So this year has been kind of crazy–Valentine’s Day, Chinese New Year, and Mardi Gras are all happening within just a few days of each other (well, and President’s Day, but let’s face it, President’s Day has never excited people gastronomically in the same way…)

We moved to Louisiana exactly two years ago. When we went to the grocery store for the first time, we weren’t just bowled over by the shockingly high price of milk, but also by these pastry rings that were sprinkled with yellow, purple, and green sugar. And I won’t lie, I thought they looked pretty horrible. Turns out they were King Cakes and I can still say that I’ve never seen one that I didn’t think was pretty ugly. Even my own:

Well, off-put by its apparent unappetizingness, I never tried King Cake that year. But last year, after my son’s preschool Mardi Gras parade, there was a King Cake party afterwards and I had it for the first time. I’ll admit, I was apprehensive–not only did I think they were ugly, but I had also heard from many Louisiana locals that they didn’t like King Cake.

Not one to shy away from a challenge, though, I decided to give it a shot. Now…I’ll say that I can definitely see how King Cake could go horribly wrong, but the King Cake from the kitchen of my son’s preschool was amazing. Soft, flaky almost-pastry-like yeast dough, cream cheese and cherry filling, almond glaze on top. I tried making one last year, but the insides didn’t get done and I was thoroughly King Caked-out at that point. This year, however, I decided to use my fall-back cinnamon roll dough recipe (thank you, Pioneer Woman) and improvised my own filling. I also discovered it’s important to make sure the “log” doesn’t get too thick because if it does, the insides will be doughy and raw. Yuck.

So anyway, upon further experimentation, I gave a few King Cakes to some native Louisianans to get their opinions. Overwhelming response? Best King Cake they’d ever eaten. There was some chagrin that it was baked by a Westerner, but hey, I’ve got a big heart and a smart mouth, so I fit right in… :)

One thing I’ve left out is the plastic baby, not because I’m opposed to plastic or babies, but because I would have to buy them in bulk. Quite frankly, I don’t need 32 naked, plastic babies hanging out over the next 32 years (because I’m not really baking more than 1 King Cake a year). The finder of the plastic baby gets to be king for the day, which is fun, so if you decide to do it, I’d recommend tucking the baby into the bottom of the cake after it’s baked rather than baking it in there because if there’s anything worse than finding a plastic baby in your food, it would be finding a melted plastic baby in your food.

King Cake
Recipe by Our Best Bites, dough from The Pioneer Woman Cooks


2 c. whole milk
1/2 c. canola oil
1/2 c. sugar
1 package active dry yeast
4 1/2 c. all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 heaping tsp. baking powder
1/2 scant tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. salt


1 8-oz. package cream cheese
3/4-ish c. powdered sugar. This depends on personal taste–once you’ve added the fruit filling, adjust the sweetness to taste.
1 tsp. almond extract
1/2 heaping c. cherry (or strawberry) pie filling


8 oz. powdered sugar
4 Tbsp. melted butter
1 tsp. almond extract
Enough milk to make a glaze to desired consistency


Yellow, green, and purple colored sugars. If you’re having trouble finding a certain color, shake 1-2 drops of food coloring with 1/2 c. sugar in a sealed jar or other container and voila! Colored sugar!

First, you’ll want to prepare the dough. In a large (at least 4-quart) pot or saucepan, combine milk, sugar, and oil. Heat just to boiling, stirring occasionally, and then remove from heat.

If you’ve got lots of ice handy, dump all that you have into a clean sink and then place the pan of scalded milk over the ice. This way, the milk mixture cools quickly and the melted ice just drips down the drain.

When the milk is warm (around 105-115 degrees), remove from ice and sprinkle yeast over the milk mixture. Allow to stand for 10 minutes. Stir. Mix in 4 c. flour and cover. This can be done with a wooden spoon; the dough is VERY soft, more like a batter. Allow to stand for 1 hour.

Mix remaining 1/2 c. flour with baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Sprinkle over the dough and then mix it in with the wooden spoon. Place a sheet of plastic wrap over the pan and refrigerate for at least a few hours and up to a few days.

When ready to make your King Cakes, prepare the filling. With an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese, almond extract, and powdered sugar until soft and fluffy. Mix in fruit filling and add more powdered sugar and/or fruit filling if you need to. Keep in mind that you’ll have the filling in a semi-sweet dough and topped with a sugar glaze PLUS a sugar garnish, so you might want to go easy on the sweetness.

To prepare cakes, turn dough onto a greased surface and divide in half. Roll one half into a 4-5″-24″ rectangle. Spread with 1/2 of the cream cheese mixture and then carefully fold the top half of the dough over the filling and then fold it again so you have a tube. Seal the edges of the dough and then carefully form a circle and seal the two ends together.

Place on a greased cookie sheet and cover with a clean cloth.

Preheat oven to 375 and repeat with other 1/2 portion of dough.

Bake each ring for 20-25 minutes or until the tops are deep, golden brown–you don’t want to burn them, but you want to make sure the cakes are cooked all the way through.

While the cakes are cooling, prepare the glaze. Mix powdered sugar and melted butter together with an electric mixer. Add in almond extract and then add enough milk to achieve the desired consistency you want for your glaze. When the cakes are cool, spoon the glaze over the cakes and then sprinkle with alternating yellow, purple, and green sugars. When ready to serve, cut into slices and watch out for that plastic baby! Happy Mardi Gras, everybody!



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