple, zest, sugars, oil, and vanilla into a large bowl and stir until combined.
- In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and cardamom.
- With a spatula, fold the flour mixture into the wet mixture until just combined.
- Fold in roasted nuts and coconut.
- Pour evenly into 2 9-inch circular pans.
- Drop your coins evenly around the circumference of one layer of your cake. [We used the 8 traditional points on a compass as our guide.]
- Bake layers 25-30 minutes or until a skewer or thin knife inserted into the cake comes out almost clean.
- Cool cakes completely.
Prepare the icing by blending the cream cheese and the butter in a mixer.
- Add vanilla and sugar by the .5 c until you have the consistency you desire.
- Ice and layer the cakes.
- Decorate with traditional Louisiana Mardi Gras coloured sanding sugars or with chopped nuts or coconut.
Diced Fresh Pineapple
Here’s a link to last year’s recipes for King Cake Two Ways: Auntie Robin’s King Cake with Lemon Ginger Cream & Uncle Rock’s Chocolate King Cake with Chocolate Cream.