King cake from scratch: A Louisiana gal in Houston makes her first in her grandmothers’ memory

Making king cake from scratch
Making king cake from scratch (Copyright 2021 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

HOUSTON – I pride myself on being a pretty solid Cajun.

I can make a tasty gumbo just like my Momo taught me. I can peel a crawfish and eat it in 7 seconds flat (no gloves). I have mastered the art of a Mardi Gras parade as a float rider and bead catcher.

But there is one “Louisiana” thing I never did until this past weekend: make a king cake from scratch.

I honestly never felt the urge to make a king cake before this. I grew up in Louisiana and king cakes are everywhere during Mardi Gras season.

And when I moved to Houston 16 years ago, it was easy to satisfy my king cake cravings here too. There are so many bakeries and businesses that sell their own delicious versions.

So why make one myself this time? The answer: A very difficult year.

We all found our own ways to cope in 2020. Mine was baking.

Up until last year, I had never baked anything that had not come out of a box.

But spending so much time at home coupled with the deaths of both my grandmothers (both amazing cooks and bakers) made me yearn for a new challenge.

One of my grandmothers left me a beautiful stand mixer. And that felt like a sign. I would become a baker.

I pored through family recipes. I bought both volumes of Joanna Gaines’ cookbooks. I started watching baking shows. I tried my hand at brownies, cookies, cakes, cheesecakes. So far, so good.

Then 2020 became 2021 and I started obsessing over king cakes.

The first thing I did was go on a search for plastic babies. I’m not about to break a Louisiana tradition and have a king cake with no baby.

A quick Amazon search later, I learned you can’t just buy a few. These things come in bulk.

Imagine the day my fiancé -- not a Louisiana native -- came into the kitchen to see a mason jar full of plastic babies. He claimed horror film music started playing in his head. Ha!

What can I say? I like to keep things organized.

Making king cake from scratch (Copyright 2021 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

While on Amazon, I also found some purple, green and gold sprinkles. That was easy.

Next came the really hard part. Finding a recipe.

I was looking for three things:

  1. Something not too overwhelming for a novice baker
  2. Something that tastes good
  3. No glitter.

Don’t get me started on glitter on king cakes. It’s pretty, yes, but it always makes me feel like I’m eating sand.

I searched the internet for days and finally found a recipe that sounded yummy but didn’t scare me.

And Saturday, I went to work in the kitchen.

The entire process took several hours. The most time-consuming part is letting the dough rise. You have to let it rise in a bowl before you roll it and then again after you roll it. No big deal. Just take a few wine breaks.

Making king cake from scratch (Copyright 2021 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)
Making king cake from scratch (Copyright 2021 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)
Making king cake from scratch (Copyright 2021 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)
Making king cake from scratch (Copyright 2021 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

Once it was all done, baked and decorated, I think it’s safe to say my fiancé and I were both shocked. I made a king cake. From scratch. And it tasted good.

I felt like a real Louisiana girl.

And at the risk of sounding sappy, it felt like both my grandmothers were watching over me and were very proud.

If my king cake story has inspired you to make one of your own, here is the recipe I used.

I did make a few tweaks.

I used more cinnamon than the recipe called for. No exact measurement; I just did a few extra generous shakes onto the dough before I rolled it up into a circle.

I also went a different route with the glaze. I wanted more of an icing than a glaze, so I used evaporated milk (1/4 cup) instead of water. And I did not use lemon juice (although I might use it next time).