Mardi Gras King Cake: the tasty New Orleans dessert to make on Fat Tuesday

Total time: 90 Min
Difficulty: Low
Serves: 8 people
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By Cookist

For this year's Mardi Gras, why not celebrate by making a festive, colorful, and delicious Mardi Gras king cake? This easy-to-make recipe comes from New Orleans and is a must-have for any Fat Tuesday party. This festive day is held every year in the French Quarter to celebrate the Carnival season.

Mardi gras king cake is shaped like a crown. It's decorated with green (stands for faith), gold (power), and purple (justice) sanding sugars and vibrant sprinkles. It has a wonderfully soft, fluffy texture and buttery cinnamon flavor, not unlike classic cinnamon rolls.

A small plastic baby or bean which symbolizes Jesus is baked inside the cake. Whoever finds the prize in their slice gets to host a Mardi Gras party the following year. Anyway, the name of the cake has a double reference. It also honors the Three Kings who brought gifts to the baby Jesus on Epiphany, 12 days after his birth at Christmas.

This easy king cake recipe is traditionally served from 6th January until Carnival. Delicious and effortless to make, it's the perfect way to kick off your Mardi Gras celebration.

What is Mardi Gras King Cake?

King cake or Mardi Gras king cake is a delicious dessert that's traditionally served to celebrate Fat Tuesday. It's originally from New Orleans and is instantly recognizable thanks to its bright colors and shimmery sprinkles.

King cake is shaped like a crown or ring and is made in both braided and unbraided versions. Mardi Gras king cake is often cinnamon flavored, although some people like to flavor their cakes with vanilla.

A small plastic baby or bean is baked into the cake, and whoever finds it in their piece of cake gets crowned king for the day (hence the name of the cake). The king gets to host next year's Mardi Gras party.


Mardi Gras King Cake Ingredients

To make the best authentic Mardi Gras cake, you'll need several ingredients to make the icing, the filling, and the cake itself.

To make the rich, buttery cake, you'll need flour, butter, water, sugar, nutmeg, and eggs.

The tasty cinnamon-roll-like filling is made from brown sugar, ground cinnamon (you can add other spices as well if you like), raisins, butter, and chopped nuts.

The icing is a basic powdered sugar-based icing – you can add flavorings to it as well as food coloring when decorating your king cake.

Tips for Making Easy King Cake

The water should be about 105 to 115F. Any colder and the yeast won't activate, while anything hotter than 115 will kill off the yeast.

For a gluten-free version, use gluten-free flour instead of all-purpose flour when making your cake.

Don't overmix the batter.

Purple, gold, and green are the classic Mardi Gras king cake colors. Make sure you pick up some food coloring and the appropriate sprinkles so you can decorate your cake.

Don't add the plastic baby to the cake before baking as it will melt and ruin your cake. Instead, squeeze it into the cake once the cake is out of the oven.


How to Store Mardi Gras King Cake

Cover and keep Mardi Gras king cake at room temperature for up to 3 days. It'll last up to one week in the fridge.

for the cake
1 cup
1/4 cup
Active Dry Yeast
2 packages
Warm water
2/3 cup
White sugar
1/2 cup
1 1/2 tsp
freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp
All-purpose flour
5 1/2 cups
for the filling
packed brown sugar
1 cup
Ground cinnamon
1 tbsp
pecans, chopped
2/3 cup
All-purpose flour
1/2 cup
1/2 cup
butter, melted
1/2 cup
for the icing
Confectioner’s sugar
1 cup
1 tbsp
for decorating
purple sanding sugar
green sanding sugar
gold sanding sugar

How to Make Mardi Gras King Cake

In a small saucepan, scald the milk over medium-high heat.

Take the pot off the stovetop, and whisk in the butter. Leave to cool to room temperature.

In a large bowl, whisk yeast, 1 tablespoon of sugar, and warm water to combine. Leave for 10 to 15 minutes, until foamy.

Stir the milk mixture into the yeast mixture.

Beat in the eggs, followed by the remaining sugar, nutmeg, and salt.

Slowly whisk in the flour. Once the dough forms, turn it out onto a floured work surface and knead for 8 to 10 minutes until it becomes smooth and supple.

Grease a large bowl with oil. Put the dough in the bowl and flip to coat with oil.

Cover the bowl with a damp towel and place it in a warm spot free from drafts until the dough doubles in size.

Punch the dough down and cut it in half.

Preheat your oven to 375F. Line two trays with parchment paper.

Roll out both dough halves into 10×16-inch rectangles.

For the filling, mix the brown sugar, cinnamon, pecans, raisins, and flour in a bowl.

Whisk in the melted butter until the filling takes on a coarse, crumbly texture.

Sprinkle the filling over each dough rectangle, then roll them tightly as you would when making cinnamon rolls.

Put the two ends together to form a ring. Put one cake onto a baking tray.

Using a pair of scissors, make cuts every 1-inch along the ring about 1/3 inch deep.

Leave the rings to rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until doubled in size.

Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and put the plastic doll into the cake from the bottom.

Whisk the powdered sugar with water.

Pour over the cake while the cake is warm, then leave to cool completely.


Make sure to use room-temperature ingredients to make your Mardi Gras king cake.

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