Project Wonderful

Monday, March 3, 2014

Apple Goat Cheese King Cake

The other day I posted a recipe for a traditional king cake to share with office workers in the weeks before Mardi Gras. Most king cakes are a fairly simple, albeit a somewhat time-consuming endeavor: A sweet dough, rolled with cinnamon and pralines and doused in multi-colored sugary goo. Which is not to say that this isn't fantastic! But since tomorrow is Mardi Gras, I figured I should pull out all the stops and share a recipe for a king cake that truly tips the scales of decadent. If you really want to kick your Mardi Gras party up a notch, you have got to give this one a try.

On Chartres Street in New Orleans, just a few blocks away from Washington Square, there's a tiny little bakery called New Orleans Cake Cafe. Right about now, owner and head baker Steve Himelfarb and his crew are working overtime to meet demand for this, their signature cake. They make over 100 of these incredible confections per day as Mardi Gras draws near and the cakes go quick.

My recipe is a tip of the hat to Cake Cafe's wonderful creation, and if you are looking for a way to up your baking cred, this one will have people begging you to bring it to the Mardi Gras parties every year.

This recipe makes one seriously awesome king cake:

1/2 cup milk
2 Tbs. butter
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast (or 2 1/4 tsp)
1/3 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. apple pie spice
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 pinch salt (about 1/16th of a teaspoon)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
8 oz crumbled goat cheese
1 large or 2 small Granny Smith apples, cored and sliced

1 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbs. spiced rum
Green, yellow and purple sugar sprinkles
Toy baby

To make the pastry:
Scald the milk as I described in my previous king cake recipe, remove from the heat and stir in 2 tablespoons of butter. Allow this mixture to cool to room temperature. 

Dissolve the yeast  in 110º  water with 2 teaspoons of the white sugar in a large bowl. Stir gently and let stand until the yeast starts to bubble and look creamy, about 5 - 10 minutes.

When yeast mixture is bubbling, add the cooled milk mixture. Whisk in the egg and stir in the remaining white sugar, salt and pie spice. Beat the flour into the mixture 1 cup at a time. The dough is going to look crumbly and dry, but work it with your hands to get everything incorporated. When the dough starts coming together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it until it's smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Spray a large bowl with a good cooking spray, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat it. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place for two hours. A good suggestion would be to pre-heat the oven to "warm," then turn it off, put the dough in the oven, and turn on the oven light. This provides the perfect environment for the dough to rise.  

To make the filling:
Add the cream cheese, sugar, salt and vanilla extract to a medium sized bowl. With a hand mixer, (or if you are one of the cool people that have splurged and bought a stand mixer) beat the ingredients on high speed until everything is fully combined. Initially, it's going to clump and not do much of anything, but after a few seconds the cheese will start to soften and suddenly it will all come together. After about two minutes, set this aside.

In a separate bowl, stir together the brown sugar and cinnamon, and set aside.

When the dough is ready, preheat oven to 375º  and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Roll the dough into a large rectangle about 8-10 inches wide and about 18 inches long.

Spread the cream cheese and sugar mixture evenly across the entire surface, then sprinkle the goat cheese crumbles over the cream cheese. You can use regular goat cheese if you want, but the crumbled stuff is so much easier to work with and covers the dough nicer. 

Lay the apple slices evenly down the center of the dough and sprinkle them with the cinnamon and sugar mixture.

Now the tricky part:
Fold the dough over the filling. To do this, take the front 1/3rd of the dough lengthwise and pull it to the center. Then take the back 1/3rd of the dough and pull it to the center too. Press the edges together to seal everything in. 

Gently roll the dough into a tube shape, being careful not to have the apples pierce the dough. Transfer the dough to the baking sheet and bring the ends around, pinching them together to form an oval shape. 

Here's a little trick:
When the dough is ready, place it on the oven rack in the pre-heated oven WITH THE DOOR OPEN for 3-5 minutes. This will give the dough a second rise, making it much more light and airy when it's finished. You don't have to do this, but its the little things like this that will really set the cake apart from the store-bought stuff.  

After 5 minutes, close the door and bake for about 35-40 minutes. You'll want to keep checking it to make sure that it doesn't over-cook. You're looking for a nice even golden color across the top of the cake.

When it's ready, pull it out and let it cool a bit, then carefully lift up the cake and insert the toy baby from underneath. 

To make the icing: 
Mix the cup of powdered sugar with the tablespoon of spiced rum until it's syrupy and pour-able. Drizzle this glaze over the top of the cake and, while its still wet, shake on the colored sprinkles.

We don't go for presentation too much here at the pillow fort, so I just served the cake as-is, on the parchment paper and used the baking sheet to support it. You will have curious fingers scooping up the pool of molten sugar and cheese that congeals at the base of the cake, but that will help tease people until the cake is ready to be served. 

BTW, you'll notice in the photo below that there's a plastic rooster in the center of the cake. I ran out of babies, so we decided to call this a "king cock."  Uh, you may not want to use that name.

This cake is amazing. The flavors combine together so nicely and while it is very sweet, the goat cheese adds a nice bit of tanginess that works great with the apples. It's a winner.

And if you're ever in Nola, go to Cake Cafe and give the folks there my regards.


Cake Cafe Photo credit, Jeffery Johnston,

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