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Ambrosia Bakery prepares to roll out king cakes on Jan. 6

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BATON ROUGE - Many Louisianians usher in the first month of the new year by enjoying a sweet pastry known as king cake.

The celebratory delicacy first appears in bakery cases in January and can be found at the center of celebrations through early spring.

While some associate the cake with Mardi Gras, others eat it in honor of an observance known as Epiphany.

King cake is generally consumed on January 6 in honor of Epiphany, or Twelfth Night, which is believed to mark the day that a group of astrologers from an eastern country visited a home in Bethlehem where Jesus was being raised by his parents, Joseph and Mary.

During that visit, the group of astrologers, commonly referred to as 'wise men,' bestowed the young child and his parents with a number of expensive gifts.  

King cake also appears on tables throughout the Carnival season, which runs from Epiphany to Fat Tuesday (the day before Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent), at which point practitioners typically abstain from indulgences like cake.

The pastry goes by different names around the world, and comes in varying shapes and styles.

In Baton Rouge, bakeries like Ambrosia are rolling out king cakes via their delivery and pick up services. Click here for more information on their offers.

King Cake recipe

Dough Ingredients:

-1 16-ounce container sour cream

-1/3 cup sugar

-1/4 cup butter

-1 teaspoon salt

-2 1/4-ounce envelopes active dry yeast

-1/2 cup warm water (100° to 110°)

-1 tablespoon sugar

-2 large eggs (lightly beaten)

-6 to 6 1/2 cups bread flour

Filling Ingredients:

-1/3 cup butter (softened)

-1/2 cup sugar

-1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon ((optional))

Glaze Ingredients:

-3 c powdered sugar

-3 tbsp butter or cream cheese, softened

-2–4 tbsp tablespoons milk

-2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

-1/4 tsp teaspoon vanilla extract

-Purple-green-, and gold-tinted sparkling sugar sprinkles

Step-By-Step Baking Process:

1. Pour powdered sugar, butter or cream cheese, milk, and lemon juice into a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring often, until the butter is melted. Remove from the heat & cool mixture to 100° to 110°.

2. In a glass measuring cup or small bowl, stir together yeast, 1/2 cup warm water (105°-108°), and 1 tablespoon sugar and let stand for 5 minutes.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment, add the sour cream mixture, yeast mixture, eggs, and 2 cups flour. Give a quick stir with a spatula and turn on at medium speed. As the ingredients start to come together, reduce speed to low, and gradually add the remaining flour (4 to 4 1/2 cups) until a soft dough forms.

4. Once the dough forms, reduce the speed and allow the dough to knead until smooth and elastic (up to 10 minutes). Place in a lightly greased bowl. 

5. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85° is ideal) for 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in size. 

6. When ready, divide the dough in half. Roll each portion into a long rectangle. Spread the softened butter evenly on each rectangle, leaving a 1-inch border. In a small bowl, stir together the sugar and cinnamon, and sprinkle evenly over the butter on each dough rectangle.

7. There are various ways to form the dough ring, one way is to roll up each dough rectangle, starting at the long side. Place one dough roll, seam side down, on a sheet lined with parchment. Do the same with the second roll. Pinch the tops together, and twist the dough logs over each other to give a braided look. Bring the other ends around together to form a ring, ensuring to make a good seal at the seam. 

8. Cover and let rise in a warm place again, 20 to 30 minutes or until doubled in bulk.

9. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

10. Bake for 14 to 16 minutes or until golden. 

11. After the cake is done baking, allow to cool most of the way. Meanwhile, in a large bowl mix the glaze ingredients until smooth & creamy. 

12. Pour glaze evenly over warm cake; sprinkle with colored sugars, alternating colors and forming bands. Let cool completely. Serve. 

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