One of the best things about living on the Gulf (besides cheaper gas and white sand) has definitely got to be Mardi Gras!
When people think Mardi Gras, they usually think New Orleans. But Mardi Gras in the United States actually started in Mobile, Alabama. Lucky for me, one of my best friends, Erin, lives in Mobile, which is only about an hour away from us! Mardi Gras celebrations run for weeks, and this past weekend we kicked off the festivities with a parade in Mobile. Erin and Mike invited us over for some appetizers and cocktails before the parade.
Since Erin had snacks and drinks covered, I decided I wanted to bring a dessert. The traditional way to go would be to make a Mardi Gras King Cake. Making cakes from scratch is not really my strong suit, so I thought this might be a total disaster. I thought about Mardi Gras colored cupcakes, but that seemed TOO easy.
The sugar glaze and colored sprinkles on the traditional American king cake got me thinking about some similar looking Christmas cookies my old roommate, Laura, used to make. The cookies were anise flavored drop cookies with a sugar glaze and christmas colored nonpareils.
I wondered how I could modify the cookies for my occasion. Long before I ever knew anything about the cinnamon praline filled doughy Gulf Coast king cake, my French grandfather was bringing beautiful French king cakes home from France. French king cakes, gateaux des rois, are made from flaky pastry stuffed with almond frangipane filling. Anything almond, marzipan, frangipane or amaretto melts my heart immediately, so these cakes were always a favorite of mine.
In the spirt of gateaux des rois, I swapped the anise flavoring for almond extract in Laura’s cookie recipe and came up with a mini multicultural version of the Mardi Gras treat!
Mini King Cake Cookies
for the cookies:
- ¾ cup margarine
- ¾ cup sugar
- 3 ½ cups sifted flour
- 5 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 tsp almond extract
- 4 eggs
for the frosting:
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 2 tsp flour
- 1 tsp almond extract
- 4ish tbsp milk
First, I gathered all my ingredients, and preheated the oven to 375 degrees.
You’ll need to mix all of the cookie ingredients, but a few things first. You’ll need to sift the flour. Our sifter is another once-a-year-use apparatus that wasn’t unpacked in our move. So I used a colander and it worked just fine.
Put the margarine in a microwave safe bowl…
And nuke it until just melted. Yum, fake butter. Speaking of which, Laura told me these cookies come out weird if you use butter, so follow the recipe and use margarine, even if you think it’s gross (like I do).
Now you can add everything to a large mixing bowl.
And go to town mixing. My mixer flung dough all over my kitchen so… be careful. Unless you have a Kaiser dog to clean it all up. Then you’re set.
Now roll the dough into balls and put them onto a parchment lined baking sheet. The original Christmas cookie recipe calls for 1/2 tsp dough balls, but I wanted mine to look a little more like cakes than balls, so mine were about 1 tbsp. Bake for about 10 mins. Keep a good eye on them though. I did 3 batches. The first and third batches were perfect at 10 mins, but the second batch was a little burnt on the bottom. I know, it makes no sense.
Feel free to sample a couple at this point.
Now for the babies. A traditional king cake has a little baby, bean, or other trinket hidden inside it. Whoever gets the piece with the baby is king for the day and/or gets to make/buy the next king cake. I found some babies at a craft store, where I also found my green, yellow and purple sugar sprinkles.
I hid babies in two of the cookies for lucky winners. Luckily Nick asked the lady at the craft store, who told us to put the babies in after baking. Otherwise I would have tried to bake the babies into the cookies and would have had a little melted baby surprise. I’m not that smart sometimes.
Now it’s time to frost. Mix the powdered sugar with 2 tsp flour, then add 1 tsp almond extract and add the milk slowly until you reach a creamy consistency. Frost and decorate the cookies!
The cookies came out light & almondy and SOOO good! As much as I love the anise version, my favorite almond flavor really made these cookies shine.
While I was at the craft store looking for colored sprinkles, Nick wandered off and came back with some masks. He was really excited about them, so I got some glitter glue and feathers and went crazy.
I packed up the cookies and masks, and we headed to Mobile for some fun.
Erin made some delicious strawberry guacamole…
All were great! I’ll definitely be making the ceviche soon! We finished up with some cookies and headed out to the parade.
Apparently we didn’t have enough food, because Nick got hungry soon after arriving at the parade route, and went in search of some nutritious fare. (And yes, he wore his mask ALL NIGHT. I think the creepy smile is part of the costume.)
We also found these gems… and you though the Red Sox bottles were cool!
We had so much fun celebrating! Thanks to Erin and Mike for having us, and here’s to a couple more weekends of Mardi Gras festivities!