Mardi Gras King Cake

The holidays have come and gone, but here in South Louisiana, we're on to the next! That’s right, Carnival Season is upon us. Celebrating the weeks leading up to Mardi Gras Day, Carnival Season is arguably the most wonderful time of the year in Louisiana!

 
King Cake Cinnamon Rolls

Mardi Gras is celebrated across the state, but you'll find the most action deep down South. From the extravagant parades in New Orleans, to the more family friendly parades through Lafayette and Baton Rouge, to the real deal, Rural Cajun Mardi Gras celebration known as "Courir de Mardi Gras", there’s truly something for everyone during Carnival Season. The festivities are celebrated with parades at all hours of the day, over-the-top Mardi Gras balls, beads, booze and of course…King Cake!

Mardi Gras King Cake

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King Cake_7.jpg

The King Cake is a sweet dough cake reminiscent of a giant cinnamon roll (or a giant donut at some places!) that gets stuffed with an ever growing possibility of fillings, from cream cheese, lemon, praline...even boudin! The cake gets topped with icing and purple, green and gold colored sugar. It’s easy to find a King Cake in nearly every grocery store around town this time of year, but the best ones are found at the local bakeries. Here in Lafayette, bakeries like Poupart’s, Keller's, Twin's and Meche's are all big players in the King Cake game! 

King Cake

With so many amazing options in the area, it’s hard to fight the urge to pop in to one of the local bakeries and grab a ready made king cake. While I am all for buying at least one king cake from around town, it's also pretty special to bake one from scratch. Like any scratch made dough, making a king cake at home is a bit of a process and is going to take a couple hours from start to finish, but most of the time is spent letting the dough rise in peace, so it's not all work! 

King Cake

This king cake has a simple brown sugar and cinnamon filling, loaded with nutty pecans. It gets topped with a light layer of frosting and sprinkled with colorful sugar. You can buy purple, green and yellow sprinkles at the grocery store, but if you happen to have sugar and food coloring at home, you can make the colors yourself by shaking together about 1/4 cup of sugar with a few drops of food coloring in an airtight container and until you get the desired color.

Warm the milk to lukewarm (~110°F) in a small saucepan. Add butter to slightly melt. Pour into stand mixer, turn mixer on low setting and add egg  and sugar. Mix in the salt, cinnamon & nutmeg, followed by half of the flour, spooning in a little at a time. Add the yeast, then spoon in the remaining flour.  Mix until ingredients are incorporated. (*If dough seems too dry, add a tablespoon of water.

Once the mix is evenly combined, change your stand mixer to the dough hook attachment and knead for around 10 minutes (until dough pulls away from side of the bowl and has some stretch to it. *Note: If you don't have a mixer or the dough hook, you can knead the dough on a smooth surface, sprinkling in small amounts of extra flour as you knead.* Let the dough rise, covered, for 1 hour. You can use a few minutes of this downtime to whip up the cinnamon filling and frosting. 

On a lightly floured surface, plop out your risen dough and divide in half. Roll one half of the dough out into a large rectangle shape, roughly 1/4" thick and roughly 20" x 16". Sprinkle the filling across the dough, all the way to the edges. Roll dough (jelly roll style) and with the seam side down, on a parchment lined or greased baking sheet, bring the ends together to form an oval shape. Wet the tips of your fingers and gently pinch the two ends of the roll together until they are sealed. Cover and let rise again, for around 20 minutes. 

This will bake at 350°F for 20-25 minutes. After it’s cooled for a few minutes, top it off with the frosting and sprinkle with colored sugar. Have some fun with the tradition of sneaking a tiny little king cake baby into the bottom of the cake. It's good luck for whoever gets the baby in their slice...and they have the privilege of buying (or making!) the next king cake. Just be sure to let your people know that there's a plastic baby hiding somewhere in there! Happy Carnival Season, y'all! 

Mardi Gras King Cake

prep time: 1 hour and 30 minscook time: 25 minstotal time: 1 hours and 55 mins

This traditional Mardi Gras sweet treat is easy to spot with it's purple, green and gold colored sugar on top. This king cake has a brown sugar & cinnamon filling, but these cakes can be filled with anything from cream cheese to strawberry filling.

ingredients:

For Dough:
  • 1 cup warm milk (~110°F)
  • 4 tbsp. butter, softened
  • 1 egg + 1 egg yolk (reserve egg white for egg wash)

  • 1/4 cup sugar 
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 packet instant/rapid-rise yeast (approx. 2¼ tsp.) 
  • 3½ - 4 cups all-purpose flour, flattened (plus additional flour for kneading)
For Filling:
  • 4 tbsp. butter, softened
  • 1 tbsp. cinnamon
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecan pieces (optional)
For Icing:
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp. milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
Optional:
  • Purple, green & gold colored sugar
  • King Cake baby

instructions:

  1. Warm milk to lukewarm (~110°F) in a small saucepan. Add butter to slightly melt. Pour into stand mixer, turn on low setting and add egg and sugar.  
  2. Mix in salt, cinnamon & nutmeg, followed by half of the flour, spooning in a little at a time. Add yeast, then spoon in remaining flour.  Mix just until ingredients are incorporated. (*If dough seems too dry, add a tablespoon of water.)
  3. Switch to dough hook attachment and knead dough on lower setting for around 8-10 minutes. *If not using mixer, knead on lightly floured surface for about 10 minutes, being careful not to add too much flour. Dough should feel slightly sticky. 
  4. Transfer dough to lightly greased mixing bowl and cover with a light kitchen towel for 1 hour or until dough has roughly doubled in size. 
  5. While dough is resting, stir together filling ingredients in a bowl and set aside. 
  6. Place dough on lightly floured smooth surface. 
  7. Roll dough out to about  20" x 16" rectangle.
  8. Spread filling out over dough and roll closed (cinnamon roll/jelly roll style), wetting fingertips and pinching the seam closed. 
  9. With the seam side down, place roll on parchment lined or greased baking sheet and pinch ends together, forming a large oval.  
  10. Cover and let rest for another 20 minutes. 
  11. Brush with egg wash and bake at 350°F for 25 minutes or until golden brown.
  12. Whisk icing ingredients together. 
  13. Let the cake rest for a few minutes out of the oven. Top with icing and sprinkle with purple, green and gold colored sugar. 
  14. Optional King Cake Tradition: Tuck a tiny king cake baby into a bottom piece of the king cake. The lucky one that gets the baby in their slice is in charge of getting the next king cake!

NOTES:

Before you start, it helps to have all ingredients measured out and ready to go into the mixer. 

Don't overpack the measuring cup: Spoon flour into measuring cup, then flatten off instead of scooping flour directly into measuring cup. You can start with 3½ cups and add more as needed.

If the dough seems too dry after flour is added, you can add a tablespoon of water or more as needed. The dough should be slightly sticky but not goopy.

This recipe can make one large or two smaller king cakes. If making two smaller, divide dough in half before rolling out (to about 14 x 10) and filling. For two cakes, check oven at the 20 minute mark and look for a golden brown surface.

Thanks for Chewsing!

 

Hi, hungry friends! We’re Ashley & Sean, Louisiana natives with a big love of food! We’re a husband and wife dynamic duo who film & photograph people, places & food for a living. The Craft Chew is our food baby, inspired by our love of craft brews, tasty chews and a little nod to our furry pup, Chewy. Thanks for stopping by!