King cake

Sweet and gaudy: Ring-shaped, gaudily decorated with golds, greens and purples, and always containing a hidden trinket of some sort, the king cake is a tradition as firmly rooted in French culture as New Orleans itself. (Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune)

Nutrition information:
Per serving (for 12 servings): 451 calories, 19 g fat, 11 g saturated fat, 121 mg cholesterol, 64 g carbohydrates, 7 g protein, 25 mg sodium, 2 g fiber.

King cake with cream cheese and fruit filling

Prep: 45 minutes
Rise: 2 hours
Chill: Overnight
Bake: 45 minutes
Servings: 10 to 12

Note: Ask Judy Walker, food editor at The Times-Picayune and, for a favorite king cake recipe, and she reaches for this one from the late Myriam Guidroz, a longtime food columnist at the New Orleans newspaper. Those using a bread-making machine should follow the manufacturer's directions for a brioche or sweet roll dough. The dough recipe here makes enough for two king cakes. Extra dough may be frozen, or make two king cakes and freeze one. Thaw frozen cake and reheat 10 minutes in a 375-degree oven.

1 envelope dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup milk
2 sticks (1 cup) butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
2 whole eggs
4 cups flour, approximately

1 can (16 ounces) cherry, apple or apricot pie filling