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Mardi Gras King Cake Recipe

Posted by  ·  February 18, 2011  ·  Last Updated: February 18, 2011

Mardi Gras is coming up and this Friday Flashback will help you have a delicious celebration with this King Cake Recipe.

The King Cake’s circular shape symbolizes the path the three kings took to find Jesus in Bethlehem. The sugar topping is in the traditional Mardi Gras colors of purple (Justice), gold (Power) and green (Faith). The colorful sugar topping also represents a jeweled crown in honor of the three Wise Men whom visited Jesus on Epiphany. A plastic baby is hidden in the cake, symbolizes the Christ child. The person who gets the baby is supposed to have good luck for a year and is to buy the next king cake, or in some cases, host the next king cake party.

While I think this recipe turned out well and tasted really good, I have never eaten the real thing! It tasted like a soft cinnamon roll. If you celebrate Mardi Gras with a King Cake—please give us some details!

First you need a baby King. (It does seem wrong to hide something in a cake that clearly says choking hazard on the package–so be careful!)


I used Paula Deen’s recipe. I did add in some nutmeg and made the dough in my food processor.

Mardi Gras King Cake from Paula Deen Celebrates!


1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
2/3 cup evaporated milk
3/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 envelopes active dry yeast, regular or rapid rise
3 eggs
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
6 cups all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, melted
1 egg white, for glazing

Cinnamon-Sugar Filling:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

White Icing:
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons whole milk
Yellow Sugar, Purple Sugar, Green Sugar


Melt the butter in the microwave in a medium mixing bowl Add the evaporated milk, 3/4 cup of the sugar, and the salt. Stir so that the sugar dissolves. Allow to cool.

Dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup lukewarm water and stir in the remaining teaspoon sugar. Allow to stand for 5 minutes, until foamy.

Add the yeast mixture to the butter and milk mixture. Add the eggs, nutmeg and lemon zest and whisk together vigorously, until well blended. (I did this in the food processor and then added the flour and continued on with next step.)

(I also did this whole step in my food processor. Once all the flour was added and dough started to come away from the sides I counted to 45 slowly and then stopped and removed the dough and continued on with the recipes.) Or you can whisk in the flour, 1 cup at a time, until you have a thick paste–about 3 cups flour. Then switch to a wooden spoon and continue adding flour and mixing well. Do not add more than 6 cups flour, or your cake will be too dense. When you have added all the flour, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured wooden board and knead it with your hands, which you have dusted with flour, until the dough is smooth and elastic, about a dozen turns.

Place the dough into a large bowl cooking spray. Turn the dough to coat all sides with spray. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and allow the dough to rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Make the cinnamon-sugar filling: Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a small dish and stir well.
Punch the dough down and divide the dough in two. Roll out each half into a 10 by 15 inch rectangle. Brush each rectangle with half of the melted butter and then sprinkle each rectangle with half of the cinnamon-sugar filling mixture. Roll up along the long end like a jelly roll. Press the roll together at the seam, sealing with water if necessary. Wind the two rolls together, forming one thick piece. On a baking sheet sprayed with vegetable oil cooking spray, form the dough into a circle and seal the ends together.
Cover with a tea towel and allow the cake to rise in a warm place for about 1 hour, until it almost doubles in size.

Don’t forget to hide your baby Jesus!

king-cake-1 king-cake-2

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Whisk the egg white with 1 tablespoon water. Brush the top of the cake with the egg white. Bake the cake for 35 minutes, until it is browned and sounds hollow when tapped. I had to tent the cake with aluminum foil around the edges to keep from getting too brown before dough was baked in the center.


Make the white icing: Combine the sugar and milk in a small dish and whisk until smooth. If the mixture seems too thin, add a little more sugar. If it won’t drizzle, add a little more milk, 1/2 teaspoon at a time.

Allow the cake to cool for a few minutes on a wire rack. Drizzle with icing and sprinkle the colored sugar in random patterns over the white icing.


