My fascination with New Orleans is well known and long standing. There’s moments where I close my eyes and can feel the breeze in my hair as I ride a street car through the Garden District, or crave the taste of biegnets, or ponder the wisdom of attempting my own muffaletta. When people complain of the stench and the crowds, I snidely think that they just don’t get the Quarter.
Well, we haven’t been able to visit New Orleans since early 2009, and I’m craving that sweet Southern Cajun city. In honor of Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, and the beginning of Lent in the morning, here’s a recipe redolent of New Orleans Style: sweet, a little spicy, complicated, and time consuming. Just like the city it’s named after.
Total Time: 4 hours (includes two -three hours of rising time)
Hands On Time: 1 hour
- 1/2 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
- 2 packages dry yeast
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 4 cups flour
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
- 1/2 cup warm milk (105 to 115 degrees)
- 1/2 cup melted unsalted butter, cooled
- 5 egg yolks
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 2/3 cup chopped pecans
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1/2 cup melted butter
- 1 cup sifted powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon water
- Purple, green and gold sugar crystals
Make the Cake:
- Combine the warm water, yeast and 2 teaspoons sugar in a small bowl. Mix well and set aside to a warm place for about 10 minutes.
- Combine the flour, 1/2 cup sugar, salt, nutmeg, lemon rind and add warm milk, melted butter, egg yolks and yeast mixture. Beat until dough comes together.
- Turn dough out on a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle with flour and knead for 10 minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic.
- Place the dough in a well-greased bowl. Turn once and cover the dough and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk (about 1-2 hours).
- Combine the brown sugar, ground cinnamon, chopped pecans, flour and raisins.
- Pour melted butter over the mixture and mix until crumbly.
Assemble the Cake:
- Punch the dough down and place on a lightly floured surface.
- Roll dough out into large rectangle, aim for 30″ in length.
- Sprinkle the filling evenly over the dough, making sure to cover all the way to the edges.
- Roll up the dough tightly like a jelly roll, beginning at the wide side. Circle the dough and pinch the two sides together.
- Place the ring on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Cut the top of the ring, about 1/3 of the way through, every few inches.
- Cover with a lightly oiled plastic wrap and let rise in a warm spot (about 45 minutes). Preheat the oven to 350 when dough is about halfway through the last rising.
- Bake for 30-40 minutes until cake is golden brown. Remove from oven.
- Combine the ingredients (except for sugar crystals) and beat until smooth. (I could only find green sugar crystals, so I added a few drops of purple food coloring to the glaze.)
- Drizzle over the still warm cake, then sprinkle with sugar crystals.
Louisiana tradition says to place a baby in the cake after baking (from the bottom so the entrance is hidden). Whoever eats the slice with the baby in it becomes the host of next year’s Mardi Gras party.