The king cake reigns at Mardi Gras celebrations across the United States.
Total Time: 3 hr 45 min Prep Time: 3 hr 15 min Cook Time: 30 min
1. In a large bowl, combine 4 cups of the flour with the lemon zest, nutmeg and salt. Reserve the remainder of the flour for later. Set the combined ingredients aside.
2. Empty the packets of yeast into a large bowl. Warm 8 oz. of Coca-Cola in a pan on the stove or in the microwave (about 1 /12 to 2 minutes on high).
The idea is that the liquid should be warm but not hot to the touch. It's okay to overheat it, but let it cool. Slowly add this into the yeast. Let the yeast dissolve in the Coca-Cola for about 10 minutes. Very lightly oil a large bowl and set it to one side.
3. Melt the butter. Prepare a surface for the soon-to-arrive dough, lightly dusting it with flour, and set an additional handful of flour to one side a small bowl. (This is to dust your dough a bit, if necessary when it's time to knead.)
4. Once the yeast and Coke mixture is fairly creamy — stir gently to see that it is — add the melted butter and stir once or twice. Add the 12 oz of unheated Coca-Cola into this mixture, pouring very slowly (drizzle it). Stir gently.
5. In an electric mixer set to its lowest speed, add your flour combination, 1 cup at a time, to the yeast and butter and Coke. Once you've added all 4 cups, if it still looks very liquid, proceed to add more flour from the 3 1/2 cups you set aside — 1/2 cup at a time.
As soon as the mixture has pulled together into a dough, stop.
1. Put the cream cheese and 1/2 cup of confectioner's sugar into a small bowl. Mix together well.
2. On a separate plate or board, cut the banana into 1-inch segments and mash (leave some small chunks, you don't want a paste).
3. Prepare a large surface for the risen dough. Lightly dust with flour.
4. Grease a large baking sheet. Also, grease the outside rim of an oven-proof circular object — at least 6 inches across. You'll use this to preserve the opening in the center of the ring. A soup bowl works well, but be certain that it is one that can take the oven's heat for a half-hour.
5. When the cake dough has risen — it should be double in size — turn it out onto your large floured surface. Roll the dough into a roughly 6x30-inch slab, and then straighten this by hand so that it rectangular.
6. Gently spread the cream cheese mixture along the center of the rectangle, and then spread the banana mash along the cream cheese.
7. Carefully lift the long edges of the rectangle and seal them over the filling. Seal the ends. Using your hands, make the length of the sealed dough into a cylinder. Roll the cylinder over so that the seam side is underneath.
8. Bring the ends of the dough-cylinder together so that it forms a ring. Very carefully — you may need a second pair of hands to help — move the cylinder onto the greased baking sheet. One way to do this is to place the sheet just off the edge of your floured surface. You can then scoot the ring to the edge and daintily nudge it onto the sheet.
9. Place the greased circular center-holder into the ring, being careful to not let it squash down any of the interior dough.
Cover this with a dry towel and set it in a warm place to rise. This should take about 45 minutes. Preheat your empty oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 C).
10. When the dough has doubled in size, remove the towel and place the baking sheet — center holder still in place — into the oven. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the cake when it's golden brown and allow it to cool. When you're certain that it's not too hot to touch, pry the center-holder free from the ring. You may have to do this from underneath.
11. If you wish to include the figurine or some such thing, gently turn over the ring, slice an opening, and tuck the piece into the cake. Nobody should ever eat a king cake without knowing that there's potentially an object in their slice! (It is probably wisest to avoid this tradition when it comes to kids.) As an alternative, place the figurine in the center of the ring, as a nod to times past.
1. With a whisk, mix together in a small bowl: 2 cups of confectioner's sugar, the lemon juice, and the milk. The consistency should be smooth and free of clumps.
2. Using a large spoon, drizzle the cooled cake ring with the glaze. As you go, liberally shower the glazed sections with the candy sprinkles, alternating colors. At the end, gently blow away the excess sprinkles.
3. Slice and serve.
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