1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 packages (1/4 ounce) or 4 ½ teaspoons instant yeast
1/2 cup warm water (110° to 115°)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
8 ounces almond paste
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 to 4 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
To Make the Dough:
Combine the flour, yeast, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
Cream the butter and sugar in the electric mixer bowl fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Add the water and eggs and beat until well combined.
Mix in the flour until the dough comes to a ball or comes away from the sides of the mixer bowl.
Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough for about 5 minutes or until you’ve made a soft, smooth dough.
Remove the dough to a floured surface. Grease the bowl and return the dough to the bowl. Allow the dough to rise, covered, for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until it’s puffy (though not necessarily doubled in bulk).
To Make the Filling:
While the dough is rising, prepare the filling by beating the cream cheese and the almond paste together until smooth. Chill until ready to use.
Cover a large baking pan with parchment paper. I use a pizza pan.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and roll into a large rectangle, about 20 x 14 inches.
Spread the filling on the dough, leaving a half-inch border all around the dough.
Roll the dough up from the long side (jelly-roll style). Seal the edge tightly. Form the roll into a circle and pinch the ends together to form a ring.
Place the cake on the prepared pan. Using kitchen scissors, cut two-thirds through the dough from the outer rim of the circle at 1-inch intervals.
Allow the ring to rise, covered with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel for 1 hour until almost doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Place an oven rack in the center of the oven.
Bake the ring for 35 to 40 minutes until the crust is golden brown.
Remove the pan from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Wrap well and freeze until the day before Christmas. Defrost the cake at room temperature overnight.
On Christmas Morning
To make the glaze:
Combine the powdered sugar, almond extract, and enough milk to make a frosting that can be poured over the cake. Sprinkle with sliced almonds or red cherries, if desired. Allow the glaze to set before serving.