I like to make bread and I always take the easy way out by using my food processor. If you wanted to make a really simple King Cake that kids can make why not make monkey bread (I would leave out the nuts and raisins) with refrigerator biscuits and hide the baby as you layer the biscuits.

a reader sent in this version…

Traditional King Cake Recipe from Haydel’s Bakery

Credit: WWLTV.com


1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
½ cup all purpose shortening
4 cups all purpose flour
2 lg. eggs
1 cup milk (room temperature)
2 sm. packs active dry yeast
¼ tsp lemon flavor
¼ tsp orange flavor
¼ tsp vanilla flavor
¼ tsp butter flavor
½ cup canola oil
½ cup cinnamon sugar

Colored Sugar

3 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp purple food color
1 tsp yellow food color
1 tsp green food color

In a mixer at first speed combine 1/3 cup granulated sugar, salt, and shortening until well creamed.

Add eggs and continue to cream.

Dissolve the yeast in the milk and add the flavors.

Once dissolved add to creamed mixture and continue to mix.

Add flour and mix until dough tightens.

Remove from mixer and kneed into a ball.

At this point sprinkle some flour on top and cover with a clean kitchen towel.

Allow the dough to rest for 1½ hours.

While the dough is resting mix your colored sugars.

Start by taking one cup of sugar and your yellow food coloring.

Mix by hand with a wire wisk in a metal bowl until the sugar turns yellow.

Pour you yellow sugar into a separate bowl and put off to the side.

Repeat this process mixing green then purple. (By doing them in that order you only dirty one mixingbowl)

When dough has rested roll out into an oblong piece.

Brush on canola oil covering the entire piece.

Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar liberally over the whole piece.

Once the dough is covered with the cinnamon sugar and oil, fold it in half lengthwise.

Cut into 3 strips and braid the dough.

Gently roll the dough by starting at one end and working all the way down to the other end.

This will make the dough a nice long piece that can then be shaped into a circle.

Once shaped place on a baking pan covered with piece of parchment.

Allow the dough to rest again until it doubles in size.

At this point take a spoon and alternate sprinkling the three colored sugars on top of your circular piece of dough.

Bake at 370 degrees F for 12-15 minutes until dough is golden brown. Then laissez les bon temps rouler!

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  1. Thursday, February 23rd, 2012
    Nice post. I used to be checking continuously this blog and I'm inspired! Very useful info particularly the remaining phase :) I care for such info much. I used to be seeking this certain info for a very long time. Thank you and good luck.
  2. Tuesday, April 5th, 2011
    That's a really cook design for a king cake (the braided look). I make my king cakes with a praline cream cheese filling. I think I'll try to make this braided design next time :)

  3. orrobbins
    Tuesday, March 1st, 2011
    I tried the Paula Deen recipe you posted, but found that it was too dense. My dough would never rise. King Cake should be light, kind of like a cinnamon roll.

    We experimented with the recipe, and found that by adding more liquid (at least 1 cup of water), and then adding the yeast at the end, we got a light, fluffy dough. The final baked result was 3 times the original size, and was like a brioche in texture. Delicious!

    Oh, and we made three pieces and braided them. I think that's traditionally how it's made to represent the 3 kings.
  4. Kerrie
    Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011
    We're from the New Orleans area and when we lived in Nebraska for a year, my husband decided he wanted King Cake and made his own. Yes it should taste kind of like a cinnamon roll. We just found the Haydel's recipe this season and I think that is the next recipe we'll try. We don't like confectioner's sugar icing so we mix cream cheese icing in with it. Just enough to get rid of the nasty taste, but no so much so it tastes too cream cheesey. By the way, if you ever order a king cake, Randazzo's is the best! Haydel's is right up there too. So try that recipe next time you make it. Isn't Paula Dean from Georgia? She doesn't know what she's talking about! ;)

    Someone from france said they celebrate Epiphany. I had no idea what that was so I looked it up. It's January 6th, which is also the offical start of Mardi Gras season (although there aren't very many parades until about two weeks before). I think it's called King's Day and along with Ephiphany is also celebrates the day the three wise men found Jesus.

