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!