King Cake Recipe: Ingredients, Equipment, and Instructions

King Cake Recipe - How to make King Cake Recipe
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King Cake Recipe

Hey! Ever heard of the awesome tradition of King Cake in New Orleans? It’s all about a delicious pastry, a teeny tiny plastic baby, and a good time waiting to happen! Here’s the deal: you bake this cake, sneak a tiny plastic baby inside, and whoever gets the slice with the baby is the lucky host for the next party. But, hey, make sure to grab a new tiny plastic baby for the full effect! You can jazz up your cake with purple, green, and gold sugar or go fancy with whole pecans and candied cherries.

Now, you might think making this iconic treat is a bit tricky, but once you let the dough rise, the fun times start rolling in pretty fast.

Picture this: King Cake is like the coffee cake’s cool, colorful cousin. It’s not just a treat; it’s a piece of tradition and history, decked out in the royal colors of purple (for justice), green (for faith), and gold (for power). These colors pay homage to the three kings who dropped by to see baby Jesus on Epiphany, which is 12 days after Christmas.

And here’s the kicker: Mardi Gras, also known as King’s Day, kicks off the party season that lasts until the big shebang on Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday.

Now, our classic Mardi Gras King Cake doesn’t need any fancy braiding or stuffing. It’s got a straightforward topping of powdered sugar, lemon juice, and water glaze, plus a sprinkle of sanding sugar, just like the ones you see on the streets of New Orleans. And instead of hiding a plastic baby inside, you can use a pecan half or a dried bean for a more natural touch. Stick to tradition, though – if you end up with the pecan (or baby), you’re the one bringing the King Cake to the next Mardi Gras bash. How cool is that? Get ready to bake and party!

What is King Cake Recipe?

a slice of king cake in a plate on table in kitchen

Wondering about King Cake? Imagine a mix of a Danish pastry and a huge cinnamon roll, shaped like a wreath and decked out with colorful sugar sprinkles. The cool thing is, it can be filled with all sorts of yummy stuff like cream cheese, fruit, almond paste, or nuts—or you can leave it unfilled.

The cake is shaped like a crown, a nod to the three wise men who visited baby Jesus. The colors have meaning too: green for faith, purple for justice, and yellow or gold for power or prosperity.

Here’s a quirky twist: there’s a tiny baby hidden inside, symbolizing luck and prosperity. Whoever gets the baby in their slice is the King or Queen for the day. Our kids were super into this, strategizing over which piece to grab for a shot at winning.

Oh, and the lucky finder has to bring the King Cake next year. But watch out if you’re the slicer—cutting the baby is considered bad luck!

King Cake Tradition

I love making these symbolic holiday breads. They’re not just tasty and fun, but they’re also a cool way to chat with my kids about traditions and symbols. We’ve got a lineup of favorites like Blueberry Custard Cake, Pecan Pie, and Fluffy Pumpkin Pancakes.

King Cake has an ancient origin, dating back to the Middle Ages. Initially tied to the Catholic Epiphany, it made its way to Louisiana through French settlers in the 1800s. The tiny baby hidden inside is thought to symbolize either Baby Jesus or a tradition from Louisiana where finding a hidden token meant being crowned “king” or “queen” at a ball. Regardless of its origin, the baby is seen as a harbinger of good luck and prosperity.

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Overview: How To Make King Cake Recipe?

Embark on a sweet journey with this King Cake recipe that brings together the warmth of fresh dough, flavorful fillings, and a dash of royal tradition. The pastry adventure begins by scalding a cup of milk, stirring in butter, and letting the mixture cool to room temperature. In a bowl, yeast, warm water, and a hint of white sugar create the foundation for our dough magic. Once combined with the cooled milk mixture, eggs, salt, and nutmeg, we beat in all-purpose flour until the dough becomes a smooth, elastic masterpiece. A bit of kneading on a floured surface sets the stage for our rising dough, which doubles in volume in about two hours.

Splitting the dough into halves, we’re ready to craft our crown-shaped delights. A filling blend of brown sugar, chopped pecans, flour, raisins, and cinnamon, crowned with melted butter, adds a layer of decadence. Rolling out the dough into rectangles, we generously sprinkle the filling, tightly roll it into a jelly roll, and shape it into oval rings. After a cozy 45-minute rise, it’s off to the oven, preheated to 375°F (190°C), for about 30 minutes. A vigilant eye ensures our rings bake to golden perfection without losing their royal charm.

