Mardi Gras King Cake

king-24-of-26We hate to brag, but this is one of the most delicious king cake recipes ever. It is soft, it is cinnamon-y, it is nutty, and it is coated in thick, gooey vanilla icing. It doesn’t get much better than that!

The festive cake season started on January 5th, also known as the Twelfth Night or Epiphany Day, and ends on Mardi Gras, also known as Fat Tuesday, the day before Lent begins. This year Mardi Gras takes place on February 28th so it is perfect timing to whip up your own king cake. Whoever finds the small baby hidden inside is blessed with luck and prosperity, and has to bring the king cake to the party next year!

We’ve learned a lot about the history and symbolism behind the cake throughout this project, but what we love the most is the joyful celebrations that surround this treat. We daydream about dancing in the streets of New Orleans every time we bite into this cake, but for now we’ll have to enjoy it from afar here in Los Angeles!


The Cake

  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 package of yeast
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter, softened, cut into small cubes

The Filling

  • 2/3 cups light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cups chopped walnuts

The Icing

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

The Decoration

  • Yellow, purple, and dark green sprinkles or sanding sugar
  • A small, plastic baby

Mix 2 1/2 cups of flour with the package of yeast until completely blended.


In a saucepan over medium heat, warm the milk and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Using the paddle attachment on your mixer, combine the dry ingredients with the hot milk while the mixer is on low speed.


Once the liquids are well incorporated, add the eggs one at a time. Mix until a gooey dough forms. Switch to a dough hook attachment. Mix in the remaining cup of flour and the salt.


Add the softened butter, one cube at a time. Using the hook attachment, knead the dough for 8 minutes, pausing to clean the sides of the bowl every few minutes.


Knead the dough a few times by hand on a floured surface.


Then roll it into a ball and place in a greased bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to rest and rise for an hour. It should almost double in size.


While the dough is proofing, make your cinnamon filling. Combine all ingredients until it forms a thick paste.


Once the dough has risen for an hour, remove it from the bowl and roll it out onto a floured surface. You want to roll it into a rectangle measuring approximately 10 x 20 inches.


Smear the cinnamon filling onto one half (the long ways) of the dough. Don’t be afraid to use your clean fingers to get it evenly distributed! Fold the dough in half over the filling and press down firmly.


Carefully slice the dough into three long, even strips. Then pinch the dough together, sealing any openings so that the cinnamon filling won’t leak out.


Gently braid the dough. After you braid it you can stretch it out a little bit.


Form the braided dough into a wreath shape on a foil-lined baking sheet (we used a pizza stone). We tucked the loose pieces of dough underneath each other in order to disguise them. Then cover and allow to sit for another hour.


While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 350º F. After an hour, when the dough has once again doubled in size, place it in the over and bake for 25-30 minutes. Allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes or so once finished baking. The filling might have leaked a little bit (ours did!) but no worries, it comes off easily when you transfer the cake to a new plate.


While it cools, make the icing by mixing the powdered sugar, vanilla and milk together until smooth. It should be viscous but not too runny.


Onto the fun part – decoration! First, and most importantly, tuck the little plastic baby into the cake somewhere. It helps that it is braided because there are many secret little crevices.


Using a spoon, pour the icing on top of the cake in thick globs. Allow it to ooze instead of spreading it.


Then finish it off with green, purple, and yellow sprinkles! We did them in six alternating sections.


Time to reap your reward! Pop your piece in the microwave for ten seconds if you want it warm and soft… really, does it get any better?


A big thank you to our friend Evie, a cooking genius (and she is 12!!) for her help on this baking project.


Happy Mardi Gras!

-Kirby and Michelle

12 thoughts on “Mardi Gras King Cake

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