February 12, 2023

Dong Phuong King Cake

As a self-proclaimed foodie it's a bit ironic that I never had a desire to visit New Orleans, home of gumbo, jambalaya and po' boys, until I heard about Dong Phuong King Cakes.  Dong Phuong is a renowned Vietnamese bakery in New Orleans East whose king cake is considered by many to be the best in The Big Easy and even nationwide.  I can't remember where I first heard about it but I had to try their take on the traditional celebratory cake that's made and sold only between Epiphany and Mardi Gras.   

My introduction to king cakes was as a student in France where it's known as galette des rois and made with puff pastry and frangipane filling.  Its Louisiana cousin, however, is more like a large iced cinnamon roll  decorated with purple, green and gold colored sugars, the colors of Carnival and Mardi Gras.  What differentiates Dong Phuong's cake from all the others is the brioche-like bread which bakes up lighter and flakier and topped with cream cheese frosting.
Since winning the prestigious James Beard award in 2018 the popularity of Dong Phuong's King Cakes has skyrocketed.  The bakery only produces the cakes during Carnival season and in limited supply, which makes it quite difficult to get your hands on them.  There's definitely a time investment involved to procure one.  I tried to order a cake online, via Goldbelly, but  unfortunately all the pre-orders were sold out within weeks of going live.  Not to be deterred , and more determined than ever, with plane ticket in hand I headed to MSY.
Here's how I was able to get my hands on the elusive Dong Phuong King Cake....  
Without a pre-order there are basically two ways to get a cake: 1) purchase from an authorized retailer or 2) join the walk-in queue at the bakery itself.  Luckily I had success with both options.  The place I was staying at in New Orleans was close to one of their retailers.  I had called the shop in advance and learned their process for buying a cake.  [Note: Each retailer has their own process.] This particular shop passed out cards to fifteen customers each morning, first come first serve, which gave the card holder the right to return in the afternoon to purchase up to two king cakes each.  That's how I was able to buy my first Dong Phuong King Cake - the original cinnamon flavor. 

My strategy was to buy and taste one cake first to see if it lived up to the hype and decide if it was worth the drive to the bakery. One bite and the decision was self-evident...it lived up to all the hype and there was no doubt that I would joining the queue the next day so that I could buy some other king cake flavors. The bread was flaky and light and the cream cheese frosting was incredibly fluffy and not too sweet.  Heaven in a bite. 
I drove to Dong Phuong Bakery the next day (it was a Thursday) arriving half an hour before the 8am opening, where about twenty people were ahead of me in the queue. I highly recommend going on a weekday, ideally Wednesday or Thursday, as several people in the queue told me that lines and wait times were much longer on Fridays and the weekend.   When it was my turn to purchase I chose  three of the filled king cakes: strawberry, coconut and pecan.  The bakery also sells cream cheese filled and almond creme filled.  While all the cakes were delicious my favorite was the original cinnamon, followed closely by the strawberry and then the coconut.  I found the pecan one's filling was a bit too sweet for my taste.     
You're probably wondering, "Was it worth the cross-country trek for the Dong Phuong King Cake?" My reply: sans doute...without a doubt! I don't see myself returning to New Orleans any time soon but come Dec/Jan when online ordering is available I already know which flavor(s) of Dong Phuong King Cake I will buy.  
Laissez les bons temps rouler!

January 28, 2023

Dolly Parton's Coconut Cake

Maybe you're familiar with the expression, "What Would Dolly Do?" Well, I think I know.  Dolly would bake!  When I initially heard that Dolly had partnered with Duncan Hines to create a limited edition baking collection I was definitely intrigued.  Dolly is apparently an excellent cook and baker so it seemed a foregone conclusion that her products would be delicious.  

The challenge was actually finding them in stock.  Due to its immense popularity the mixes were sold out everywhere.  Serendipitously I found the coconut cake mix at a Walmart store in my hometown and immediately snapped up a box.  The coconut cake was the one I really wanted to try so I was very happy that the store had this flavor. 

Instead of the usual vegetable oil and water that most cake mixes call for, Dolly's cake used milk and butter.  Right off the bat I knew this was going to be rich and decadent cake.  Never a bad thing in my book.  I chose not to use Dolly's buttercream because I find most prepared frostings to be sickly sweet.   Rather, I opted to make cream cheese ermine frosting, which is lightly sweet with a texture similar to a European meringue buttercream.
Frosting the cake was easy breezy since the sides were covered with sweetened coconut flakes; they hide a myriad of decorating sins.  One taste of Dolly's cake with the cream cheese frosting and I was in heaven.  The cake layers were soft and fluffy with just the right amount of coconut flavor to balance the tangy sweet frosting.  You can be sure I will be making this cake again!  And if I find the banana cake mix I will give that one a go too!

December 16, 2022



Peanut butter and chocolate is one of my favorite flavor combinations so making Buckeyes was a no-brainer.   I've never made these candies originating from Ohio before, but I think they'll definitely be added to my holiday cookie box repertoire.

The buckeyes couldn't be simpler to make and are made out of ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen.  I referenced a Cook's Illustrated recipe that uses cream cheese instead of butter, which cuts down on the sweetness coming from powdered sugar.   I just love the look of the finished candies once they're dipped in chocolate because they really do resemble their namesake.

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