by Lorin Gaudin
WHILE DOING SOME KING CAKE research (yes, that’s really a thing), I stumbled upon a recipe for King Cake Bubble Up. I’d never heard of it. The recipe is pretty basic, incorporating canned cinnamon rolls—something I’m not overly inclined to eat—so I was dubious, but curious. I stand corrected. Canned cinnamon rolls (like canned biscuits used in my mother- in-law’s chicken and “dumplings”) in this recipe are great. And this casserole is perfect for those times when getting a favorite (or any) real deal king cake isn’t possible, or as a great do-it-with-the-kids recipe.
It looks like the Pillsbury company came up with the “Bubble Up” to ease weeknight cooking for busy families. The name originated from the way the biscuit dough is cut up and then bubbles up when cooked. The first dishes were savory – think pot pie, pizza, and tacos. Cooks started experimenting with some sweet applications (fruit and sugar) and then some crafty locally made “king cake,” of course.
BASIC KING CAKE BUBBLE UP
- 2 (12.4-oz) cans of refrigerated cinnamon rolls. Do not get the big ones, any brand of the regular size will do.
- 1 (8-oz) package cream cheese, softened
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup milk
Decorations – purple, yellow, and green sanding sugar; sprinkles (try the gorgeous, locally made River Road Sprinkles); or crushed nuts, cookies, etc.
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Lightly spray a 9×13-inch pan with cooking spray.
1. Separate cinnamon rolls, reserve the icing to use after the bubble up is baked. Cut each cinnamon roll into 4 pieces. Place in the bottom of the prepared pan.
2. Using an electric hand mixer, beat together cream cheese and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla, mixing well. Add milk and mix until combined. Pour over chopped cinnamon rolls.
3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from the oven, cool slightly (5 – 10 minutes). Spread cinnamon roll icing over top and sprinkle with colored sugar.
The best thing about this recipe is its flavor flexibility and that it can be halved to make a smaller cake. There are some fun and delicious twists to try too! Mascarpone, whole milk ricotta, or Creole cream cheese (drained well) can be used in place of regular cream cheese, with one additional note: smooth the ricotta by blitzing it in a food processor with a bit of lemon juice. The best part are the flavor options. Try different extracts, or a splash of booze and milk alternatives. For inspiration, some variations are offered below:
1. “Irish coffee” Bubble Up: Tip a splash of Irish Whiskey and 2 teaspoons of instant coffee into warmed milk. Let cool and then add it to the cream cheese-sugar mixture before pouring over cinnamon roll pieces before baking. Or, instead of all milk try 1⁄2 cup Bailey’s Irish Cream and 1⁄2 cup milk.
2. “Cannoli” Bubble Up: Add 1⁄2 teaspoon almond extract and 1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla extract into either whipped mascarpone or ricotta. After baking, sprinkle with tiny multi-colored sugar beads and/or crushed pistachios.
3. Bananas Foster Bubble Up: Whip cream cheese with 1⁄3 cup sugar. Add 1⁄4 teaspoon banana extract, 1⁄4 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1⁄2 teaspoon rum. Right before baking, top with a good handful of dark brown sugar and bake. After baking, top with sliced bananas, a bit browner sugar and then lightly broil the top to a brulée.
4. Mediterranean on the Mississippi Bubble Up: Use labneh in place of cream cheese, and rose water (start with 1⁄2 teaspoon) in lieu of vanilla. Add a pinch of ground cardamom to the sugar or milk. After it’s done baking, brush the top with a honey simple syrup, crushed pistachios or walnuts and some rose petals (because they’re pretty).