If you won't be lucky enough to be in New Orleans for Mardi Gras, you can still bake up a taste of it at home.
Granted, you'll need to supply your own revelry in the streets, but a slice of this delicious king cake should get you in the mood. The top is decorated with the colors of Mardi Gras: purple, green and gold. You also can color the icing and decorate or you can drizzle with white icing and decorate with colored sugars.
Start to finish: 4 hours (45 minutes active)
For the dough:
1 cup warm milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
4 eggs, room temperature
2 egg yolks, room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon instant or fast-acting yeast
5 to 6 cups all-purpose flour
For the filling:
1/2 cup raisins
4 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans
For the decoration:
3 cups powdered sugar
cup lemon juice
Purple, green and gold colored sugars
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the milk, sugar, zest, eggs, egg yolks and butter.
With the mixer running on the lowest setting, add the nutmeg, salt, yeast and 5 cups of the flour. Mix until a dough comes together. If the dough is too dry, add a tablespoon of water; if it is too wet, add a couple tablespoons of flour. The dough should be soft and slightly sticky.
Increase the mixer speed to 2 and knead for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Cover and allow to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
Meanwhile, make the filling. In a small saucepan, combine the raisins and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil over medium-high. Remove from the heat and let soak for 15 minutes. Drain the raisins, then transfer them to a kitchen towel and pat dry.
In a food processor, combine the raisins, cream cheese, brown sugar, flour and cinnamon. Pulse together until combined, then add the pecans and pulse just until incorporated.
When the dough has risen, coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll into a long rectangle, about 22-by-14-inches.
Spread the filling over the surface of the dough, leaving a 2-inch border along the edges. Roll the dough up into a tight log starting with one of the long sides. Pinch the seam shut and turn until the seam is on the bottom.
Move the log onto the prepared baking sheet. Insert one end of the log into the other end to form a ring. Loosely cover and allow to rise until puffy and almost doubled in size, about 1 hour. Toward the end of the rising time, heat the oven to 350 F.
Bake the cake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until golden and cooked through. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
To make the icing, in a medium bowl stir together the powdered sugar and lemon juice until smooth.
Drizzle over the top of the cooled king cake. Immediately sprinkle with the colored sugars before the icing begins to harden.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 437 calories; 118 calories from fat (27 percent of total calories); 13 g fat (6 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 104 mg cholesterol; 74 g carbohydrate; 8 g protein; 2 g fiber; 290 mg sodium.