An indvidual-sized pastry case riff on the classic King Cake.
Credit: Margaret Eby

Every year after Christmas ends, I look forward to the beginning of my favorite holiday season: The beginning of Mardi Gras, a whole carnival season devoted to costumes, parades, and most of call, king cake. I love a traditional king cake with its festive bands of purple, green, and yellow sugar, but I'm also a fan of all the innovations to the classic, like Inside-Out King Cake and King Cake French Toast. I also sometimes wish that king cakes came in more individual portions, rather than being faced with either finishing or wasting a large ring of cake. So I hit upon the idea of making king cake eclairs, a riff on the traditional pastry case favorite with a New Orleans twist.

Eclairs seem super intimidating and fancy, but so much of getting them right is just getting the dough right. You want to add eggs one at a time, assessing the dough as you do so, until you have a dough wet enough that when you drag your finger through the bottom of it, the channel closes up. Sometimes that's four eggs, sometimes that's five eggs, it depends on the conditions of your kitchen. If you're not sure, err on adding fewer eggs, since choux pastry that's very wet can be a real pain to work with. Then you just have to worry about drying the dough out properly in the oven, which can take some patience. You want the pastries to be fairly dry in the center.

Once you get there, it's just a matter of filling them with pastry cream and decorating them however you want. For the traditional pastry case look, you can dip them in fondant or glaze. Here, I used a glaze that I mixed up with food coloring in Mardi Gras colors, but there's no reason you couldn't use chocolate or sprinkles or whatever else your heart wants. These aren't as simple as say, a one-bowl brownie, but they are extremely tasty and also casually impressive. "Oh these?" you can say, waltzing into a party. "Why I just got inspired."