King Cake ~ A World of Cake {Cookbook Giveaway}

Recently, I had the opportunity to review a new cookbook - A World of Cake (150 Recipes for Sweet Traditions from Cultures Near and Far) by Krystina Castella.  I had not heard of this author before but the book sounded familiar as I've seen it mentioned on a couple other food blogs recently.  Of course, I had to do a quick google search on Ms. Castella and soon found that she is also the author of four other dessert/sweets cookbooks! Crazy About Cupcakes, Crazy About Cookies, Pops! Icy Treats for Everyone, and Booze hello, booze cakes? That's right up my alley (see my recent cupcake post)! Heck, all of them are - Ms. Castella is a woman after my own sweets-coveting heart!

{Visit Krystina Castella's A World of Cake}
But, one thing at a time...A World of Cake - is just that... a beautiful book showcasing traditional cakes and pastries from all over the globe, many of which are new to me.  Upon receiving the book in the mail, I opened the package and was immediately mesmerized by the colorful photos of cakes on the cover. I could have stared at the cover for hours, but quickly remembered there were 150 recipes inside for me to peruse... when I turned the pages, I was surprised to find so much information! Not only are there recipes, but the author also includes lots of details and tidbits about the history, culture and traditions associated with each cake! It is laid out in a way that the facts compliment the recipe - without overloading or boring the reader...this is coming from someone that found history to be her least favorite subject in school.

The book also includes a section of helpful baking techniques, tips and tricks which will be sure to come in handy with some of the more unfamiliar methods of making cake - such as steaming huat kueh (a Singaporean cake - which on a side note, looks and sounds quite similar to a Taiwanese cake my mom makes).  There are also recipes at the end of the book for fillings, frostings and icings - which was the only thing that slightly irked me - having to flip back and forth from the main recipe to the filling and icing recipe in the back.  Other than that, I adore this book - especially because it includes traditional Taiwanese cake/pastry recipes as well as a Chilean (for hubby's family) one that I'm excited to try one day soon.

Whether it be the Dundee Cake from Scotland, Souskluitjie from South Africa, or the New Orlean's King Cake (recipe after the jump below) - I'm sure you, too will find a recipe that takes you home.

There is an extensive preview of the book on if you'd like to check it out.

Or... you could win your own copy right here! 

ONE lucky reader will win a copy of Krystina Castella's A World of Cake...

To enter, please do the following: 
A World of Cake: From honey cakes to flat cakes, fritters to chiffons, meringues to mooncakes, tartes to tortes, fruit cakes to spice cakes, 150 ... traditions from cultures around the world
1.) Leave a comment below answering the question: Which 3 countries would you love to visit for some yummy cake and sweet treats? (in case you care about my answer: France, Japan, Chile)

2.) Extra entries - You will receive an entry for each new like/follow/subscription (please let me know in the comments if you have done this so I can count your entries):
  1. "Like" A World of Cake on Facebook
  2. "Like" sweets by sillianah on Facebook
Enter by 12am EST, Wednesday, March 9th - please don't forget to leave your email address or a link to your blog so I can contact you (anonymous entries w/o contact info will not be counted). Thanks! ONE winner* will be drawn using the Random Integer Generator and announced on this post, which will be updated next Wednesday, 3/9.  

* Sorry, this giveaway is only open to U.S. residents.  Thanks for understanding. 

::Updated 3/9/11:: And the winner is... Flora B.! 

** This giveaway is sponsored by Storey Publishing - I was provided with a copy of the book at no cost to me, as well as another copy to give away to one of my readers.  I was not obligated to write a review -  all of the above opinions are my own. **

For the recipe - and explanation of why I chose to make King Cake... click below:
As most of you may know, this weekend begins  the Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans.  To be honest, I never really knew what this celebration was about or cared to know... I knew it involved beads and crazy partying and drinking, costumes and the colors purple, green and yellow.  But when Alee, from Storey Publishing contacted me and mentioned that the day was coming up on March 8th, I thought I would look into it - and while I was at it, also learn the significance of the King Cake.  

I have seen King Cake in supermarkets and bakeries in the past but was never interested in tasting it because it was always laden with icing and those colored sugars - which, even though purple and green are two of my favorite colors, looked quite unappealing to me.  But after reading Krystina Castella's descriptions and tibits about the tradition of King Cake, and the fact that it was based on the three kings (how did I not know this growing up going to church?)...I was intrigued.  Also, her recipe includes a cream cheese filling, as well as fruit/nuts/chocolate variations; and a lemon icing - how can it not be good?

