Prepping the Dough
The dough which forms the backbone of the king cake is assembled, rolled into long sheets, and frozen overnight. ("The freezer is a baker's best friend," Himlefarb says.) In the early morning hours, it is transferred to the refrigerator to soften. Then it gets a thin layer of cream cheese filling to mellow out the other flavors.
Big Bucket of Cream Cheese
Preparing dozens of king cakes takes a lot of cream cheese filling.
After the cream cheese is spread on, Himlefarb crumbles big chunks of goat cheese down the center.
Apple slices come next. The slices are prepped the day before and soaked in lemon juice and water overnight to prevent browning.
The apples and goat cheese are covered with a generous heap of brown sugar mixed with cinnamon.
Roll It Up
Himlefarb folds the dough over the fillings and rolls it into a long tube. The end will be cut off to make a mini king cake—otherwise the dough is too big to cook evenly on the pan.
Ready For The Oven
The tubes of filled dough are arranged in the traditional circular shape.
In the Oven
"I kind of cheat a little with the proofing process," Himlefarb says. The dough sits out while it is being filled, which begins to activate the yeast. It needs a blast of heat to really get it going, so Himlefarb places it in the oven with the door open for a few minutes. After 2 to 5 minutes, the door is closed and the cakes are ready to bake away.
Out of the Oven
Once they have baked and cooled, the cakes are placed on individual cardboard boards for icing.
Prepping the Icing
Preparing the three colors of icing is one of the trickiest parts of the process. Each batch must be thin enough to drizzle over the cakes, but thick enough to hold its shape once it cools. The color must also satisfy both Steve and his wife, Becky, who oversees the icing process. "These are the debates we have," Becky says. "How deep does the green need to be?"
Ready for Icing
The baked cakes are lined up on a table in the cafe for icing. The small space of the restaurant's kitchen means that most of the baking needs to be done before customers start arriving shortly after 7 a.m.
Becky drizzles green icing onto the first king cake of the morning. The darker colors go on first, since the yellow has a tendency to bleed.
Once the green is done, Becky adds the purple glaze.
Yellow drizzles complete the artistic decoration.
Mini Praline King Cakes
In addition to their usual flavors, this year the team is also preparing praline-filled king cakes for Aunt Sally's Praline Shop, a local sweet shop whose owner is a Cake Cafe regular. Here, Steve spoons a caramel sauce made from melted pralines over the mini cakes, which are sold at Aunt Sally's Praline Shop on Decatur Street (map).
Mini Praline Cake, Complete
After the caramel sauce, the praline king cakes also get a drizzle of icing and some crumbled pralines on top for crunch.
Bucket O' Babies
The final touch on any king cake: the plastic baby. Traditionally baked into the cake, the baby is now typically stuck on top, leaving the buyer to hide it inside at home. The person who finds it either receives good luck or has to buy the next king cake, depending on who you ask.
Goat Cheese and Apple: Finished Product
With the baby sitting on top, the goat cheese and apple cakes are now ready to be boxed up and sent home with eager customers.
Ready to Eat
The smooth cream cheese, the savory funk of the goat cheese, the apples' tartness, and the sweetness of the brown sugar and icing combine for a unique and balanced bite. Laissez les bon temps rouler!