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Mardi Gras King Cake and Cupcakes: Best pastries for Fat Tuesday and Mardi Gras

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Happy Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday and Shrove Tuesday! All three holidays are celebrated today, Tuesday, March 4, 2014, so get your purple, green and gold Mardi Gras beads on and head for the nearest bakery. "Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, is the last hurrah before Ash Wednesday and the sobering start to Lent," according to the Los Angeles Times on March 2. King Cake is served throughout the Mardi Gras Carnival season, whereas paczki and faschnauts are traditonally served on Fat Tuesday, so today really is your last day to splurge!

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The Delaware County Daily Times on Monday, March 3, reported that Viso’s Italian Bakery is ready for Fat Tuesday's mad rush for Mardi Gras holiday desserts and pastries. Store manager Jennifer Donato said Viso’s bakers worked throughout the night to have their faschnauts and king cakes ready for hungry customers this morning.

"Mardi Gras is always one of our biggest holidays. Some people get the king cakes every year. That’s very popular. Mardi Gras is one of the bakery’s busiest days, behind Easter Sunday and Christmas. Last year, we had a line out the door all day long."

CBS Detroit News on Monday, March 3, reported that Fat Tuesday is also the day to buy or make paczki (Polish donuts). Martha Washington Bakery's owner Sandy Beckage says, "Much like the saying, 'Everyone’s Irish on St. Patrick’s day... everyone is Polish on paczki day.'"

Mardi Gras King Cake and cupcakes are just two of the foods associated with this holiday and well worth the effort to make them yourself, especially if you can't find them at a bakery in your local area. The most traditional New Orleans King Cake is a ring of twisted cinnamon roll-style bread topped with icing or sugar, usually colored purple (which represents justice), green (faith), and gold (power) which are the traditional Mardi Gras colors. King Cake cupcakes are a lot easier to make since there is no yeast involved, and kids love to make them, and to eat them!

Most King Cakes have a small small plastic doll (usually a Baby Jesus figurine) or other trinket placed inside. Some traditions say the person who finds the trinket is declared the King or Queen of the day, bakes the next King Cake, or hosts the next Mardi Gras party.

Mardi Gras King Cupcakes

The flavors of King Cake, Mardi Gras' signature confection, are mirrored in these nutmeg and lemon-scented cupcakes. Cream cheese icing, garnished with sparkling sugars in traditional New Orleans Mardi Gras colors, add the perfect touch. This King Cake cupcakes recipe comes from King Arthur Flour who provided the gold, purple and green sparkling sugars for the King Cake and cupcakes.

Cupcakes

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 2/3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons soft butter
  • 2/3 cup milk, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia; OR 1 teaspoon vanilla + 1/8 teaspoon lemon oil
  • 2 large eggs

Icing

  • 3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (half of an 8-ounce package) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon lemon oil
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar1 to 2 tablespoons milk, enough to make a spreadable icing
  • colored sugars, preferably purple, yellow, and green

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease and flour a muffin tin. You can also line the muffin tins with papers, and spray the insides of the papers.
  2. To make the cupcakes: In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt.
  3. Add the butter and beat with an electric mixer at low speed, until the mixture looks sandy.
  4. Combine the milk and vanilla and add, all at once. Mix at low speed for 30 seconds, then increase the speed to medium and beat for 30 seconds. Scrape the bottom and sides of the mixing bowl.
  5. With the mixer running at low speed, add 1 egg. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 30 seconds. Add the second egg, again beating for 30 seconds.
  6. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, and beat briefly, just till smooth.
  7. Scoop the batter by heaping 1/4-cupfuls into the prepared muffin tin. A muffin scoop works well here.
  8. Bake the cupcakes for 23 to 25 minutes, until they've domed, and are a light golden brown around the edges. They'll spring back when pressed gently on top, and a toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean.
  9. Remove the cupcakes from the oven, and place on a rack to cool completely before icing.

To make the icing:

  1. Combine the butter, cream cheese, vanilla, and lemon oil in a medium-sized bowl, and beat them together until light and fluffy.
  2. Add the sugar gradually, beating well.
  3. Beat in the milk a little at a time, until the frosting is a spreadable consistency.
  4. Spread each cake with icing, and immediately dip in gold, purple, and green sparkling sugars, covering about 1/3 of the cupcake with each color sugar.
  5. Store at room temperature for several days. For longer storage, wrap well and freeze.
  6. Yield: 12 cupcakes

Sources: Los Angeles Times; Delaware County Daily Times; CBS News; King Arthur Flour

Recipe and Photo used with permission from King Arthur Flour.

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