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Mardi Gras King Cake Recipe: New Orleans Style

Let’s whip up a tasty King Cake recipe New Orleans style! Follow these steps, and you’ll be yellin’ “Let the Good Times Roll!” in no time.

king cake recipe new orleans

This traditional king cake is made with fluffy brioche dough and buttery cinnamon sugar filling. Its colorful decorations sit atop a layer of almond-flavored icing. Don’t forget to include the iconic small plastic baby inside for good luck!  Start this dough the night before for best results and watch the video for how to shape a king cake. 

Mardi Gras King Cake Recipe New Orleans Style

This recipe makes two regular-sized king cakes. Make one for yourself, and give one to a friend! You can even send these in the mail. 

It’s surprisingly easy to ship King Cake, but there are a few things you should know before you do. Be sure are read these tips before putting a King Cake in the mail.

Supplies for making a King Cake

There’s no wrong way to shape a king’s cake, but once it’s baked it should get frosted with royal icing and sanding sugar in the traditional colors of Mardi Gras. Bonus points if you want to decorate with a few strands of colorful Mardi Gras beads! 

Before we begin, just a quick note: I may earn a small commission through affiliate links in this post, but I never recommend products that I don’t use myself.

Here’s what you need to make an authentic New Orleans style King Cake:

For decorating a King Cake

  • Small Plastic Baby- It’s not a true King Cake without the small plastic baby! 
  • Colored Sugar– These Wilton sugar sprinkles are brightly colored and come with the classic purple, green, & gold color blend. 
  • Mardi Gras Beads– Mardi Gras party beads are the perfect accent for your King Cake.
  • Gold Coins– Colorful plastic coins are the perfect Mardi Gras decoration for your cake. 

king cake recipe new orleans

What’s the best dough for a King Cake?

Let’s chat about the dough. It starts with a brioche dough that gets mixed twice. The first time is to incorporate the basic ingredients( milk, sugar, flour, yeast, salt, eggs, and vanilla). The second mix is to add softened butter to the already kneaded dough. This step is what gives the king’s cake its delicious, rich taste. 

 In a small bowl, mix warm milk and sugar. Sprinkle yeast over the top. Let it sit for about 5 minutes until it gets all bubbly.

 In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine flour, salt, eggs, and vanilla extract. Pour in the yeast mixture. Use the dough hook attachment and mix it all up at medium speed until it forms a smooth dough. Check out the video below the recipe to see what the consistency should look like. 

Slowly add the chunks of room-temperature butter to the dough, allowing it to incorporate before adding more. 

Place the dough in a large bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and let it rest in the refrigerator overnight. 

How to shape king cake

The easiest way to form the dough into the classic king’s cake shape is to let the dough rest in the refrigerator overnight before shaping. 

Roll the dough into a large rectangle about 12 x 18  inches. Spread with the filling flavor of your choice. See the recipe card at the bottom of this post for my favorite cinnamon-filling recipe. 

king cake recipe new orleans

 Don’t forget to hide a tiny plastic baby in the cake. Roll it all up jelly-roll style, and form a ring by pinching the ends together creating that classic King Cake shape.

How to bake a king cake

Place the crown-shaped roll of dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Let it rise again – give it about 30 minutes. While it’s rising, preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Brush the top of the cake with an egg wash – just a beaten egg with a bit of water.  

Proof and bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes or until golden brown and completely cooked inside.

How to decorate a king cake

Make the glaze by mixing powdered sugar, meringue powder, water, and almond extract. Drizzle over the entire surface of the king cake, letting it drip down the sides.

For an extra indulgent King Cake, try this cinnamon roll icing made without cream cheese. 

Now, time for the Mardi Gras tradition. Sprinkle colored sugars over the filling.  the traditional New Orleans-style King Cake colors are purple, green, and yellow.  For the final touch – add a few strands of Mardi Gras beads and a few gold coins. 

king cake recipe new orleans

Here’s a little history on New Orleanians favorite king cake tradition. 

What is King Cake


King Cake is a sweet pastry, traditionally associated with the Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans. It’s a ring-shaped cake, often braided or twisted, and is decorated with the vibrant colors of Mardi Gras: purple, green, and gold. The cake itself is typically made from enriched dough, similar to brioche, making it soft and rich.

What makes the King Cake unique is the hidden surprise inside – a tiny plastic baby figurine. The baby represents Baby Jesus and is tucked inside the cake before baking. Tradition holds that whoever finds the baby in their slice is considered “king” or “queen” for the day and is responsible for hosting the next King Cake party or providing the next King Cake.

