Jambabalya and a King's Cake for Mardi Gras

My son is always looking for a way to have cake. He associates cake with birthdays, so he is always wondering when the next birthday is coming. Realizing the next family birthday was not until May, he informed us that his fish's birthday was in t...

My son is always looking for a way to have cake. He associates cake with birthdays, so he is always wondering when the next birthday is coming.
Realizing the next family birthday was not until May, he informed us that his fish's birthday was in three weeks, and the fish wanted a chocolate cake with white frosting and red flowers.
He also told us his fish wanted a space shuttle for his birthday present. On his fish's birthday, we had a pizza party ending with a chocolate cake with red roses. We did draw the line on the birthday present, pointing out his fish did not have hands to play with a space shuttle.
Now my son is looking for another angle to get cake. To humor him, we decided to celebrate the "world's biggest party," Mardi Gras, Feb. 27. I will have the kids make paper plate masks, listen to Cajun music and dance around.
We will serve jambalaya and, of course, a cake. This will hopefully satisfy my son until April, when we will have a bunny cake for Easter. However, my niece just recently informed us that her guinea pig's birthday is coming up soon.

Serves 10
This is a great party recipe when you have a crowd. It can be made one day ahead of time. Just cook the shrimp the day of the party.
1 pound medium shrimp
2 boneless chicken breasts halves (about 1 pound total)
4 cups low salt chicken broth
2 medium onions, chopped
2 medium celery ribs, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 pound andouille or kielbasa sausage cut into half-inch-thick rounds
1 medium green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
4 scallions, chopped
1 (15-ounce) can peeled plum tomatoes in juice
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cups long-grain rice
Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
In a large saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the shrimp over high heat just until they turn pink, about two minutes. Cool, peel, and devein the shrimp. Refrigerate the shrimp until ready to use.
In a large saucepan, combine the chicken breasts, broth, half the chopped onion, half the chopped celery, one-third of the garlic and 1 teaspoon salt.
Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, partially covered, until the chicken juices run clear yellow when pierced with a fork, about 15 minutes. Remove the chicken breasts from the cooking liquid. Chop the breast meat coarsely and set it aside.
Heat the oil in a 5-quart Dutch oven. Add the sausage and saute over medium heat, stirring often, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in the broth mixture, the remaining teaspoon of salt, the onions, celery, garlic, tomatoes with juice, Worcestershire sauce, thyme and cayenne. Bring to a simmer, breaking up the tomatoes with a spoon. Rinse the rice thoroughly in cold water, then stir it into the broth and return to simmer. Cook over medium-low heat, tightly covered, until the rice has absorbed all the liquid, about 25 minutes.
Remove the Dutch oven from the heat, stir in the reserved shrimp and chicken, cover, and let stand for 5 minutes. Transfer the jambalaya to a warmed serving bowl, sprinkle with parsley, and serve immediately.
King's Cake
Serves 8-10
A Mardi Gras specialty is King's Cake.
It is a circular sweet roll-like cake with a hidden treasure, a tradition that originated during medieval times.
Originally, a gold bean was baked inside, but today the tradition is a tiny plastic baby doll is placed inside instead. To avoid choking hazards (or melting plastic) this recipe uses a pecan half as the treasure.
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (plus more for kneading)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons salt
4 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 cup lukewarm water
5 egg yolks
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup finely chopped dried fruit
1 pecan half
egg wash: 1 egg, lightly whisked with 1 tablespoon milk
colored sugar, purple, green and yellow
3 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons water
Combine together flour, sugar, nutmeg, salt, yeast and lemon zest. In second bowl, combine the warm water and egg yolks. Add to flour mixture. Blend in the softened butter and chopped fruit. Turn out onto a floured surface.
Knead the mixture about 10 minutes until smooth and satiny, adding flour as needed. Butter a mixing bowl and place the dough in it, cover and let rise in a warm place about 1 1/2 hours.
Punch down the dough and shape it into a log about 14 inches long. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; place the log on the parchment in a circle/wreath shape. Pinch the ends closed. Press the pecan half gently into the ring so that it is completely hidden. Drape the dough with a cloth and set it in a draft-free place to rise for about 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Before baking, brush the top of the cake with the egg wash. Bake 30 minutes. Slide the cake onto a wire rack to cool to room temperature.
Make the icing by combining powdered sugar, lemon juice and water to a pourable consistency. Pour icing over cake and allow it to run down the sides. Immediately sprinkle the colored sugars, forming rows of purple, yellow and green.
Barbara Weinstein is a stay-at-home mom with two children, Andrew, 4, and Leanna, 2. She can reached by e-mail at budgeteer@

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