by Jim Ridley
At the Turnip Truck Urban Fare in the Gulch, pastry chef Nicole Wolfe, a New Orleans-area native, rolled out her first king cakes just about the time the camels were sniffing around the hay-filled sneakers. Wolfe and Sam Tucker, both former pastry chefs at neighboring Watermark restaurant, set out to make a cake that would approximate Wolfe's childhood favorite from Randazzo family bakers in Louisiana. The brioche-style dough containing yeast, milk, flour, egg yolks and sugar gets rolled out into a flat sheet and painted with butter, cinnamon and sugar. After each basting with butter, the dough gets folded again, until it's the right size to form into a ring. Wolfe and Tucker stuff their cakes with a variety of fillings, including cream cheese, blueberry-ginger compote, and the gorgeous tart lemon curd often found on Turnip Truck's buffet table. After baking in a convection oven with steam to yield a golden-brown hue and a moist elasticity, the cake gets glazed with an icing fortified with vanilla paste and sour cream.
While Randazzo's classic recipe might be the gold standard, Turnip Truck adds its own unique flair to the colorful wreath, whose sugary stripes of green, gold and purple represent faith, power and justice, respectively. In keeping with the philosophy of the health-food grocery, Wolfe and Tucker wanted to avoid using food coloring, so they turned to the store's produce aisles for natural embellishment. On Turnip Truck's gaudy confection, the sanding of sugars is tinted with vibrant juice from spinach, kale, carrot and beets. "At first I thought, 'It won't be like real king cake,' " Wolfe says, "but now I think I like this better. I like that you know what you're eating."
Seconded. The King Cakes I'd always tried in the past, ordered by mail from the Crescent City, reminded me of stale coffee cake. I purchased one on a whim last week from the Turnip Truck, and it has blown away everyone who's tried it (including Mrs. Pink, who's far from a cake fan). I got the cream cheese variety, and it's the rare non-chocolate dessert that gets better with each sugar-dusted, filling-oozing bite, toothsome as a croissant. Check out Carrington's piece to see how the others measure up.