I originally shared this recipe for Mardi Gras King Cake 8 years ago, when Our Best Bites was an itty bitty baby and my relationship with Louisiana was in its early stages. Things have changed a lot since then, but some things never change–Mardi Gras is still the most fun time of year around here, king cake can either be incredibly delicious or completely terrible, and, delicious as they are, the traditional big cakes are impossible to make look good in pictures. Luckily, I’ll show you how to make a traditional big one as well as a bunch of smaller cakes, which are really fun and a super cute way to celebrate, whether you’re a Louisianan or just partying like one.

 

There’s a lot of symbolism and just stuff involved with king cake, most notably the gold, green, and purple sprinkles and the plastic baby (I’ve heard the colors represent the three wise men and also that purple=justice, green=faith, gold=power; I’ve also heard that the three colors represent The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, so I just don’t know what’s true. Also, the finder of the plastic baby (which is Baby Jesus) gets to be the next Mardi Gras king or queen.) I don’t recommend baking the babies (or dried beans, in a pinch) inside the cake for lots of reasons; if you decide to use the plastic babies, I recommend tucking the baby into the bottom of the cake after it’s baked or using them on top as decoration.

overhead shot mardi gras king cake

If you’re in the market for plastic babies, I bought mine here and got them almost immediately (as did Sara due to a shipping mishap, and she’s on the other side of the country). You can always try Amazon, but the options are kind of limited. That said, Amazon is a great place to find purple, gold, and green sprinkles.

mini mardi gras king cake close up

This recipe is full of lots of options and alternatives, but I’ve tried to keep it as simple and organized as possible. Just like just about every traditional Louisiana food, there are a million ways to do it and everyone thinks theirs is the right way, depending on where they live and their family traditions. I have the luxury of being able to say, “Ermmm, I’m not from here…” and then awkwardly exiting the conversation with a mouth full of carbs. 

To prepare the dough, you’ll need whole milk, sugar, a flavor-neutral vegetable oil like canola or peanut oil, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

king cake dough ingredients

Combine milk,

pouring milk

sugar,

pouring sugar

and oil

pouring oil

in a large pot. 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.

adding yeast

Allow to stand for 10 minutes. Mix in 8 cups of flour (lightly spooned into measuring cups and leveled with a knife)–this can be done with a wooden spoon; the dough is VERY soft, more like a batter.

soft dough

Cover with a clean dish cloth and allow to rise for 1 hour.

risen dough

Mix remaining 1 cup flour with baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Sprinkle over the dough

dough and baking powder

and then mix it in with the wooden spoon. You may need to mix it with your hands to ensure all the dry ingredients get incorporated.

mixed dough

Place a sheet of plastic wrap over the pan and refrigerate for at least a few hours and up to a few days (just be sure and punch the dough down as necessary so it doesn’t spill all over your fridge).

When ready to make your King Cakes, decide how you want to prepare them. This dough will make enough for 2 large king cakes, 16 small, individual cakes, or a combination of the two (like one large cake and 8 small cakes). You’ll also need to decide how you want to fill them (I’m including instructions for cinnamon cream cheese, cream cheese and fruit, and cinnamon sugar.) See the notes below for individual filling instructions.

To Make Large Cakes

To prepare cakes, line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Turn dough onto a greased surface and divide in half. Roll one half into a 4-5″-24″ rectangle.

1 large king cake

If using one of the cream cheese fillings, spread with 1/2 of the cream cheese mixture.

king cake filling

If using cinnamon sugar, spread about 3-4 tablespoons softened butter onto the dough, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. and then carefully roll the dough lengthwise into 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 20-35 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. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. 

To Make Individual Cakes

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Divide the dough into 16 equal portions. Then divide each portion in half and roll each portion into “snakes” about 10-12″ long.

shaping mini king cakes

Lay one snake on top of the other,

shaping mini king cakes 2

carefully tie the bottom snake into a knot around the top portion of dough,

shaping mini king cakes 3

then tie the other dough snake into a knot.

shaping mini king cakes 4

Tuck the ends under the dough and arrange the knots so they look the way you want them.

shaping mini king cakes 5

Repeat with remaining dough, making 8 cakes per pan.

Melt 4-6 tablespoons of butter per pan (so if you’re making two pans of mini cakes, you’ll need a full cup of butter) and brush generously over the cakes.

brushing butter on king cakes

Sprinkle generously with cinnamon sugar (recipe below).

king cake dough

Cover and allow to rise for 20-30 minutes. While the cakes are rising, preheat oven to 375 F. Bake for 18-20 minutes (or longer if necessary) or until the tops and edges are golden brown.

baked mini king cakes

Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

Glazing the Cakes

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 and top with a plastic baby. 

mini mardi gras king cake

mini mardi gras king cakes

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mini mardi gras king cake

Mardi Gras King Cake

  • Author: kate jones
  • Yield: 2 large king cakes, 16 small king cakes, or any combination

Description

 


Ingredients

Dough:

  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup vegetable oil (mild, like peanut or canola)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 packages active dry yeast (1 tablespoon + 1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast)
  • 9 cups all purpose flour (lightly spooned into measuring cups and leveled with a spoon)
  • 1 heaping teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 scant teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon table salt

FILLINGS:

    CINNAMON CREAM CHEESE:

