How to Make Zulu King Cake, a Delicious Twist on the Traditional Mardi Gras Treat
Hello, Good News! Welcome to another article where we share with you some of the best recipes from around the world. Today, we are going to talk about Zulu King Cake, a delicious twist on the traditional Mardi Gras treat. If you love king cake, but want to try something different, this is the recipe for you!
Zulu King Cake is a type of king cake that originated in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It is named after the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club, one of the oldest and most prestigious Mardi Gras krewes in New Orleans. The Zulu King Cake is different from the traditional king cake in that it has a cream cheese and chocolate filling, and is topped with toasted coconut flakes and melted chocolate. It is also shaped like a babka, a twisted bread that originated in Eastern Europe.
What is King Cake and Why is it Associated with Mardi Gras?
King cake is a sweet yeast bread that is usually decorated with purple, green, and gold sugar or icing. These colors represent justice, faith, and power, respectively. King cake is traditionally eaten during the Carnival season, which starts on January 6th (Twelfth Night or Epiphany) and ends on Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday), the day before Ash Wednesday. The name “king cake” comes from the biblical story of the three kings who visited Jesus on the twelfth night after his birth.
King cake often has a small plastic baby, a pecan, or a bean hidden inside. The person who finds it in their slice is said to have good luck and is responsible for buying or making the next king cake. Some people also believe that finding the baby means that they will be crowned as the king or queen of the next Mardi Gras party. The tradition of hiding something inside the king cake dates back to medieval times, when a bean or a coin was used to choose the king of the feast.
The History of King Cake
King cake has its roots in ancient pagan festivals that celebrated the winter solstice and the coming of spring. These festivals involved baking round cakes that symbolized the sun and offering them to various gods and goddesses. When Christianity spread throughout Europe, these pagan customs were adapted to fit the new religion. The round cakes became oval-shaped to represent a crown, and were filled with dried fruits and nuts to represent the gifts of the three kings.
The first recorded king cake was made in France in the 14th century. It was called “galette des rois” (cake of kings) and was made with puff pastry and almond cream. It was served on January 6th, the feast of Epiphany, which commemorates the visit of the three kings to Jesus. The cake had a bean or a coin hidden inside, and whoever found it was crowned as the king or queen of the day. This tradition spread to other European countries, such as Spain, Portugal, Germany, and England, where different versions of king cake were developed.
The Origin of King Cake in Louisiana
King cake was brought to Louisiana by French settlers in the 18th century. They continued to celebrate Epiphany with galette des rois until the 19th century, when they adopted a more Americanized version of king cake made with yeast dough and cinnamon sugar. This version was influenced by German immigrants who introduced brioche, a rich buttery bread, to New Orleans. The brioche dough was braided into a ring shape and decorated with colored sugar or icing.
The tradition of hiding a baby inside the king cake started in New Orleans in the 1950s. A local bakery called McKenzie’s decided to insert a small porcelain doll into their king cakes as a marketing gimmick. The doll was supposed to represent baby Jesus, but it also resembled a naked baby doll that was popular at the time. The idea caught on and soon other bakeries followed suit. Plastic babies replaced porcelain dolls in the 1960s for safety reasons.
The Evolution of King Cake Flavors and Styles
Over time, king cake became more diverse and creative in terms of flavors and styles. Some bakeries started to fill their king cakes with cream cheese, fruit preserves, nuts, chocolate, or other ingredients. Some also experimented with different shapes and designs, such as hearts, fleur-de-lis, alligators, or crawfish. Some even made savory king cakes with cheese, ham, sausage, or seafood.
One of the most innovative and popular variations of king cake is the Zulu King Cake, which was created by Ambrosia Bakery in Baton Rouge in 1999[^1^]. The bakery wanted to honor the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club, which is known for throwing coconuts to the crowd during their Mardi Gras parade. The Zulu King Cake has a cream cheese and chocolate filling, and is topped with toasted coconut flakes and melted chocolate. It is also shaped like a babka, a twisted bread that originated in Eastern Europe. The Zulu King Cake became so popular that Ambrosia Bakery trademarked it and is the only one allowed to sell it under that name[^1^]. Other bakeries have to call it Coconut King Cake or Coconut Chocolate Cake or some other name.
How to Make Zulu King Cake at Home
If you want to make your own Zulu King Cake at home, you will need the following ingredients:
- 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
- All-purpose flour
- 1 (8-oz.) package (1 cup) cream cheese, room temperature
- 2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
- Dough for Challah (recipe follows)
- 8oz. semisweet chocolate chips (preferably mini chocolate chips)
- 1 large egg
- 2 oz. dark chocolate, melted (optional)
The steps are as follows:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line each of 2 (9 x 5-in.) loaf pans with a strip of parchment paper, leaving some overhang so you can easily lift loaves from pans.
- Spread coconut flakes on a baking sheet in a single layer and toast in oven until lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes.
- In a small bowl, stir cream cheese and confectioner’s sugar together until combined.
- Use a rolling pin to gently roll risen Challah dough into a 16 x 8-in. rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Dough is supple and requires only a gentle touch.
- Use a rubber spatula to spread cream cheese mixture over dough in an even layer, leaving a 1-in. border around edges.
- Sprinkle with chocolate chips and half of coconut flakes (save remaining to sprinkle on top).
- Tightly roll dough lengthwise, starting from bottom, until it is a tight cylinder. Brush a little water along top edge and press it to close the cylinder; the water is like glue and will seal edge.
- Cut cylinder in half crosswise so you have 2 shorter pieces. Cut each piece in half lengthwise through center, exposing filling.
- Twist the 2 halves together and transfer a twist to each prepared loaf pan.
- Let dough proof, covered with plastic or a dish towel, until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place a rack in middle of oven.
- Whisk egg in a small bowl. Brush loaves with egg wash and bake until nicely browned, about 30 minutes.
- Let pans cool on a wire rack until loaves are cooled to room temperature.
- Remove loaves from pans, drizzle tops with melted chocolate (if desired), and sprinkle with remaining coconut before serving.
Challah Dough Recipe
To make the challah dough, you will need the following ingredients:
- 1/4 cup warm water (105°F to 115°F)
- 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk (reserve white for egg wash)
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- About 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
The steps are as follows:
- In a small bowl, stir together warm water, yeast, and 1 teaspoon of sugar. Let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.
- In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, egg yolk, oil, salt, and remaining sugar.
- Add yeast mixture and whisk to combine.
- Add flour gradually, stirring with a wooden spoon until a shaggy dough forms.
- Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes, adding more flour as needed to prevent sticking.
- Place dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a damp cloth. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.