We take our king cakes very seriously this time of year. We take them seriously and we take them every which way.
The rule is: the person who finds the baby inside of their king cake slice, has to buy the next king cake for everyone. It’s a never ending cycle which means there is always a king cake, everywhere, until Ash Wednesday when we all take a deep breath and slowly step away from the cake.
Most king cakes are sweet, cinnamon roll type pastry, buttery rich and topped with a sweet (cream cheese, if we’re lucky) glaze. Other king cakes are more puff pastry than not, filled with an indulgent nut filling – like an almond croissant but whoa… a king cake.
The most elusive is the savory king cake. Sometimes filled with crawfish and cheese. Sometimes looked upon skeptically. I’ll tell you what – a smoky, savory king cake is a welcome respite to the sweet. Layers of savory southern flavors, all swirled together into dinner roll dough.
It’s an adventure – one that I think you’re surely up for this carnival season.
Is this cake or is this bread?
We’re going to call it savory cake for our purposes which sure… is very close to bread. Because it’s Mardi Gras let’s call keep it a king cake and eat as much as we can.
This recipe is in partnership with Zatarain’s Smoked Sausage – a staple for us in New Orleans, especially during Mardi Gras season. I hope you feel inspired to make this epic King Cake variation or something generous to feed your krewe this holiday season!
Here’s what you’ll need:
• a batch of Parker House Rolls dough made with flour, yeast, sugar, salt, butter and egg. It’s an enriched buttery dough that bakes into the the most tender base for this savory king cake.
• Zatarain’s Andouille or Cajun-Style Smoked Sausage for nostalgic New Orleans, savory smokey flavor. We use this in our red beans and rice, our gumbo, our crawfish boils – and now… our King Cakes, amen.
• the trinity: onions, celery, celery, plus parsley and garlic. The base of just about every New Orleans recipe.
• parmesan cheese and creole seasoning – bonuses, and really very good.
Start with the Parker House Roll dough – a classic dinner roll recipe that we’ll transform into the base for our cake.
I bring all of the ingredients together in the bowl of an electric stand mixer, layering in the dry ingredients before adding the melted butter and warmed milk, and lightly beaten egg.
Once in the bowl, I give all of the ingredients a stir with a spatula before placing it on the mixer to whirl with the dough hook.
Stir the mixture by hand to a shaggy dough – we’re just giving the dough a head start.
Allow the dough to come together on the dough hook until soft and smooth, about 8 minutes. Patience is key as the yeast and flour go to work building the structure.
You may need to add a few tablespoons more flour but keep in mind the dough will be soft and moist but not overly wet. Ya feel me?
Dust the countertop lightly with flour.
Scoop the dough out of the bowl and knead for a few turns to create a soft and tight dough ball.
Mixing by hand for a few minutes helps you know, for certain, that all of the ingredients are well mixed, and the yeast has come to life. The dough will have a spring to it!
It will feel pillow-y soft and bounce back when pressed with a finger – that’s right!
Let the dough rest in a bowl covered with plastic wrap. In a warm place the dough will double in size in about an hour. It’s all good news.
While the dough rests and rises, let’s get after this filling. Chop up the trinity -coarsely to get it into the food processor. No need for a small dice.
Place all of the vegetables in a food processor fitted with a blade attachment. Give it a few pulses to bring the ingredients to a small dice.
And shimmy the vegetables into a hot skillet drizzled with a few tablespoons of olive oil.
We’ll move the veggies around the pan, not so much to brown then but to create steam and cook some water out of the vegetables before they goes into our cake.
Time for the Zatarain’s!
Slice a package of Zatarain’s Andouille or Cajun-Style Sausage into 1-inch rounds.
And whirl in a food processor to a fine dice.
Add the diced sausage to the sautéd vegetables and return to heat to meld the mixture together. Allow the mixture to cool and we’ll take our attention back to the dough.
See how sweetly the dough has risen after an hour? It’s going to feel like a pillow – a wonder really.
Lightly dust the counter with flour and gently knead the gas out of the dough.
Roll the dough into a 12×18-inch rectangle.
Brush the dough generously with melted butter. I’m smiling because this is where things get really good.
Spread the vegetable and sausage mixture across the buttered dough into an even layer.
If you see that your filling is juicy, use a slotted spoon to remove the filling but leave the juice behind in the pan.
Leave about 1/2-inch of dough as a border around all sides.
Definitely sprinkle with cheese. It’s a most delicious glue.
Roll from the long side into a deliberate but not terribly tight roll.
You’ll end up with a pliable, rather large, log of dough.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and have it close by.
