We also always make a King Cake to symbolize the crowns of the Magi. This recipe makes 2 good sized cakes. This year we hid a half-shelled walnut as the "baby" in the cake and String Bean found it ... so she gets to "host" the next party before Lent (which starts early this year, February 6th).
Here's the recipe we used for the King Cake:
3 eggs + 2 yolks at room temp
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter
4-1/2 tsp yeast
1 cup milk
1/4 cup warm water
two walnut halves (or plastic baby from cooking store)
1 cup combination of citron, currants, golden and black raisins (soaked in 1/2 cup port)
1/4 cup (each) sugar in 3 cups
food coloring: green, yellow and purple
egg + 1 tbls water (egg wash)
1. scald milk and butter; let cool to room temp
2. sprinkle yeast in warm water. let soften than sit for 5 minutes (till light and bubbly)
3. beat eggs and add sugar, salt and dissolved yeast
4. add milk mixture and beat well.
5. stir in flours and mix well. Dough will be soft but not sticky.
6. place dough into buttered bowl, turning to coat whole with butter. cover with a towel and put in a warm, draft-free place until doubled (about 1-1/2 hours)
7. drain fruit and dredge with 2 tbls flour
8. turn dough out onto floured board and knead till elastic
9. split dough in half and pat each half into a rectangle
10. place fruit down center of each rectangle; fold dough over to seal in fruit and knead in the fruit a bit (not too much as the dough may discolor). Insert walnut (or baby) into dough and knead in to hide.
11. shape each rectangle into a "tube" of dough and join into two crowns; place each on its own cookie sheet (first covering with parchment paper)
12. cover with a towel and let rise till double (about 45-60 minutes)
13. preheat oven to 350 degrees
14. when crowns have doubled, brush with egg wash and sprinkle with colored sugars (add about 5-7 drops of green, yellow and red/blue to individual cups of granulated sugar and stir with a toothpick till sugar is nice color).
15. bake in middle of preheated over for 30 minutes, or until done
16. remove from oven and cool
17. when cool, make a milk/powdered sugar/vanilla extract glaze; place in ziploc baggy or pastry tube and pipe glaze stripes between colors.
You can wrap the second cake in plastic wrap and then overwrap with foil. Freeze for Mardi Gras (the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday). If you take it out of the freezer on Monday night, let thaw completely and then pop it into a 350 oven for 10 minutes, it will taste as if you made it fresh!