originally published January 6, 2010 and March 3, 2011 in slightly different form
I use a basic vegan sweet bread recipe. This one is a little complicated; any sweet bread recipe will probably do. The king cake is a multi-hour affair.
Basic Sweetened Bread Dough from Vegetarian Times Complete Cookbook by the Editors of Vegetarian Times [MacMillan, 1995].
[my additions/variations in brackets]
2 c. soymilk [plain, vanilla, or Silk Very Vanilla or almond milk]
1/2 c. + 1 tsp honey [or agave nectar or maple syrup]
2 Tbs lemon juice
2 tsp salt [I use a small dash]
1/2 c. vegetable oil
3/4 c. warm water
2 Tbs active dry yeast
about 6 c. bread flour and 1 c. whole-wheat flour
In a small saucepan, heat the soymilk just until bubbles form around the edges. Remove from the heat. Stir in oil, 1/2 c. honey, oil, lemon juice, and salt. Let cool. [I either put it in the fridge a while or only heat the milk to lukewarm so I can use it right away without killing the yeast in the next step.]
Place the warm water in a large mixing bowl and stir in the 1 tsp honey. Sprinkle in the yeast…and let dissolve. Pour in the soymilk mixture. Stir in 3 cups flour of choice. Beat 2 minutes with a wooden spoon or electric mixer. Add 1 more cup flour and beat 2 minutes more. Then work in the remaining 3 c. flour and knead on a lightly floured surface for 10 minutes, adding a more flour as needed. [I use Edward Espe Brown's kneading method: see The Tassajara Bread Book. You also may use more flour than listed. Once it is hard to stir, I turn the dough out and working more flour in while kneading.]
The dough should feel velvety smooth, not sticky.
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl [I oil the bowl used for mixing, leaving the scraps of dough in the bowl].
Cover with parchment paper and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1-1/2 hours.
Deflate the dough .
Divide the dough into approximate thirds. Roll or stretch each third into a long rope, as long as you can handle. Slightly flatten each rope, sprinkle on cinnamon sugar and fold them over or otherwise seal the dough ropes. Press the ends of all three together then, one rope at a time, do a loose or modified braiding then bring the braid or near-braid together in a ring. Press dough together to make a ring.
Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Place the ring on the parchment paper and let rise in a warm place for 50 or more minutes.
Prepare the icing-glaze by making a simple vanilla icing [powdered sugar, some vanilla, soy milk or water]. Divide it into 3 parts and use food coloring to make gold, green and purple icing.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake until light brown and done all the way through, which takes 30-45 minutes. To check for doneness, press to see if it is springy rather than doughy. With help, lift one side to check the bottom for doneness.
Once done, let cool according to how you want to apply your icing. I use the icing more as a glaze and drizzle it on while the cake is warm so it spreads and seeps into the cracks and folds.