    Jan. 6th is also my birthday. I had only ever had one official birthday party my entire childhood and I had King Cake for my birthday cake. (And last year for my birthday, my husband made me a king cake)
  5. Monday, February 21st, 2011
    Thank you so much for sharing this recipe, I want to try and make one of these, guess I need to get busy If its going to be made by friday.... thanks again...
  6. Sunday, February 20th, 2011
    I ordered one of the cakes from Haydel's last year for my son's class. It was so good that every child ate his/her piece. However it was a little expensive to order again so the next party I used Rhode's cinammon rolls and put the baby in foil (so as to avoid accidental swallowing/choking) the guest who found the baby thought I had left foil in the cake LOL Anyway, the Rhodes dough is an inexpensive easy alternative.
    PS the kids in my son's class kept the tradition going for over a month with the child finding the baby Jesus bringing treats the following Friday.
  7. Sunday, February 20th, 2011
    in France we make something near but it's for Epiphany. Epiphany is the day we celebrate the 3 kings. See the traditionnal south France recipe here on my blog :
    the babies doesn't melt we you bake the cake ? in france we don't have those babies we put a little ceramic caracter...
  8. Emily
    Saturday, February 19th, 2011
    looks good - my favorites have cream cheese filling :)
    as for the above comments, it's true that the icing is normally thicker, but the icing is my least favorite part, so I think I'll take thin icing.
  9. Rachael
    Friday, February 18th, 2011
    It looks good but it's too round, and the icing looks thin. still looks great though :) hope your family enjoyed it. (from southwest louisiana - and yes, it's true- I was in 6th grade before I found out Mardi Gras is not a national holiday)
  10. Brenda Moore
    Friday, February 18th, 2011
    Aren't cha' glad your whole bread didn't come out tasting like melted plastic ? Your braver than I am...or it may just be most of my luck is of the not "good" kind! Enjoy.

    I make an Easter bread ring in the same sort of layout only with coloured eggs, snuggled into the braids. I sprinkle on flower shaped sprinkles on the icing and it comes out lovely each time. I was worried the eggs would pop. It has a super flavour with the addition of a bit of orange and lemon zest.

    Happy Mardi Gras.
  11. Gramma Teetsie
    Friday, February 18th, 2011
    That is so cool. I never knew the history behind this cake. In our family at Christmas we send cards with the Three Wise Men on them and when you receive these type of cards (Three Wise Men) you are to put them up over your door way and that is supposed to bring you health, wealth and happiness through the year. Unfortunately, I must not have gotten enough of them the past few years. But I think I am going to try the cake. Thank you for the suggestion.
  12. Friday, February 18th, 2011
    When you buy king cakes at the store now the baby is on top, since it is a choking hazard. You aren't supposed to put it in until the cake is already baked - you slip it in through the bottom before you ice it so no one will be able to see where it is at.

    Blueberry cream cheese filled is my favorite- I don't like the plain ones because they do taste just like a lighter version of a cinnamon roll.
  13. Friday, February 18th, 2011
    I hear you Libby, that's my question. I don't even microwave in plastic, I can't say I'd want to bake with it either!
  14. Nolaleblanc
    Friday, February 18th, 2011
    Or you can do what I do, get one from Haydel's Bakery. There are quite a few variations on king cakes in New Orleans these days including the cinnamon roll white icing variety. They are all delicious but I find that Haydel's has the most authentic traditional king cake.

  15. Friday, February 18th, 2011
    I decided I wanted to make a King's Cake this year. I've never had one nor eaten one, but I did read A LOT of recipes and they all seem to be cinnamon roll type recipes. So it's good to know I'm on the right track!

    Most recipes I've seen tuck the baby in after baking.
  16. Friday, February 18th, 2011
    This may be silly, but how does the plastic baby not melt???
  17. Kat
    Friday, February 18th, 2011
    You have the right idea in that it should taste like a cinnamon roll, but the inside should not be as dense as a roll. It should be light with just the hint of cinnamon throughout. Your cake looks yummy, but we usually just use a slight twist to make a big ring of cake and feed lots of people. Also, really thick gooey icing, with the whole part of icing covered in the sparkling colored sugar. I love having King Cakes this time of year, and can't wait for the parades.

    Kat from Southern Louisiana!