While the warm cakes bask in their freshly baked glory, a simple glaze of confectioners’ sugar and water is prepared. Adding a whimsical touch, a plastic baby doll is gently nestled into the bottom of one cake. Drizzling the glaze over both cakes, adorned with the classic purple, gold, and green sugars, our King Cake is complete. It’s not just a treat; it’s a celebration, embodying the rich flavors and traditions that make it a regal masterpiece. Get ready to savor the royal experience of King Cake!

King Cake Recipe - How to make King Cake Recipe

King Cake Recipe

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Prep Time: 2 hours
Baking Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Calories: 418kcal
Author: Austin Carter
Servings: 16 people


  • Large mixing bowl
  • Rolling Pin
  • 2 Baking sheets
  • Oven
  • Scissors
  • Bowl for glaze
  • Measuring cups and spoons



  • 1 cup Milk
  • 1/4 cup Butter
  • 2/3 cup Warm Water (110°F/45°C)
  • 2 Packages active dry yeast (0.25 oz each)
  • 1 and 1/2 tbsp Salt
  • 1/2 tbsp Fresh Grated Nutmeg
  • 5 and 1/2 cup All-Purpose Flour


  • 1 cup Packed Brown Sugar
  • 2/3 cup Chopped Pecans
  • 1/2 cup All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 cup Raisins
  • 1 tbsp Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup Melted Butter


  • 1 cup Confectioner' Sugar
  • 1 tbsp Water
  • 1 Plastic Baby Doll


Prepare the Pastry:

  • Heat the milk until it's almost boiling, then mix in the butter and let it cool.
  • In a big bowl, combine warm water, a tablespoon of white sugar, and yeast. Let it sit for about 10 minutes until it gets creamy.
  • Add the cooled milk and butter mix to the yeast mix, whisk in the eggs, and stir in the rest of the white sugar, salt, and nutmeg.
  • Gradually beat in the flour until you have a smooth dough. Knead it on a floured surface for 8-10 minutes until it's nice and elastic.
  • Let the dough rise in a warm spot until it doubles in size (about 2 hours). Once risen, punch it down and split it in half.

Preheat and Prep:

  • Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C) and grease or line 2 cookie sheets.

Make the Filling:

  • ix brown sugar, pecans, flour, raisins, and cinnamon in a bowl. Pour melted butter on top and mix until crumbly.

Shape and Bake:

  • Roll each piece of dough into a 10×16-inch rectangle. Sprinkle the filling evenly and roll it up like a jelly roll. Form 2 oval-shaped rings.
  • Place on the cookie sheets and make cuts 1/3 of the way through the rings at 1-inch intervals. Let them rise until doubled in size (about 45 minutes).
  • Bake for around 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Make the Glaze:

  • Mix confectioners' sugar and water until smooth.

Finishing Touches:

  • Stick the doll into the bottom of one warm cake. Drizzle glaze over both warm cakes.



Remind folks to check their piece for the hidden surprise. Use a big plastic toy baby or hide a safe item inside, placing the honorable baby on top for all to see and adore! Enjoy your King Cake!


Calories: 418kcal


NutritionsFacts/Per Serving

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

When Do You Eat King Cake?

Wondering when to grab a slice of that delicious King Cake in New Orleans? Well, the magic happens between early January and Ash Wednesday. Sure, some bakeries might kick off as early as December, but the real show starts with Carnival on January 6. That’s when you’ll spot this heavenly treat in supermarkets and bakeries across the city. So, mark your calendar and get ready to indulge in some King Cake goodness!

Why Is There a Baby in A King Cake?

It’s a tradition that adds a playful touch. The baby symbolizes luck and prosperity. If you find it in your slice, you’re the “king” or “queen” for the day. It’s a sweet surprise and a fun way to celebrate with each bite of the cake.

What Does King Cake Taste Like?

A king cake is a delicious, sweet pastry that has a rich taste of cinnamon. Sometimes, it has cream cheese or pecans in it. Even though it’s called a cake, it actually tastes more like a danish or a cinnamon roll!

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