King Cake Recipe

How many of you party for Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday? We are not big partiers by any means, but we do have a tradition where every Fat Tuesday we have the traditional Jambalaya and King Cake. I LOVE this meal and often wonder why we won’t make it more often. You can see my Jambalaya recipe here, for some inspiration, if you’d like to try something new.

Before I get into the recipe, I thought I would let you know that it is customary to put a trinket of some sort into the King Cake. We often hide a small plastic baby, but couldn’t find one this year, so we went with a rattle. It could be a bean, pecan half, or whatever. I believe the baby is the most popular, if I’m not mistaken. The idea is that whomever gets the piece of cake with the trinket, will have good luck for one year. AND they are supposed to host the King Cake party next year.
Now for the recipe:

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King Cake – Makes approx. 20 servings

2 envelopes active dry yeast
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 stick of unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cup warm milk
1/2 cup warm water
5 large egg yolks, at room temperature (I can post a Pavlova recipe soon, to use up the egg whites if you’d like – leave a comment if that sounds good)
4 1/2 cups bleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp salt
1 tsp grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp cardamon
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 tsp vegetable oil

1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup confectioner’s sugar

Optional Filling (as a replacement for the original) – This is a heavier filling, which alters things a tad, but sure is tasty!
1 lb cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup Brown sugar
2 Tbs maple syrup
1/2 cup Chopped pecans
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
zest of 1/2 lemon

1 plastic king cake baby or a pecan half

5 Tbs milk, at room temperature
3 Tbs fresh lemon juice
3 cups powdered sugar
Purple, green, and gold-tinted sugar sprinkles (these are traditional Mardi Gras colors)

1. Combine the yeast, sugar and water in a mixing bowl fitted with a dough hook. Do not mix, but dissolve yeast and sugar into the warm water.

2. Combine melted butter and warm milk. After milk and butter are cooled, add to the yeast and sugar mixture. Beat at low speed for 1 minute.

3. With the mixer running, add the egg yolks and beat for 1 minute at medium-low speed.

4. Add the flour, salt, nutmeg, cardamon and lemon zest and beat until everything is incorporated. Increase the speed to high and beat until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, forms a ball, and starts to climb up the dough hook. (If the dough is uncooperative in coming together, add a bit of warm water (110 degrees), 1 tablespoon at a time, until it does.)

5. Remove the dough from the bowl. Using your hands, form the dough into a smooth ball. Lightly oil a bowl with the Canola oil. Place the dough in the bowl and turn it to oil all sides of the ball of dough. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size – about 2 hours.

6. Meanwhile, make the filling. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese and 1 cup of the confectioner’s sugar. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed. Set aside. If using optional filling, just mix all ingredients together – leaving the pecans for last.

7. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Using your fingers, pat it out into a rectangle about 30 inches long and 6 inches wide.

8. Spread the filling lengthwise over the bottom half of the dough, then flip the top half of the dough over the filling.

9. Seal the edges, pinching the dough together. Shape the dough into a cylinder and place it on the prepared baking sheet seam side down. Then you will shape the dough into a ring and pinch the ends together so there isn’t a seam.

10. Now is the time to insert the king cake baby or pecan half into the ring from the bottom so that it is completely hidden by the dough.

11. Cover the ring with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and place in a warm, draft-free place. Let the dough rise until doubled in size – about 45 minutes.

12. Preheat the oven to 350°F and Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

13. Brush the top of the risen cake with 2 tablespoons of the milk. Bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely on a wire rack.

14. Make the icing by combining the remaining 3 tablespoons milk, lemon juice, and the remaining 3 cups confectioner’s sugar in a mixing bowl. Stir to blend well.

15. With a rubber spatula, spread the icing evenly over the top of the cake. Sprinkle with the sugar crystals, alternating colors around the cake.

The cake is traditionally cut into 2-inch-thick slices with all the guests in attendance.

*I know it seems like a lot of steps, but it is so worth it! It is a fun twist to what we typically have for dessert. We often have missionaries from our church over for dinner on Fat Tuesday, just for fun. We also pick up beads and have everyone wear them for dinner. The missionaries had other plans for Tuesday, so we had them over tonight. They wanted me to post their picture of them wearing their beads, for their families to see, so here they are. They are two wonderful young men. One is from Idaho and the other from Fiji (I think you can tell which is which).

About the author

Emily Buys


  • I want to make this NOW.
    Since moving to Louisiana, I’ve tried several purchased King Cakes, and have been so disappointed. This recipe looks like it will be worth the effort. Wish I had all the ingredients, so that I good bake one tonight.
    Great pic of the missionaries…I really should feed “ours” some day soon!
    Thanks so much for sharing.

  • Looks like a pretty good recipe, but I prefer to just buy it already made. There are really some good ones almost anywhere, LIBBY’S LIBRARY. What part of Louisiana do you live? I’m in the New Orleans area, so we have some good ones here. My daughter and husband prefer just the plain cinnamon filled King Cake, but my son and I like the cream cheese filled ones.

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