Best Picture Baking Project: All the King’s Men

All the King's Men

Picking a dessert for this movie was pretty simple, basically because the only thing I knew about it going in was that it was set in Louisiana and had the word “King” in the title. So I decided to make Mardi Gras King Cake, but I live in Chicago not New Orleans, and my apartment was not going to get to the recommended 85 degrees in November, so we had a slightly deflated version (it still tasted pretty good though.) Also you’re supposed to use three different (Mardi Gras themed) colors of sprinkles, but my baking budget is limited so I went with blue, because it was the only non-Christmasy color on the baking shelf at Target. Anyway, onto the movie:

Had I seen this one before?

Nope. I saw the trailer for the Sean Penn remake a few years ago. I knew it was a book, and that it was loosely based on Huey Long, whom I am vaguely aware of.

Top 3 observations on this viewing:

  1. This movie is very, very forties. There are wonderful close-ups on newspaper headlines, slow noir-y voice over, great outerwear, indeterminate accents.

(Side observation: no one in this movie ever takes their cigarette out of their mouth to talk)

2. John Ireland (who plays the actual protagonist of this story (despite his own protestations)– rich kid reporter Jack Burden) has a wonderful physicality, he hunches his shoulders in wonderful discomfort from his first realizations that Willie Stark isn’t the “honest man” he thought he was. I was not as big of a fan of Joanne Dru’s physical acting choices, which seemed to mostly consist of twisting her neck dramatically back and forth.

3. I’ve always heard that this is a cynical story about how politics will turn even an honest man into a corrupt power broker, which in a lot of ways it is, but I think if you pay close attention in the early scenes to Broderick Crawford as Stark, I don’t know if he was ever really a ‘pure good man,’ I think he was a well meaning but overall ambitious man, but I do feel bad for his wife and son.

What did it beat? Did it deserve to win?

Battleground – I’ve never heard of it.

The Heiress – I have seen this one! I liked it, but it’s less dynamic than AtKM

A Letter to Three Wives – Never heard of it, but based on the DVD cover I’m going to add it to my Netflix queue

Twelve O’Clock High – This title sounds vaguely familiar, but I feel like I wouldn’t have forgotten a Gregory Peck movie so I guess I haven’t seen this one either

Obviously once again I haven’t seen enough to really make a judgment on this one, but it does seem at least to be the most enduring movie from this year.

Bechdel Test Pass?

Not technically, no. There are three named women and they talk to each other, but every conversation in this movie is about either Willie or Jack – but I want to give it an honorary pass simply for the character of Sadie, played by the wonderful Mercedes McCambridge, who I’m very happy to report won an Oscar for this role. Sadie is a political schemer, a willing mistress, and an all around amoral woman, but she is smart and she is funny and she is completely honest about how she is and I love her.

And you know what else I love? Cake…

Mardi Gras King Cake

(Note: the recipe I linked to is for 2 cakes, the ingredient measures below are my estimates for one cake, it worked out pretty well.)

Ingredients for cake:

–          8oz sour cream (1 cup)

–          6 tablespoons sugar

–          2 tablespoons butter

–          ½ teaspoon salt

–          1 envelope active dry yeast

–          ¼ cup warm water

–          1 teaspoon sugar

–          1 large egg, lightly beaten

–          3 to 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour

–          1/3 sugar

–          8oz package of cream cheese, softened

–          2 teaspoons vanilla extract

–          Creamy glaze

–          Sparkling sugar sprinkles

Ingredients for glaze:

–          3 cups powdered sugar

–          2 tablespoons butter, melted

–          2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

–          ¼ teaspoons milk


–          Cook first 4 ingredients in a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring often, until butter melts.

–          Set aside and let cool

–          Stir together yeast, ¼ cup warm water, and 1 teaspoon sugar in a 1-cup glass measuring cup

–          Let stand 5 minutes

–          Beat sour cream mixture, yeast mixture, egg, and 1 cup flour at medium speed with a heavy-duty mixer until smooth.

–          Reduce speed to low, gradually add enough flour until a soft dough forms

–          Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface

–          Knead dough until smooth and elastic (about 10 min.) (Note: Be sure to coat your hand in flour, I always forget and then have to pry my hands out of the dough.)

–          Place in a greased bowl

–          Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts 1 hour or until dough is doubled in bulk

–          Punch down dough

–          Roll out into a rectangle

–          Beat 1/3 cup sugar, cream cheese, and vanilla at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth

–          Spread cream cheese mixture evenly on the dough rectangle, leaving a 1 inch border

–          Roll up the rectangle jelly-roll style starting at a long side

–          Place roll, seam side down, on a lightly greased baking sheet

–          Bring ends of roll together to form an oval ring, pinching edges together to seal

–          Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, 20 to 30 minutes or until doubled in bulk

–          Bake at 375 degrees for 15 min or until golden

–          While it’s baking: stir together the first 4 glaze ingredients, stir in 2 tablespoons milk, adding additional milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, until spreading consistency

–          Slightly cool cakes on pans on wire racks (about 10 minutes)

–          Drizzle glaze evenly over warm cake

–          Sprinkle with colored sugars

–          Let cool completely


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