The flavors of a New Orleans King Cake can vary, but it commonly includes cinnamon-sugar fillings and a sweet icing drizzled on top.

When is Carnival Season in New Orleans

Carnival season in New Orleans is a lively and festive period leading up to Mardi Gras, the famous Fat Tuesday celebration. It kicks off on Twelfth Night, which is January 6th, and continues until Ash Wednesday. During this time, the city is filled with parades, parties, and colorful celebrations.

Why do people eat King Cake during Mardi Gras?

People eat King Cake during Mardi Gras as a tradition that dates back to medieval Europe and has become an integral part of the Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans. The cake is associated with the Carnival season, which culminates on Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday.

king cake recipe new orleans

King cake recipe New Orleans style

This traditional king cake is made with fluffy brioche dough and buttery cinnamon sugar filling. Its colorful decorations sit atop a layer of almond-flavored icing. Don't forget to include the iconic small plastic baby inside for good luck!
Remember to start this dough the night before for best results and watch the video for how to shape and decorate a king cake!
Prep Time 1 day
Cook Time 3 hours
Servings 2 Cakes

Equipment

  • Stand Mixer with dough hook

Ingredients
  

Dough

  • 1 1/2 packets Active Dry Yeast
  • 2 Tbsp Sugar
  • 4 cups Bread Flour
  • 2 tsp Salt
  • 8 ea Eggs
  • 1/4 cup Milk
  • 2 sticks Butter

Filling

  • 1 cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 cup Butter, unsalted
  • 1 Tbsp Cinnamon

Icing

  • 2 cups Confectioner's Sugar
  • 4 Tbsp. Water
  • 1 Tbsp. Meringue Powder
  • 1/8 tsp. Almond Extract

Decorations

Instructions
 

Make the Dough

  • The day before, begin making the dough.  
  •  In a small bowl, mix warm milk and sugar. Sprinkle yeast over the top. Let it sit for about 5 minutes until it gets all bubbly.
  •  In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine flour, salt, eggs, and vanilla extract. Pour in the yeast mixture. Use the dough hook attachment and mix for 1 minute at low speed, and 5 minutes at medium speed until it forms a smooth dough.
  • Slowly add the chunks of room-temperature butter to the dough, allowing each piece to incorporate before adding more.
  • Place the dough in a large bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and let it rest in the refrigerator overnight.

Make the Filling

  • To make the filling, place butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a medium bowl and use a hand mixer, or stand mixer with a paddle attachment to combine the mixture until it is smooth. Store at room temperature, in an airtight container until ready to use.

Shape the King Cake.

  • The next day: shape the King Cake.
  • On a floured surface, roll the dough into a large rectangle about 12 x 18  inches.
  • Spread the filling on the rectangle of dough evenly. Place the small plastic baby in the filling and roll the dough up to make a log. Pinch the two ends together to make a circle. (The longer your rectangle, the bigger the circumference of your cake will be)
  • Place the ring onto a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment and brush with egg wash. (To make egg wash, mix 1 egg yolk with 1 Tbsp. water and mix until smooth. Use a pastry brush to apply the egg wash to the dough)
  • Cover the dough with a clean kitchen towel and allow the King Cake to rise in a relatively warm envirornment for 60-90 minutes or until doubled in size.
  • After the dough has risen, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until golden brown. If you notice the top is getting too brown, loosly drape with aluminum foil.
  • Remove the pan from the oven and place it on a wire rack to cool while you make the icing.

Icing the Cake

  • In a small bowl, using a whisk, mix the powdered sugar, water, and meringue powder until smooth and lump-free.
  • Transfer the King Cake to a wire cooling rack with a baking sheet under it to catch the drips of icing. Glaze the cake by pouring the icing over the cake, making a zig-zag motion from the center of the cake to the outside edges, working your way all around the cake.

Decorating the cake

  • Add the Colored Sugar to the top of the cake in a striping motion alternating green, purple, and gold stripes. Top with a few strands of Mardi Gras beads and a few gld coins.
  • Serve immediately or store for up to 5 days at room temperature.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

 

Mardi Gras King Cake Recipe New Orleans Style

Mardi Gras King Cake Recipe New Orleans Style

Enjoy the good times rollin’ with your homemade New Orleans King Cake. Perfect for Mardi Gras season or whenever you want a taste of the Big Easy. Laissez les bons temps rouler! 

If you can’t find king cake in the grocery stores, then try making your own homemade king cake with this delicious recipe!

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