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From the kitchen of Chef Hon O.

1 stick plus 1 tbs butter
2/3 cup 99% fat free skim evaporated milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp salt
2 packages dry yeast
1/3 cup warm water
4 eggs
1 tbs grated lemon rind
2 tbs grated orange rind
6 cups flour

1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tbs cinnamon
1 stick butter, melted

1 egg, beaten
1 cup sugar, colored (1/3 cup each of yellow, purple, and green)
2 Maximums

In a saucepan, melt 1 stick butter, milk, 1/3 cup sugar, and salt. Cool to lukewarm. In a large mixing bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of sugar, yeast, and water. Let stand until foaming, about 5 to 10 minutes. Beat eggs into yeast; then milk mixture and rinds. Stir in flour, 1/2 cup at a time, reserving 1 cup to flour kneading surface. Knead dough until smooth, about 5 to 10 minutes. Place in large mixing bowl greased with 1 tbs butter; turning dough once to grease top, cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

For filling, mix sugars and cinnamon. Set aside.

For topping, tint sugar by mixing food coloring until desired color is reached. For purple, use equal amounts of blue and red. A food processor aids in mixing and keeps the sugar from being too moist.
When dough has doubled, punch down and divide in half. On a floured surface, roll half into a rectangle 30" X 15". Brush with half of melted butter and cut into 3 lengthwise strips. Sprinkle half of sugar mixture on strips, leaving a 1-inch strip free for sealing. Fold each strip lengthwise toward the center, sealing the seam. You will now have three 30" strips with sugar mixture enclosed in each. Braid the 3 strips and make a circle by joining ends. Repeat with other half of dough. Place each cake on a 10" X 15" baking sheet, cover with a damp cloth, and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Brush each with egg and sprinkle top with colored sugars, alternating colors. Preheat oven to 350. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from pan immediately so sugar will not harden. While still warm, place 1 Maximum in each from underneath. Makes two 9" X 12" cakes. Preparation time: 5-1/2 hours.

In New Orleans, this cake is served during Carnival season from the Feast of Epiphany (January 6) until Mardi Gras (the day before Ash Wednesday). The person receiving the Max is considered lucky; by custom, that person must also supply the next King Cake and King Cake party. The person who gets the Max in that cake must then throw the next party one week later, and serve King Cake, and so on until Mardi Gras (or longer, if desired).

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