Bourbon Praline King Cake

How fun is this? I’d never made or eaten a King Cake before I tackled this project, but was very glad I finally succumbed to Mardi Gras madness. It took a few tries before I was satisfied that the resulting King Cake matched the picture in my head, but you can learn from my trials and nail it on your first try.

I did learn two things that I’d like to pass along:

My first piece of wisdom: buy a little plastic baby to hide in the cake. (I can’t get on board with baking anything plastic in my cake, so I’d go with the “tuck it in from the bottom after the cake is baked and cooled” method.) I tried to make my babies out of pink gum paste, and I think I can say with great confidence that shaping little babies is not my calling. They didn’t look like babies at all. One looked like a little old man (eeeuw, a NAKED old man) and the other looked like a monkey. Buy them! Or go the old-fashioned route and hide an uncooked bean in the cake instead.

See how the filling is rolled in this version? To do that, leave the nuts out of the cooked praline mixture. Spread it on the dough and sprinkle with the nuts. I just really wanted a core of molten praline goo, so I went with the praline log method.

My second piece of wisdom: don’t expect cake. After a whole lot of Googling I have come to the conclusion that King Cakes are different things to different people, but the majority agree that it is a sugared-up yeast bread baked in a ring shape. Think of a cinnamon roll that wasn’t cut into slices.

I, of course, had to add booze. You don’t have to. I tried Southern Comfort and Bourbon. Each was wonderful. I didn’t use much, just enough to give a hint of flavor. Use a little vanilla instead if you prefer.

Bourbon Praline King Cake
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Makes 2 King Cakes. Can be baked on baking sheets or in bundt pans.
Ingredients
  • CAKE:
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • ¼ cup oil (anything lightly flavored, like canola or peanut oil)
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon cardamom
  • ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ⅓ cup very warm water
  • 1 package active-dry yeast
  • pinch of sugar
  • 2 eggs and 2 egg yolks
  • 4½ cups flour (either bread flour or all-purpose)
  • FILLING:
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup cream
  • ¼ cup butter
  • ¼ cup corn syrup
  • 1½ cups finely chopped pecans (I use toasted for extra flavor)
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon or Southern Comfort
  • ICING:
  • 1 pound powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon or Southern Comfort
  • milk
  • Colored sprinkles. You'll need green, dark yellow, and purple
  • 2 plastic babies to hide in cakes!
Instructions
  1. CAKE: In a small pan on medium heat, combine butter, milk, oil, ⅓ cup sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, and salt. Heat until butter is melted and the mixture is just beginning to bubble around the edge of the pan. Pour into large bowl and allow to cool slightly.
  2. In a small bowl, combine very warm water, yeast, and a pinch of sugar. Allow it to sit until bubbly, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add yeast mixture to bowl. Add eggs and 4 cups of flour. If using a stand mixer, use a dough hook and beat well. Slowly add remaining flour until dough pulls away from the side of the bowl. Knead by machine for 5 minutes, or drop dough onto generously floured surface and knead by hand for 8 minutes. Dough will be slightly sticky, but if it is very sticky, add a little more flour.
  4. Place dough in greased bowl and allow it to rise until double. This is a rich dough and may take 1½ hours to rise. While dough is rising, make filling so it will have time to cool and set.
  5. FILLING: In a large pan on medium heat, combined white sugar, brown sugar, cream, butter, and corn syrup. Bring mixture to a boil and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
  6. Add chopped nuts. Cook for an additional 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add the bourbon. Stir well and set aside to cool. By the time the dough has risen, the filling should be firm.
  7. Divide filling in half and roll each into a 21-inch log on floured parchment.
  8. Prepare pans for the cakes. You can bake rings on parchment covered baking sheets or in lightly greased bundt pans. (I spray my bundt pan with an oil/flour baking spray.)
  9. Punch down dough and divide into two equal parts. Working with one piece at a time, use hands to press into a long rectangle on floured surface. Roll into a 22" by 7" rectangle.
  10. Place one praline log on the long edge and roll. Fold over the ends and pinch firmly. Pinch firmly all along the long seam.
  11. If you are using baking sheets, lift the roll onto the sheet and form a circle. Overlap the ends and pinch well. If you are using bundt pans, drop the dough into the prepared pan. It will be a little long, but overlap the ends, pinch well, and ease the dough around the bottom. It will settle in nicely.
  12. Cover with towels or plastic wrap and let rise for about an hour. The rings won't double in size, but they should be light and puffy.
  13. Heat oven to 350 F. Bake until golden brown, 30-40 minutes. The bottom should be a rich brown. Remove from pans to a cooling rack. Tuck a plastic baby in the bottom of each cake. Brush the top with butter, if desired. Once cakes are cool, make icing.
  14. ICING: Place powdered sugar in a large bowl. Add bourbon (or a teaspoon of vanilla) and while beating, trickle in milk until the icing is just thin enough to pour.
  15. Pour over the tops of the cakes, letting the icing drip down the sides. Sprinkle with colored sugar.

Once hot m.ilk/spice mixture has cooled a bit, add bubbly yeast

Mix in eggs and flour. Knead well and place dough in greased bowl to rise.

Add pecans to the boiled praline mixture. Cook it some more, then add booze.

Okay. It looks gross. I know, I know. But this praline log will be the center of your King Cake.

Working with half of the dough, press into a long rectangle shape.

Position praline log on long edge.

Roll

Pinch it like you mean it! You don’t want to let any of that praline goodness ooze out.

Make a ring with seam at the bottom. (It can be tricky and twist. You’re the boss!) Overlap ends and PINCH.

Or use a bundt pan. I put the seam down, and of course it showed because the bottom becomes the top. You can try it with the seam up or . . . use lots of icing.

The cake on top was done in a bundt pan. The one on bottom on a baking sheet. The bundt was puffier, but it was probably because I only baked one at a time and it had a little longer rise time.

 

 

4 thoughts on “Bourbon Praline King Cake

  1. I’ve never eaten King Cake either, but I know I’ll like your version. Sans ugly baby, of course. They say babies are never ugly, but I guess there’s always an exception . . .

    • Thanks, Marcia! And, oh Lord, I’m not through yet. I’m still in King Cake mode, with a twist. I’m going to have to go to a fat farm after this.

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