The King Cake comes from the biblical story of the three kings who brought gifts to Baby Jesus, and a plastic baby is often hidden inside. Tradition says the person who finds the baby has to buy the cake the following year.
The process to make that King Cake takes hours, sometimes days, at the Graeter’s bakery on Ludlow Street in Cincinnati.
“By the time Tuesday comes around, we will have done about 375 large and 1200 small,” shared Graeter’s Lead Baker Anthony Schwier.
Schwier has been with Graeter’s exactly 20 years now, plenty of time to perfect the process.
“16 ingredients in our danish dough that we put together 500 pounds at a time,” Schwier said.
The scratch made dough is filled with homemade cinnamon butter filling.
It’s the sliced into strips and braided together.
“I think we’re the only bakery that braids them,” Schwier said.
He shared that it does take a minute to get the hang of the braid, but his crew makes it look easy.
Is the braid the authentic way of doing it? Schwier said it’s just the way they do it.
“Just like the way that it looks, the icing sinks down inside the braids,” he said.
The King Cakes sit about 25 minutes in a proof box which is a warm, high humidity case. Then they go into the oven for another 20-25 minutes or so.
“I like running the oven,” Schwier said.
“I like seeing the finished product because it’s all scratch made so the end it’s satisfying to see our work.”
The oven feels like a hard place to be for hours on end, it’s obviously very hot, but Schwier watches the rotating racks and just has a feel for when the cakes are done.
“You’ll notice that they’re dull color,” Schwier said.
They are. The dough is baked, but it looks flat. So Anthony grabbed a spray gun and added a quick glaze of apricot glaze to make them shiny.
And again, Anthony made it look easy when he dipped the baked King Cake into a vat of warm icing. It’s similar to how they dip danishes.
The King Cakes are topped with sugar — purple, green and yellow for Mardi Gras. A Graeter’s touch — little candied cherries go on top too.
The sugar is a little harder than it looks, the icing dries fast so you have to be quick.
You hide the plastic baby, along with a necklace and a coin, inside the cake yourself.
“We put them in the stores and go downstairs and they’re gone, they go pretty fast,” Anthony said.