Mardi Gras and Vegan King Cake
My In-Laws are visiting for our first Mardi Gras in Louisiana, and I'm a bit at a loss to explain the point of it. A friend from my small town in the Sierra foothills of California said, "It's like the wagon train parade." She's right. Except this is way more intense than Wagon Train (which I LOVED as a kid). Even though we are living in a relatively small town (I'm still recovering from our few years living just outside of Houston, Texas), there are parades for an entire week- or two... It's a big deal here. And there are beads everywhere!
Then my father-in-law asked what the deal with king cake is... I said, "Haven't you read Jitterbug Perfume?" Have you? Remember theres a scene about a king cake. It's been a decade or so, but I remember something like that. Do you also relate most things to something you've read in a book? I'm getting very distracted.
Anyway, I'm trying to get int he spirit and I love the colors and excitement. I even made Mardi Gras Fried Rice! Stir fried butternut squash, purple cabbage and snap peas were the perfect gold, purple, and green colors. Leftover rice, teriyaki sauce, ginger, and green onion rounded out the flavor. It's all there!
So, my answer to Why King Cake is that it's a tradition, and I wanted to take part in the tradition of our new community. Since I have never had a non-vegan King Cake, I had to go off descriptions by other people, and it seems that it's basically a cinnamon roll and instead of cutting it into little rolls, you wrap it into a circle and then glaze it and use purple, green, and gold sprinkles to decorate. Also, you bake a plastic baby inside, but I'm way too paranoid to bake a piece of plastic into my cake. Sorry, tradition.
I also opted to leave off the colored sprinkles after I spent the day trying to make natural colors and it tasted awful and just didn't feel essential to me. Yes, my powdered sugar is lumpy and my glaze isn't perfect. It's sweet and fluffy, no one cared.
Vegan King Cake
Full disclosure, I invented the recipe basically on the fly. It's like a sweet bread, and I love it. If it works out for you, leave a comment. If it doesn't, leave a comment. Like I said, I've only made it with this recipe once, so you are my testers.
This is an almond King Cake. For pecan, which is also good, just leave out the almond extract- or use pecan liqueur instead, and use pecans instead of almonds inside. You can also add cinnamon to the dough and filling with pecan for a more traditional flavor.
1 can whole fat coconut milk
1 stick Earth Balance Buttery Spread (if you use coconut oil or a different product, let me know how it works!)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp yeast
4 cups flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup sliced almonds
1/2 tsp of almond extract for extra flavor if you like
2 Tbsp "aquafaba" (liquid from a can of garbanzo or navy beans)
1- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Heat the can of coconut milk, the Earth Balance (cut into small slices or cubes), and sugar in a small saucepan over medium high heat so it all melts together, stirring frequently. You don't want anything to burn to the edges, just a rich buttery flavor. Once it's all melted together, stir in the extracts and salt. Try not to drink it as a beverage, but go ahead and taste a bit on a spoon. Now you want to drink it... I don't know what to tell you other than that you need it to make the cake, so try to resist.
If you just drank it all, start over. If you haven't, I'm proud of you and your self-control! Let it cool until it's warm, but not hot. Think about if you were a little yeast, would it kill you? Then wait. I've heard many descriptions of how warm you want it, but I think "warm, but not hot" is pretty good.
In a large bowl, pour in your liquid (that you didn't drink, right?) and add your yeast and one cup of flour. Stir it all together and then add the rest of the flour about a half cup at a time. You can use a stand mixer, I just used a spoon (see, I'm not completely reliant on gadgets!). The final dough looked sticky still, but once I started kneading it, I realized it was the most perfect consistency of any yeasted dough I've ever made. I kneaded it on a wooden cutting board (because that's how grandma did it) for about 5-10 minutes. Let it be your therapy and just enjoy it. I didn't need to flour the surface or anything- yay coconut milk!
Once it was good and stretchy, I rolled it into a big ball and put it back in the mixing bowl and covered it with a kitchen towel for about 1.5 hours. You want it to double in size,
Punch it down and stretch it out into a rectangle. I made my rectangle the same size as my cutting board. A smaller rectangle makes big thick layers of fluffy dough, so you don't want to go too thin. Nothing less than 3/4 of an inch.
Now sprinkle with your brown sugar and almonds and extract all over. With cinnamon rolls, recipes usually call for some butter in there too, but I found this dough so nice and rich with the coconut milk, I didn't think it needed that, and I was right.
Roll up your log and seal as best you can. This dough wasn't very sticky, so I just pinched and put the seam on the bottom. Transfer to a baking sheet and wrap your log into a circle and pinch the ends together. It held together great once it was baked, even though the dough acted like it wasn't going to. Cover the circle log with that kitchen towel again and leave for about an hour. In that time, preheat your oven to 350 (F). Hopefully, your oven doesn't take an hour to preheat, so plan accordingly.
Now it should have risen again. Yay! Put in oven and bake for 45 minutes. It should look amazing and brown and beautiful like this. Warning, if you make your circle too small, it may end up looking like a belly button (or butthole, depending how you look at that failed one I made...).
Really, it's so pretty here, you don't have to do anything else but slice and eat it, but if you are ready to get your fancy on, mix up your aquafaba (if you don't have it, that's okay, just use a Tbsp of milk alternative or orange juice. Mix your liquid and sugar together until it's thick and then spread in a prettier method than I did on your cake. Add colored sprinkles if you like, or more slivered almonds.
I wrote a children's book, How Our Vegan Family Celebrates, to help vegans and vegan allies know how to include vegans in their celebrations and give affirmation to vegan kids who may feel alone. The book goes through holidays throughout the year and has a section at the back with parent tips!
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