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I made our annual king cake today with a recipe from Southern Plate that called for frozen bread dough. It was a cinch to make compared to my traditional recipe, which calls for making the dough, letting the dough rise, punching down the dough, letting the dough rise yet again, rolling and shaping the dough, letting it rise again, baking the cake, and finally decorating the cake. If it sounds like a ton of work that takes all day, you are correct.

This recipe calls for adding lemon extract to the cream cheese filling; I associate king cakes with a light cinnamon flavor, so I substituted cinnamon for the lemon. How much cinnamon? A few shakes. This was a cooking-by-taste experiment.

If I made it again, I would skip the cream cheese filling altogether and simply coat the dough with butter and cinnamon sugar before rolling it up. Simple is better when it comes to king cakes.

Like Southern Plate’s Christy Jordan, I couldn’t find purple sugar at the grocery store, so I ended up with hot pink. I’m pretty sure the cake glows in the dark; I really need to go downstairs and check before the cat freaks out.

The ring obviously did not maintain its shape during baking, but it didn’t totally stick together in the middle.

The husband’s verdict: It’s OK, but not as good as the make-king-cake-all-day version.

My verdict: It’s definitely got a shot without the cream cheese filling.

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Mardi Gras is approaching, and I’m craving king cake. Although the king cakes at Publix are looking better than they did a couple of weeks ago, I’m tempted to make my own this year. Only the extremely complicated recipe that my mom culled from Southern Living a couple of decades ago takes the better part of a day to make. It also yields two king cakes, a bonus if everyone in the household works in an office, but about 1.5 king cakes too many if one person works at home with a finicky tabby cat.

I may have found my answer over at Southern Plate, where Christy Jordan has made a perfectly presentable king cake using a roll of frozen bread dough. I don’t know that I can abide hot pink sugar on my king cake, and I may skip the cream cheese filling in favor of my usual buttery cinnamon sugar, but other than those two elements, I think Christy may be my inspiration this year.

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