King Cake

Celebrate Mardi Gras with a King Cake. Everything you need to know to whip up a traditional New Orleans King Cake.

What is in a King Cake?

Celebrate Mardi Gras with a King Cake. Everything you need to know to whip up a traditional New Orleans King Cake.A King cake is eaten to celebrate Mardi Gras during carnival season and is a favorite at Mardi Gras parties.  The King Cake’s circular shape represents the path the three kings took to find Jesus in Bethlehem and or the shape of a king’s crown. 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 who visited Jesus on Epiphany.

What does it mean to get the baby in the King Cake?

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.

When do you eat a Mardi Gras King Cake?

A king cake is eaten between January 6, otherwise known as King’s Day or Twelfth Night, and Fat Tuesday. Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras Day or Shrove Day) is the day before Ash Wednesday. It is a day when people eat all they want of anything they want before Ash Wednesday starts. Ash Wednesday is the beginning Lent, the long fasting period for Christians.

King Cake Recipe

What Does a King Cake Taste Like?

While I think my King Cake turned out well and tasted really good, I have never eaten the real thing! What does a King Cake taste like? Mine tasted like a soft cinnamon roll.  However, the taste will vary by where you are celebrating. In France, the cake is called Galette des Rois or Gâteau des Rois and in Spain and Latin America, it’s Roscón or Rosca de Reyes (King’s Ring). In the United States, it is made from a braided, sweet, cinnamon-flecked brioche dough, baked in an oval shape ring, and topped with white glaze and purple green and gold sanding sugar. Some are even filled with a cream cheese filling. If you celebrate Mardi Gras with a King Cake—please give us some details!

Find the small plastic babies at cake decorating store or party store. It does seem wrong to hide something in a cake that clearly says choking hazard on the package! If it worries you to bake the plastic, just shove it inside the cake after it is baked but before you frost the cake.

package of king cake babies

King Cake Ingredients


  • 1 pckg package active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm milk
  • 4 Tablespoons sugar
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter softened, cut into pieces
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg


  • 2/3 cup packed light brown suga
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter softened


  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons milk add milk 1 tablespoon at a time until the glaze reaches desired consistency. About 2 tablespoons.
  • sanding sugar green, purple, and yellow for decorations on top of the glaze

About Cindy Hopper

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  1. My favorite king cake is filled with a pecan cream cheese filling. The top is colored icing, colored sugar, and more pecans. I like the filling because every king cake I have tried does seem to be dry. One year, I got the uglies baby ever-blue eye shadow and huge red lips!
    I never heard of baking it with the baby in it. Rather, they are inserted from the bottom of the cake when filling is added. I would be afraid of polymer funk, but hey, Nalgene scares me.

  2. Never made one and never eaten one. I have a lot of family from new orleans so having not experenced a king cake is a shame.
    With that said I think your looks awesome. Some great pointers about the sugar and amount ~ with that said I think I prefer your cake. It looks like something I wouldn’t mind trying vs the completely colored ones I’ve seen.

  3. King cakes are like cinnamon rolls somewhat. When I make them, I do make the two sections, jellyroll style, but then I join them in a ring, like two halves of the circle or oval. I think they bake better that way. And you need LOTS more sugar on the top. The icing is glue, but you don’t really see it. You see lots of the colored sugar, though. 🙂 Yay for king cakes! We love them. If you like a cream cheese filling, Emeril has a great recipe. I tend to prefer the traditional praline filling, but the cream cheese went over well when I made it for friends.

  4. Wow, you made a beautiful King Cake! I used to live in New Orleans, and during Mardi Gras people were always bringing them into work. If you got the baby in your piece, you had to bring in the King Cake the next day.

  5. Traditional king cakes are oval shaped, much like the shape of a race track. That way the pastry isn’t quite as puffy as yours. I’m a retired k teacher. I used jumbo cinnamon rolls in the “wack”cans so that the children could unroll it and twist their own king cakes.( Use parchment paper so that the rolls don’t burn) Also, the sugar sprinkled on the top is a finer sugar, not what’s in your coffee. It’s messy but the children love it!

  6. I have wanted to do this, and I even have the little baby, but I was worried that it would melt inside. You baked it inside and it didn’t melt?

  7. The flavor sounds right. Around here (south louisiana) they come with all kinds of different fillings. My husband, a native, prefers the original cinnamon filling. These days, the plastic babies aren’t put into the cakes made by professionals due to the choking hazard. The baby is simply set in the box and it’s up to the buyer to put it in if they want.
    The first king cake is supposed to be eaten on the Epiphany, or Twelth Night. Twelth Night parties are common around here. He who finds the baby is supposed to host the following year’s Twelth Night party.
    I had recently done a post on Mardi Gras on my blog. Check it out if you’d like!
    Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler!!

  8. I’m in agreement with water works. Most bakeries tend to use less icing and way more sugar. The entire top of each section usually has a crust of sugar. In recent years, filled king cakes have gained in popularity. Our family’s favorite is the strawberry cream cheese from Paul’s Pastry. I prefer the traditional cinnamon, though. Most of the bakeries known for their king cakes sell them online. Haydel’s, Gambino’s, Randazzo’s are local favorites and Paul’s Pastry when in Southern Mississippi. Taste and compare!

  9. That is so cool! I’ve never heard of a king cake before – learned something new!

  10. I’ve only had store bought King Cakes and they do taste like cinnamon rolls really with lots of sugary icing and sugar on top. Nowadays, the store bought ones often just come with the baby in the package and you hide it yourself by just sticking it through the bottom somewhere. I guess they don’t want the responsibility of someone choking on it.

    I love Mardi Gras and King Cake is just one great part of it!

    P.S. Bluebell has King Cake flavored ice cream now which I think is delicious!

  11. Thank you for the historyon the king cake. I was very interested in seeing the finished product. I also like to make bread and do so for all holidays.

  12. I am from New Orleans orginially, but now live elsewhere. I miss the food! I make King Cakes every year for my kids, our annual party, classrooms, you name it. We love it around here. Your’s looks great! I usually add more colored sugar, but that’s just me. You are correct that it should taste like a soft cinnamon roll. As an interesting side note, the “baby” was originally a lucky bean. Only in the last few decades has it changed to a baby. Enjoy yours…I will be baking today for the party this weekend.

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