Monday, February 6, 2012

Mardi Gras King Cake

It's that time again... King Cake Season!  Historically, King Cake season is the period between Epiphany and Mardi Gras (the day before Ash Wednesday).  It's the primary dessert of Mardi Gras.  There's a trinket hidden in the cake, usually a small plastic baby (for the Baby Jesus).  Whoever finds the baby in their piece is King for the day.  They also host the next Mardi Gras celebration.  As a kid growing up on the Gulf Coast, we had Mardi Gras parties at school every Friday.  Whoever got the baby was responsible for bringing the cake the following week.

King cakes come with a variety of fillings, but I prefer cream cheese, so that's what I'll write about today.  This can be easily left out altogether, or substituted with strawberry jam or anything else that sounds delicious.  King cakes taste a lot like a frosted cinnamon bun when it's all said and done.  While they make a great dessert option, I also enjoy them with a cup of Community Coffee for a traditional Louisiana Mardi Gras breakfast!

To begin, I like to get all my ingredients out.  Some of them, like plastic babies, colored sugars, and dry milk powder can be challenging to find, so I like to get everything a few days before I plan to bake.

This recipe makes two medium King Cakes (about 15 servings each).  Allot about four hours total time, with an hour of hands-on time dispersed throughout that four hours.

Bonnie’s Best-Ever
Mardi Gras King Cake
(with cream cheese filling)


For the cake:
½ oz. instant yeast
1 ½ c warm water
½ c sugar
5 c flour
½ c dry milk powder
2 t salt
2 eggs, beaten
1 c melted butter

For the filling:
½ c melted butter
2 c sugar, divided
4 T cinnamon
16 oz. cream cheese, softened

For the topping:
2 lbs. powdered sugar
1 T almond (or vanilla) extract
¾ c water
Purple, green, and gold sugars

Making the dough:

1.      Combine yeast and warm water and set aside.

2.      Add all dry ingredients to a large mixing bowl.  Using the dough hook on your electric mixer, blend ingredients on low for 2-3 minutes.

3.      In a separate bowl, combine eggs, ¾ c butter, and yeast mixture.  Slowly add this to the flour mixture.

4.      Mix 8-10 minutes or until dough separates from the bowl.  An additional ½ c of flour may be added if the dough is too wet.

5.      Brush a large stainless bowl with melted butter until coated and place dough inside.  Brush dough with melted butter to keep moist.  Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let dough proof in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

If my house isn't warm enough to make dough rise well, I'll put the oven on the lowest setting and let the dough rise in front of the open oven door.


1.      Preheat oven to 350°F.

2.      Take about half the dough and roll out onto a floured surface into a large rectangle (about 24” x 14”).  

3.      In a small bowl, combine ½ c sugar and 2 T cinnamon.

4.      Brush the dough with ¼ c melted butter, and sprinkle cinnamon sugar evenly on top.

5.      Mix 8 oz. cream cheese with ½ c sugar.  Apply this mixture, about 1” wide, to the dough rectangle, about 2 inches from the close side.

6.      Starting with the cream cheesed side, roll the dough into a long log.  Bring the ends together to form a circle (I like to weave the ends together to make a continuous circle), and place on a baking sheet.

7.      Repeat steps 2 – 6 for the second half of the dough.

8.      Let the dough rise for one hour or until doubled in size.

9.      Bake 20 – 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Note: When I don’t opt for the cream cheese filling, I like to braid the cake instead.  Cut the rectangle into three pieces, longways.  Fold each in half so the cinnamon sides are hidden.  Pinch the ends together on one side and braid the strands.  Make a circle once you’re done, weaving the ends together for a clean look.

Finishing touches:

1.      Allow the cake to cool completely.  Insert the baby into the cake.

2.      Combine sugar and salt.

3.      Mix on low speed while slowing adding the almond extract and water.

4.      Drizzle glaze over the first cake, and sprinkle with purple, green, and gold sugars.  Repeat with the second cake.

Tips and advice:

1.      Plastic babies can be found in the baby shower section of your local party store or on AmazonDon’t bake the baby into the cake.

2.      The cake aisles of party and craft stores offer the best colored sugars.

3.      Glaze one cake at a time so the glaze doesn’t set up while you’re still decorating.

4.      King cake makes a wonderful breakfast, especially with a cup of coffee.

5.      Try warming up a leftover slice of king cake for about 10 seconds in the microwave.

6.      It’s much easier to make two medium-sized king cakes with the recipe rather than one large one.  Then you can share it at two parties!  (Or keep one for yourself)

1 comment:

  1. I want to say that I have been the blessed recipient of one of Bonnie's king cakes, which by the way came priority mail just fine! I can't wait to try making one myself!!


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