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King Cake Recipe and Links to Top Bakeries to Buy One Online

Updated on March 15, 2014
Mardi Gras King Cake (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Mardi Gras King Cake (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

According to Christian tradition, the 12th day after Christmas is known as “Epiphany”, “12th Night” or “Kings Day”. It’s supposed to be the day the gift-bearing Magi visited the newborn baby Jesus.

The New Orleans tradition of Mardi Gras begins this upcoming year on January 6 and continues until Fat Tuesday, March 8, 2011, which is the day before Ash Wednesday, March 9, 2011. This tradition includes many traditions brought over by immigrants from Europe.

One of the traditions that dates back to 12th century France is a cake that is made in an oval. The shape represents the unity of faiths. It also celebrates the three kings and is called a King Cake. It’s not like your typical birthday cake, but more of a cinnamon roll or coffee cake. It is decorated in the traditional Mardi Gras colors.

  • Green represents faith
  • Purple represents justice
  • Gold presents power

Traditionally, the King Cake was made with a bean or coin inside. Over the years it has become a trinket. The trinkets have varied only a little over the years. Within each cake is a small plastic toy of a baby. Some believe the baby represents the baby Jesus, while others believe it represents the rebirth of Father time for the New Year. Commercial bakeries have begun to discontinue placing the baby inside the cake and often place it on top since it poses a choking hazard.

During this festive time King Cakes are served regularly. Some offices have them daily, while some have them a bit less often. As each person receives a slice, it’s exciting to anticipate who will get the slice containing the baby. Whoever gets the baby is supposed to be lucky and sometimes deemed the King or Queen for the day. They also are appointed as the person to bring the next King Cake.

New Orleans sells over 750,000 King Cakes each year with another 50,000 cakes being shipped to other destinations around the world.

King Cake


How to Make a Mardi Gras King Cake

The traditional King Cake is made from a cinnamon bread dough that is braided. It is topped with icing and green, gold and purple sprinkles. Modern King Cakes often have fillings of fruit and/or cream cheese. You can find tons of variations to this recipe online. Have fun experimenting with different ones.

The one I've chosen does not require braiding, although you could alter this one so that you created four rectangles and braided two together twice if you wanted to.

King Cake Recipe

Makes 2 rings

For the dough:

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 pkgs of active dry yeast (.25 oz)
  • 2/3 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

For the filling:

  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 2-plastic babies

For the icing:

  • 1 cup powdered confectioners' sugar
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • Colored sprinkles in green, gold or yellow, and purple

Directions for the Dough

  • Scald the milk and remove it from the heat and stir in 1/4 cup of butter. Set aside and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.
  • In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in the warm water with 1 tablespoon of the granulated sugar. Set it aside for about ten minutes until it’s creamy.
  • Once the yeast is bubbling, add the cooled milk mixture. Using a whisk, blend in the eggs. Stir in the remaining granulated sugar, salt and nutmeg. Beat the flour into the milk/egg mixture 1 cup at a time.
  • When the dough becomes difficult to work with, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. This usually takes about 10 minutes.
  • Lightly oil a large bowl. Take the dough and coat it with oil on all sides and place it in the oiled bowl. . Cover plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for about two hours or until it doubles in size.
  • Take the risen dough and punch it down and divide it in half.
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  • Grease 2 cookie sheets.

Baby for the Mardi Gras King Cake
Baby for the Mardi Gras King Cake

Directions for the Filling

Combine the dry ingredients. Pour butter over the cinnamon mixture and mix until crumbly. Roll dough halves out into large rectangles. Sprinkle the filling evenly over the dough and roll up like a jelly roll. Bring the ends of each roll together to form 2 oval-shaped rings. Place each ring on the greased cookie sheets. Make slits 1/3 of the way through the rings every inch or so around the ring. Let the rings rise in a warm spot for about 45 minutes or until they have doubled in size. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. While the ring is still warm from the oven, push the doll into the cake in an inconspicuous spot. If need be, you can push it in from the bottom

Directions for the Icing

  • Mix the butter, milk and powdered sugar getting out all of the lumps.
  • Spread the icing over the ovals letting it run down the sides.
  • Sprinkle the colored sprinkles over the cake in alternating patterns of green, gold and purple.


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    • peepingtomb profile image

      peepingtomb 6 years ago

      So Colorful!

    • profile image

      leann2800 6 years ago

      Awesome! I love king cake!

    • formosangirl profile image

      formosangirl 6 years ago from Los Angeles

      My mother-in-law sent one for my daughter to take to a class party to share her cultural background. Leftover came home last night, and it was delicious with a thick strawberry cream/sugar filling. I kept wondering...I am going to try to make this. Thanks for the recipe.

    • KCC Big Country profile image

      Karen Curtis 7 years ago from Central Texas

      Thanks Tonymac! You'll have to whip you up one!

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 7 years ago from South Africa

      Just been reading Tammy Lochmann's great Hub on these beauties and so thought I would mosey on over to see how they are made. Thanks for sharing. Bookmarked!

      Love and peace


    • Brandon E Newman profile image

      Brandon E Newman 8 years ago from North Texas

      Great hub.

    • KCC Big Country profile image

      Karen Curtis 8 years ago from Central Texas

      Not sure how healthy it is...but it is certainly tasty! Hope you enjoy!

    • ratnaveera profile image

      ratnaveera 8 years ago from Cumbum

      Thanks for sharing King cake recipe. It seems so tasty and healthy! Great Hub!

    • KCC Big Country profile image

      Karen Curtis 8 years ago from Central Texas

      I'm not sure I would care for a lemon icing over a cake that is so cinnamon-ny. You're right, it's supposed to be like a coffee cake.

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 8 years ago from Georgia

      I made one last year, and it definitely didn't turn out right. I forget what recipe I used though. I just remember it has lemon juice in the icing. It tasted ok, just didn't look pretty. It was like a coffee cake.

    • KCC Big Country profile image

      Karen Curtis 8 years ago from Central Texas

      Thank you Chellebelly for stopping by. I hope you enjoy your King Cake!

    • profile image

      chellebelly 8 years ago

      How fun!! i will make this cake this year....didn't know the story til now....Thank you!!

    • KCC Big Country profile image

      Karen Curtis 8 years ago from Central Texas

      I know, right? I'm sure they get tired of them though after eating them pretty regularly from Jan 6-Feb 16.

    • Bail Up ! profile image

      Bail Up ! 8 years ago

      Another reason to love New Orleans. Who can resist having a piece of this cake ?!

    • KCC Big Country profile image

      Karen Curtis 8 years ago from Central Texas

      Thanks Patty! just don't eat the baby, as they say!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 8 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Thanks for the recipe! I'll make sure to use it in 2010. Thumbs up.