Here’s where we work deliberately to make this length of dough an actual cake.
Swipe the ends of the dough around, connecting the ends and making a circle of the roll.
I tuck one end of dough into the other.
A little tuck in and a dash of egg wash to seal the two ends together.
Quickly lift and move the dough to the prepared baking sheet, seam side down.
You can call in a pal to help with this move if someone is home – more hands make this big boy easier to move.
We’ll slice about 2-inch rolls to create this swirled cake effect
Slice into the cake round every two inches – slicing into the wreath about 3/4 on the way towards the center but keeping the rolls connected at the center.
Slice and twist each wedge around to expose the swirls but keep the cake connected
If a bit of juice comes out of the rolls, don’t worry – that’s normal.
Brush the dough lightly with egg wash and bake.
The cake will bake in the middle of the oven for about 30 minutes – until golden and bubbling. The kitchen will smell amazing. That’s a good clue the cake is almost done.
While the cake bakes, tint shredded parmesan with a bit of food coloring.
This won’t be a king cake if we don’t sprinkle it with purple, green, and gold!
Enjoy warm or at room temperature though… you know warm is better!
This cake is incredibly delicious. It’s somewhere between indulgent king cake, hearty sandwich, and stuffed dinner roll. It’s a show-stopper (and that’s saying a lot during Mardi Gras), and a baking adventure.
I can’t wait to see how yours bake up!
Happy Mardi Gras sweet friends!
Major thanks to Zatarain’s Smoked Sausage for the inspiration!Print
For the Dough:
- 3 1/2 to 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 cup whole milk, heated gently
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
For the Filling:
- 1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped
- 1 small onion (about 1 cup) coarsely chopped
- 1 small green bell pepper (about 1 cup) coarsely chopped
- 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 package (14 ounces) Cajun Style or Andouille Zatarain’s Smoked Sausage
- 1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
For the Topping:
- 1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
- yellow, green and purple food coloring
- In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine 3 1/2 cups of flour along with the rest of the ingredients and mix with a spatula into a shaggy dough. Mix on the dough hook for 7 to 8 minutes, until a relatively smooth ball forms. Add a bit more flour if the dough is feeling overly sticky.
- Remove the dough from the mixer onto a lightly floured surface,. Knead by hand for 2 minutes until soft and shaped into a ball. Lightly grease the mixing bowl and place the dough ball in the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes until the dough has doubled in size.
- While the dough rises, make the filling.
- Place coarsely chopped celery, onion, bell pepper, parsley, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade attachment. Pulse for about 1 minute until the mixture is evenly chopped, into an almost fine mixture. I got my chunks to be about 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch in size. Not completely pulverized – a small dice.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and warm. Add the chopped vegetables to the skillet and allow to cook, releasing some of the water in the vegetables, for 5 minutes or so. Stir occasionally as the vegetables cook.
- Slice the smoked sausage into 1-inch rounds. Place the sausage in the bowl of the food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse the sausage slices until they’re evenly fine – again about 1/2-inch bits is about right. Add the sausage to the skillet to cook along with the vegetables. Stir to combine evenly. Allow the mixture to cook for about 4 minutes more. Remove from heat and allow to cool while the dough finishes its rise.
- After the dough has doubled in size, scoop it out of the mixing bowl on to a lightly floured work surface. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough into an approximately 12 x 16-inch rectangle.
- Use a pastry brush to spread melted butter across the dough. Spread the cooled meat and vegetable mixture across the dough into an even layer, leaving about 1/2-inch border around each side of the dough.
- Starting from the long end, gently but firmly roll the dough into a log, seam side down. Swoop the two ends together, tucking one end of the cake into the other.
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. With confidence (you can do this!), lift and transfer the round cake to the center of the prepared baking sheet.
- Use a serrated knife to slice into the dough round. Slice about 3/4 the way into the dough, around the circle about 2-inches apart. Carefully twist each attached roll onto its side, revealing the sausage swirl.
- Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rest and rise while the oven preheats.
- Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Bake the wreath for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown and bubbling.
- While the cake bakes, dye the cheese in three separate bowls. Divide the cheese between three bowls, and add a few drops of dye to each bowl. Use a spoon to distribute the dye around the cheese or use a pair of latex gloves to mix by hand.
- Remove the cake from the oven. Allow to cool for 30 minutes before sprinkling with colored frosting and topping with a king cake baby.
- I think this cake is most delicious the day it is baked but store any leftover cake in the refrigerator overnight and heat gently in foil before serving leftovers.