King Cakes can be a portion-control nightmare. The cinnamon croissant-esque cake is topped with gobs of sticky-sweet glaze and buckets of colored sugar sprinkles. I wanted to eliminate the potential for turning a simple Mardi Gras treat into a diet buster, so I devised this recipe for King Cake Cupcakes.
You still have the experience of waiting for a yeast dough to rise and rolling it out. But instead of one big ring, we're turning the dough into individual cinnamon buns. We keep the sugar numbers low by containing the sugar to a cinnamon-sugar sprinkle in the swirl and a tiny swirl of glaze on top. You'll get all the flavors of your favorite King Cake, but you won't walk away feeling like you definitely understand why they call it Fat Tuesday.
We used colored sugar for our holiday-themed topping. Feel free to make your own with natural dyes or eliminate altogether. The sprinkles are only a festive touch, and without them, the King Cake Cupcakes are still plenty delicious.
Intimidated by making a yeast dough? Don't be. This fool-proof method will have you craving homemade yeast breads once you see how easy it really can be. Trust me, if I can do this, so can you!
How to Make It
Lightly coat sides of pan with cooking spray.
MAKE THE DOUGH: Dissolve yeast in warm water in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Stir in salt. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add 5 cups flour to yeast mixture; stir until a soft dough forms. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 8 minutes); add enough of remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to keep dough from sticking to hands.
Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, the dough has risen enough.) Punch dough down; cover and let rest 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine granulated sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl; set aside.
MAKE THE CUPCAKES: Roll dough into a 16 x 12-inch rectangle on a lightly floured surface; spread 2 tablespoons of softened butter over dough. Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar mixture, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Roll up rectangle tightly, starting with long edge, pressing firmly to eliminate air pockets; pinch seam to seal (do not seal ends). Cut into 16 (1-inch-wide) slices. Place slices, cut sides up, in prepared pan (rolls will be crowded). Cover and let rise 30 minutes or until doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 375°.
Bake at 375° for 20 minutes or until rolls are light golden brown. Cool completely. Place a serving platter upside down on top of pan; invert onto platter.
MAKE THE GLAZE: Place powdered sugar and vanilla in a small bowl. Add 5 teaspoons milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, stirring to form a thick glaze. Drizzle about 1 teaspoon of glaze evenly over rolls. Sprinkle evenly with decorating sugars.