Traditional King Cake

10-15 Servings
2 hr 30 min

Now forever linked with Mardi Gras (at least in the south), the King Cake’s history goes back a good ways. The name derives from the visit of the Magi to the infant Christ which is celebrated on the Epiphany, January 6th. This marks the end of the twelve days of Christmas and begins what we celebrate now as the Mardi Gras Season which extends to Fat Tuesday and of course the beginning of Lent.

Although versions of both the recipe and traditions exist all over the world, the one I am of course most familiar with is the New Orleans King Cake. One other tradition involves placing a little plastic baby somewhere in the cake. Whoever discovers the baby (usually by biting into it) has to buy the King Cake for the next get together. Most bakeries these days no longer place the baby in the cake for fear of someone choking. Some include it on the side so the customer has to place it in the cake. Others have discontinued the practice altogether. I don’t bother with it myself but if you wanna keep with tradition, have a ball.

Usually made with a sweet brioche dough, it can have different varieties of icing, stuffing, and shape. This recipe is a pretty basic King Cake. Stuffed only with some cinnamon butter and a super simple cream cheese icing, this cake is a lot easier to make than you would think. So if confections have dissuaded you in the past, please forge ahead and fear not. The treat at the end is well worth the effort.

For more great recipes check out our blog: Pontchartrain Kitchen and subscribe!

You can also visit our Instagram: @PontchartrainKitchen

Recipe details
  • 10-15  Servings
  • Prep time: 2 Hours Cook time: 30 Minutes Total time: 2 hr 30 min
Show Nutrition Info
Hide Nutrition Info
  • 3 teaspoons of yeast
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cups of butter (melted)
  • 3/4 cup warm milk
  • 1/4 cup dry milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 4 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon of lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice
Egg Wash
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup of butter softened
  • 1 tablespoon of cinnamon
  • 1 block of cream cheese softened
  • 1/2 cup of heavy cream
  • 1 cup of confectioners sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons of sugar separated
  • Dash of yellow, green, and purple food coloring
Whisk yeast, sugar, butter, and milks together in the bowl of a stand mixer. (If you don’t have a stand mixer, it can be done by hand but expect a good workout.)
Add eggs and using the dough hook, beat eggs into the yeast mixture.
Add flour and remaining ingredients and continue mixing until incorporated well. Mix until you have a nice little dough ball.
Place the dough ball into a greased bowl. Cover and let rise for at least two hours.
While dough is rising make your egg wash, filling, icing, and sprinkles.
Egg Wash
Combine egg and water in a small bowl and whisk well. Set aside.
Combine butter and cinnamon in a bowl and mix well. Set aside.
In a large bowl add all icing ingredients. Using a hand mixer, mix until everything is nice and creamy. Set aside.
In three separate, small, plastic containers; add 1 tablespoon of sugar in each. Add a dash of food coloring (one color per container) in each. Shake well. Set sprinkles aside.
For the King Cake
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. On a well-floured surface, place the dough ball and roll out into a rectangle about 7 inches wide and 30 inches long.
Using a spoon, brush the filling all over the inside of the dough.
Fold dough in thirds (long ways) and seal edges well. (So now it should be about 3 inches wide and 30 inches long).
Form dough into oval, sealing the ends very well.
Carefully transfer the dough to a parchment-lined baking sheet and cover with a clean towel. Let rise for another hour.
After the rise, brush egg wash on dough and bake in preheated oven for about 25 minutes or until nice and golden brown on top.
Remove from the oven and let cool.
Ice cake with icing and then sprinkle with your colored sprinkles. Enjoy!
Pontchartrain Kitchen
Want more details about this and other recipes? Check out more here!