Mardi Gras King Cake French Toast
Bust out the beads, the booze, and the sparkly sugar, because this King Cake French Toast is stuffed with bourbon pecan cream cheese and ready to party, party, party.
Mardi Gras is calling us to burst into the streets wielding our tambourines and trombones and wiggle our booties. Our contagious public dance party of few will grow into a jazz parade of many. We’ll make new friends, learn new moves, and feel no shame. The only appropriate way to end (or begin) this fine Fat Tuesday: King Cake French Toast Stuffed with Bourbon Pecan Cream Cheese.
Whatever your plans from now until Mardi Gras, this King Cake French Toast demands to join the fun. It’s an easy, overnight French toast bake recipe inspired by classic New Orleans king cake. Cream cheese, toasted pecans, and bourbon are involved. A creamy dreamy glaze is poured. Sparkly sugar is sprinkled, all in the name of Fat Tuesday! Since king cakes range from fluffy coffee cake-like rings with soft glaze to decadent pastries loaded with creamy fillings, I placed our King Cake French Toast somewhere in between, though it teeters towards the less-sweet side. This is breakfast after all, so I didn’t want things to become tooth-achey sweet. Bourbon at breakfast, however, is completely acceptable.
Sickening sweetness first thing in the morning? No. Bourbon? Absolutely.
I’m not sure what that philosophy says about me. Let’s not dwell. We have King Cake French Toast to bake.
For the custard, we’re whisking together primarily egg whites and milk (I know it’s Fat Tuesday, but I’m leaving you a little extra room for beignets), along with cinnamon and nutmeg. For the bread, we’re choosing any sturdy loaf that captures our fancy. Brioche or challah will be rich, wonderful, and closest to a true king cake. Sourdough will be tangy and tasty. French bread will be fun. Whole wheat (what I used) will add pleasant nuttiness and extra fiber. The only true rule is that the bread be thickly sliced and have a somewhat firm structure so that it can absorb the max amount of custard without becoming soggy.
Now, let’s get between the slices. Cream cheese filling is traditional in many king cakes, and cream cheese-stuffed French toast sounds totally dreamy, so we spread it on thick. Toasted pecans and brown sugar are whipped with the cream cheese for warmth and crunch. Bourbon need be added in honor of Mardi Gras, a festive spirit, and a certain (in)famous street in New Orleans.
Whew! Let’s finish this pecan-bourbon-brown sugar-cream cheese-stuffed French toast custard magic. Gilding the Fat Tuesday lily, is a bright, citrusy Greek yogurt topping, my breakfast twist on the classic powdered sugar glaze that crowns a king cake. It’s just sweet enough to make King Cake French Toast a Fat Tuesday-worthy treat.
At last, it’s time to sparkle in green, gold, and purple. Of course King Cake French Toast will taste fabulous without the colorful sugar bling, but if there is anything we can take away from this jazz party on a plate, it’s this: Mardi Gras is no time to be shy.
Pour on the sparkle, breaks out the horns, and let’s boogie!
Mardi Gras King Cake French Toast
For the French Toast:
- 1 loaf sturdy bread — i.e. sourdough, brioche, challah, French, etc, cut into 1-inch thick slices (I used a whole wheat artisan loaf)
- 2 large eggs
- 4 large egg whites
- 2 cups non-fat milk
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
For the Filling:
- 1 package reduced fat cream cheese — (8 ounces) at room temperature
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons bourbon — or substitute non-fat milk
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 cup pecans — chopped and toasted
For the Greek Yogurt Glaze:
- 1 cup plain Greek yogurt — (I used non-fat)
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
For the Sparkle:
- Green, — purple, and gold sugar, for decorating
- Prepare the cream cheese filling: In a medium bowl, beat together the cream cheese, brown sugar, cinnamon, and bourbon. Beat in pecans. Set aside.
- Spray a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Arrange half of the bread slices on the bottom of the baking dish so that the bottom of the dish is covered with a single layer (the actual number of slices may vary depending upon the loaf you use. Just ensure you have an even number of slices so that half will be on the bottom and half on the top). Spread slices with a thick layer of cream cheese filling, then lay remaining slices over each to make a “sandwich.”
- In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, egg whites, milk, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla extract, nutmeg and salt. Pour over the bread slices, then press the slices gently for a few moments to help them absorb the liquid. Cover pan and refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight.
- When ready to bake, place a rack in the center of your oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Let the French toast sit at room temperature while your oven preheats. Flip over the bread slices so that the side that was on the bottom of the dish is now on the top. Bake, uncovered, 45-50 minutes, or until slices are puffed and lightly golden and the custard is set.
- While the French toast bakes, prepare the Greek yogurt glaze: In a small bowl, whisk together the Greek yogurt and powdered sugar until smooth. Wisk in lemon juice, vanilla, and salt.
- Serve baked French toast warm, drizzled with creamy glaze and sprinkled with colored sugars. Party!
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More Mardi Gras and more French toast:
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