Fat Tuesday signals the final day of indulgence before the commencement of Lent, and Cincinnati’s renowned Graeter’s Bakery is gearing up for the occasion with its meticulous preparation of the traditional King Cake.
The King Cake, a delectable fusion of coffee cake and cinnamon roll laden with sugar, holds deep roots in biblical narratives, particularly the account of the three kings presenting gifts to Baby Jesus. A distinctive feature of the King Cake is the hidden plastic baby, with the tradition dictating that the finder of the baby must procure the cake the following year.
The elaborate process of creating the King Cake unfolds over hours, sometimes spanning days, within the Graeter’s bakery located on Ludlow Street.
“By the time Tuesday arrives, the bakery typically produces around 375 large and 1200 small King Cakes,” disclosed Anthony Schwier, Graeter’s Lead Baker, who boasts two decades of experience perfecting the craft.
Schwier delved into the intricacies of the process, emphasizing the blend of 16 ingredients in the scratch-made danish dough prepared in 500-pound batches. The dough is enriched with a homemade cinnamon butter filling before being meticulously sliced, braided, and arranged.
One distinctive element of Graeter’s King Cake is the intricate braiding technique employed during preparation, enhancing both the visual appeal and taste of the final product.
Following the braiding process, the King Cakes undergo a brief resting period of approximately 25 minutes in a warm, high-humidity proof box before embarking on a 20-25 minute baking stint in the oven under Schwier’s watchful eye.
Schwier expressed his fondness for overseeing the oven operations, noting the satisfaction derived from witnessing the transformation of the scratch-made ingredients into the finished, glossy King Cakes.
Once baked to perfection, the cakes receive a swift glaze of apricot to enhance their appearance before being elegantly adorned with Mardi Gras-themed sugar in shades of purple, green, and yellow. To further elevate the presentation, Graeter’s adds delicate candied cherries atop the cakes.
To complete the King Cake experience, a plastic baby, along with accompanying items like a necklace and a coin, is discreetly concealed within the cake, adding an element of surprise for eager customers.
Following the meticulous preparation, Graeter’s King Cakes are now available for customers to indulge in as part of the Fat Tuesday festivities.
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