Rum Raisin King Cake

photo by praline3001
photo by praline3001

Just when you thought the holidays were over, Epiphany gives us a chance to have yet another reason to celebrate. January 6th marks the day to celebrate the Three Wise Men, or Three Kings, as they completed their travels to find baby Jesus, presenting him with gifts. Traditionally in Mexico, Three Kings’ Day, or Diá los Reyes Magos, is when families present gifts to their children and eat Rosca de Reyes bread with hot chocolate. However, the custom of eating sweet bread for Epiphany is practiced in many countries, including the US.

King Cakes usher in the period of time from January 5th, aka Twelfth Night, through Mardis Gras before Lent begins. New Orleans’ King Cakes delight with their festive purple, gold, and green frostings representing justice, power, and faith.

Some countries use brioche-type bread. Others use puff pastry or panettone-style recipes. Some resemble cinnamon rolls, but in a circular shape resembling a crown. Many are twisted like challah into oval shapes.

Some of the flavors you may find include anise, cinnamon, orange zest, and pecans. Some have colorful frostings like Nola’s purple, gold, and green while others are decorated with dried and candied fruits like jewels in a diadem.

You may find various fillings inside King Cakes--rich cream cheese, salty sweet pralines or even coconut cream. No matter the filling, you can usually count on some form of trinket hidden inside - so watch out! From beans to babies, you never know what you may find inside a King Cake. Whoever gets the piece of cake with the trinket inside is responsible for throwing the next party. In Mexico, you are expected to host everyone with tamales for Día de la Candelaria, or Candelmas, on February 2nd to celebrate Jesus’ first temple visit. No matter where you live, if you get the trinket you are expected to throw some kind of party.

Abigail Gullo, the head bar chef at SoBou in New Orleans, even created a cocktail to honor the NOLA’s royal King Cake tradition, sometimes joking that if you get the trinket, you gotta buy the next round for your friends. Her King Cake Old Fashioned includes a plastic baby frozen into a large ball of ice. You can stare at its li’l rear end up-turned in the ball of ice as you savor the pecan-flavored rum and bitters garnished with orange and raisins.

Let the holiday parties continue!

*Before you begin, realize this recipe is a 2 day process, with the bread needing an overnight rise. And don't forget the trinket!

Rum Raisins

½ cup Organic black raisins

King Cake Old Fashioneds, by Abigail Gullo
King Cake Old Fashioneds, by Abigail Gullo

2 50ml Spiced Rum minis or 3 1/3 ounces Rum (try 2014 NYISC silver-winner Jack Cross Spiced Rum or Sailor Jerry)

Heat in small pan until raisins plump. Remove from heat, and let cool.


1 8 oz package Neufchâtel cheese, softened

½ stick or 4 oz Unsalted butter, softened

½ cup Confectioner’s sugar

2 tablespoons Rum left over from plumping raisins

½ teaspoon Almond extract

2 tablespoons All purpose flour

1 teaspoon Organic lemon zest

1 oz/30ml Fresh squeezed organic lemon juice

1 Egg

Cream together cheese and butter with sugar. Add extract, rum, flour, zest, juice and egg. Whip on medium speed until light and creamy. May prepare in advance and refrigerate, but needs to be at room temperature to use.


1 cup Organic whole milk

1 ¼ ounce envelope Yeast or 2 ¼ teaspoons

2 tablespoons Organic granulated sugar

2 ½ cups Organic bread flour

¾ cup Organic whole wheat flour

1 ½ teaspoons Sea salt

1 teaspoon Ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon Orange zest

2 Eggs, beaten

1 stick (1 ½ cup) Unsalted butter, cut into ½ inch squares, softened

Heat milk to 115 º F. Add yeast and sugar. Stir. Let stand for 10 minutes until frothy.

In mixing bowl, combine flours, salt and cinnamon. Make well in center and add in yeast/milk mixture, beaten eggs, and orange zest. Knead on low 5 minutes. Slowly add in butter pieces while kneading an additional 5 minutes. You may add in a tablespoon of extra flour if dough seems too moist. Be careful to not over flour as you will also be adding some additional flour later while rolling out.

Place dough in buttered bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or moist towel. Let rise 1 hour in a warm place. Once dough has doubled in size, punch it down. Shape it into a bowl. Cover, and refrigerate overnight.

Bring dough and filling to room temperature. On a floured surface, flatten out into a rectangle. Place cheese filling in the middle, leaving at least an inch around the edges. Sprinkle rum raisins on top of filling. Roll up tightly, pinching to seal along seam. Turn over to hide seam on bottom, but don’t forget to tuck in your trinket! Form into oval and seal the ends. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, forming an oval. Tuck the ends into each other and seal. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let rise again until double in size 1-2 hours in a warm place.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Preheat oven to 350º F.


Rosca cakes, photo by Thomas Aleto
Rosca cakes, photo by Thomas Aleto

1 egg

Splash of water

Candied fruit


¼ cup Sugar

Beat 1 egg with a splash of water. Before placing cake in oven, lightly brush with egg wash, coating all the sides. Decorate with candied fruits, nuts, etc. Lightly brush again. Sprinkle sugar on top.

Bake for about 30 minutes just until golden brown.

Transfer to wire rack and cool completely before serving with hot chocolate.