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Mardis Gras King Cake
Mardi Gras King Cake PHOTO: LIZ ANDREW/STYLING: ERIN MCDOWELL

News flash: Mardi Gras is only five days away. But even if you’re not heading to New Orleans, you can still celebrate with the best of ’em--by baking a rich, decadent king cake. The dessert is as much a part of the carnival celebrations in the Big Easy as the parades, masks and, well, beads. So go ahead and indulge. It is Fat Tuesday, after all.

Makes 1 cake
Start to Finish: 4 to 5 hours (includes rising and baking times)

Ingredients

Dough

½ cup water

½ cup milk

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract

3 eggs

4¾ cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon instant active yeast

1½ teaspoons salt

 cup granulated sugar

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

Filling

One 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

½ cup light brown sugar

¼ cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 cup pecans, roughly chopped

1 tablespoon orange zest

Icing

1½ cups confectioners' sugar

3 tablespoons heavy cream, or more as needed

Yellow, green and purple sprinkles or sanding sugar

Directions

1. Make the dough: In a small pot, heat the water and milk until warm to the touch (about 100°F to 110°F). Stir in the butter until melted. Stir in the vanilla extract.

2. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the eggs and mix on low speed to combine.

3. Add the flour, yeast, salt, sugar and nutmeg to the bowl and mix on low speed until well combined, 4 minutes. Increase the speed to medium and continue to mix for 2 minutes more.

4. Grease a large bowl with nonstick spray. Transfer the dough to the bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise until double in size, 1½ to 2 hours.

5. While the dough rises, make the filling: In a medium bowl, mix the cream cheese with the butter, brown sugar, sugar and cinnamon until well combined. Stir in the pecans and orange zest to combine. Set aside at room temperature.

6. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 350°F.

7. Assemble the cake: On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a 12-by-16-inch rectangle. Spread the filling on top of the dough in an even layer.

8. Starting at one of the longer ends, roll the dough into a spiral.Transfer the log of dough to the prepared baking sheet. Tuck one end of the dough under the other to make a ring. Spray the surface of the dough with nonstick spray and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for 30 to 40 minutes.

9. Bake the cake until it is lightly golden brown, 40 to 45 minutes.Let cool completely.

10. Make the icing: In a small bowl, whisk the confectioners' sugarwith the heavy cream to combine. The mixture will form a thick, pourable icing. Pour the icing onto the cooled cake and let it drip down the sides. While the icing is still wet, decorate the surface of the cake in alternating stripes of yellow, green and purple sprinkles.#

11. Let the icing set for about 5 minutes. The finished cake is ready to slice and serve.

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