This was my first time working with yeast in a long time (years) so I was a tad nervous about it - I was stumbling around the kitchen, even knocking over a glass of milk... unsure of what would happen if I left the yeast-milk mixture sitting too long, wondering what if the dough didn't rise, etc.  

In the end, it all worked out - as you can see... I had no problem with the dough rising - in fact, my cake baked up much larger than I had expected! Even so, the icing makes more than enough - I only used half. So if you decide to try this, you may want to halve the icing recipe unless you want to cover your entire cake in the lemony icing.  I colored the icing because I ran out of yellow sanding sugar - but also because I wanted to try and be all artsy fartsy with the piping...yeah, it was a fail.  This is icing, not frosting, silly Lil!

By the way, I knew this cake would be deeelicious just by the aromas wafting from the oven while it was baking...I wanted to cut a thick slice right when it came out but alas, I still had to ice and photograph it.  The flavors and textures of this cake reminds me of a mix between challah bread and a cheese danish.  The lemon icing gives it just the right amount of brightness to lighten it all up! 

Alrighty, this post is becoming a book in itself... let me know if you have any questions about this cake - there are a lot of steps and parts to it but I actually had a lot of fun putting it together (after the initial anxiety)!  


King Cake

Reprinted with permission from A World of Cakes by Krystina Castella
Published by Storey Publishing.  Copyright 2010.

Makes 1 cake (serves 10-12)

1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk, warmed
4 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
5 egg yolks

Cream Cheese Filling
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Lemon Icing
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 drop yellow food coloring

1 tiny (1-inch) plastic baby  (I opted not to include this - not keen on melting plastic?)
1 egg white
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon each purple, green, and gold colored sugars
1/4 cup candied cherries, halved (I opted not to use - don't like them)

To make the dough:
Dissolve the yeast in the water. Add 1 tablespoon of sugar and the milk. Let sit for 10 minutes. Combine the flour, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, and lemon zest in a food processor or blender*. Pulse three to five times to mix.  In a separate bowl, cream the butter and the remaining sugar until fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks. Gradually add the butter mixture to the flour mixture and process until coarse. Then add the yeast mixture. Pulse eight to ten times, until the dough forms a ball. If it is too sticky, add more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. If it is too dry, add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover. Let sit in a warm, dry place for at least 2 hours, until the dough doubles in volume.

*Since I don't own a large food processor, I just sifted the dry ingredients into a large bowl and whisked it together a few times.  Then, I continued with the recipe using my stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. I added the flour mixture into the butter mixture and beat until coarse. Before adding the yeast mixture, I switched to the dough hook attachment. Then, I ran the mixer until the dough formed a ball and was not sticking to the sides, stopping once to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. I didn't have to add any extra flour or water.

To make the filling:
Combine the cream cheese, sugar, flour, egg yolk, lemon juice, and vanilla in a bowl, and blend until smooth. Set aside.

To assemble:
Butter a large baking sheet. When the dough is ready, punch it down a couple of times to flatten it a bit. Divide the dough into three equal pieces. Roll out one piece on a floured work surface to about 12 inches in length and {3/8}-inch thickness. Spread one-third of the cream cheese filling over the dough, leaving bare 1 inch on all sides. Then roll up the long side of the dough, forming a long cylinder, and pinch the edges to seal. Repeat with the other two pieces of dough.  Braid the three cylinders together, then wrap the braid into a circle. Where the ends come together, insert the plastic baby, and pinch the ends together to seal, smoothing the dough to hide the seam. Transfer the ring to the prepared baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit for 45 minutes, or until the dough doubles in volume.

To bake:
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Beat the egg white with the milk. When the dough is risen, brush it with the egg white mixture. Place the cake in the oven and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until golden, or a thermometer reads 200 to 210ºF. Let cool.

To make lemon icing:
Cream butter and sugar until smooth.  Mix in lemon juice, zest and drop of yellow food coloring, if using.

To serve: 
Pour or pipe lemon icing over the cake.  Sprinkle immediately with colored sugars and candied cherries, If desired.  Let the topping set before serving.