    • 8 ounce cream cheese, softened
    • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
    • 3/4 teaspoon almond extract
    • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

    FRUIT & CREAM CHEESE:

    • 8 ounces cream cheese
    • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
    • 3/4 teaspoon almond extract or vanilla
    • 1/2 heaping cup canned cherries or strawberries

    CINNAMON SUGAR (you won’t use all of this):

    • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
    • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon cinnamon

    ICING:

    • 1 pound powdered sugar
    • 1 stick butter, melted
    • 1 teaspoon almond extract
    • Enough milk or half and half to reach desired consistency

    TOPPINGS:

    • Purple, green, and gold sprinkles
    • Plastic babies

    Instructions

    To prepare the dough, combine milk, sugar, and oil in a large pot. 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 8 cups of flour (lightly spooned into measuring cups and leveled with a knife) with a wooden spoon (the dough will be VERY soft, almost like a batter) and cover with a clean dish cloth and allow to rise for 1 hour. 

    Mix remaining 1 cup 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–just be sure to check on it periodically and punch the dough down if necessary.

    When ready to make your King Cakes, decide how you want to prepare them. This dough will make enough for 2 large king cakes, 16 small, individual cakes, or a combination of the two (like one large cake and 8 small cakes). You’ll also need to decide how you want to fill them (I’m including instructions for cinnamon cream cheese, cream cheese and fruit, and cinnamon sugar. See the notes below for individual filling instructions.

    To Make Large Cakes

    To prepare cakes, line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Turn dough onto a greased surface and divide in half. Roll one half into a 4-5″-24″ rectangle. If using one of the cream cheese fillings, spread with 1/2 of the cream cheese mixture. If using cinnamon sugar, spread about 3-4 tablespoons softened butter onto the dough, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. and then carefully roll the dough lengthwise into 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 20-35 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. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. 

    To Make Individual Cakes

    Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Divide the dough into 16 equal portions. Then divide each portion in half and roll each portion into “snakes” about 10-12″ long. Lay one snake on top of the other, carefully tie the bottom snake into a knot around the top portion of dough, then tie the other dough snake into a knot. Tuck the ends under the dough and arrange the knots so they look the way you want them. (See pictures above to see how this works…it’s easier than it sounds.) Repeat with remaining dough, making 8 cakes per pan.

    Melt 4-6 tablespoons of butter and brush generously over the cakes. Sprinkle generously with cinnamon sugar. Cover and allow to rise for 20-30 minutes. While the cakes are rising, preheat oven to 375 F. Bake for 18-20 minutes (or longer if necessary) or until the tops and edges are golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

    Glazing the Cakes

    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 and top with a plastic baby. 


    Notes

    FILLING INSTRUCTIONS

    Cinnamon Cream Cheese (enough for 1 cake)

    Combine softened cream cheese, cinnamon, almond extract, and powdered sugar in a small mixer and mix with an electric mixer on high speed until light and fluffy.

    Fruit & Cream Cheese

    Combine softened cream cheese, canned fruit, almond extract, and powdered sugar in a small mixer and mix with an electric mixer on high speed until light and fluffy.

    Cinnamon Sugar

    Whisk together granulated sugar and cinnamon. You will not use the entire recipe–save any leftovers for other uses.

     

     

     

     

    50 comments

    1. I had never even heard of a King Cake until my brother sent me one when he was in New Orleans. I shared it with my college roommates and we FREAKED out when someone bit into a naked plastic baby! haha. Good memories.

      Yours sounds yummy, I am already thinking of a million more uses for that yummy filing!

    2. I'll give this a try! I check your blog (OBB) and The Pioneer Woman Cooks regularly!! Makes me happy to see we both like her too!!

      Thanks for everything!

    3. My step-father was from New Orleans, and we would often celebrate everything with food. Mardi Gras was no exception. However, he would buy his king cakes, since he is diabetic (and wouldn't eat any). I always thought that they were gross and ugly to boot. So I am actually really excited to try your recipe (sans colored sugar…sorry I don't think I can do it). Oh and by the way, we tried the Baked Cheesy Chicken Pasta for our Valentine's Day meal…Yummy! I added spinich, and I would recommend it. It reminded me of a dish from Macaroni Grill. So yummy.
      Thanks for all your fabulous ideas! I love it!
      Oh and Happy Valentine's Day, President's Day and Mardi Gras!

    4. So that's what those cakes are! I've been seeing them at the grocery stores here in Texas lately. I figured they must be for Mardi Gras with that purple and green on top. I thought about sending a picture to cake wrecks because they are SO ugly, but then I realized they all looked that bad at every store I went to.

      By the way, our local cake shop sells babies a la carte (in three sizes!). Maybe you should check out one of those.

    5. That looks weird yet good. In my book any sweet dough, stuffed with cream cheese qualifies as good! I just might make one but since I am no where near Louisiana, nor do I celebrate MardiGras I'm thinking I can just forgo the fancy sugary glittery top…..

      now about that high priced milk:
      I live in bush Alaska. We have high priced milk……

      http://skippy-n-scoop.blogspot.com/2009/06/winner.html
      see for yourself!!

    6. Youare right when you say it is kinda ugly, but that slice of it looks mighty appealing to me! In fact it looks downright delicious! Happy Mardis Gras!!

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