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I was introduced to King Cake last year by my friend Lynne, a LA native. A yeast bread cake with a flavor similar to homemade cinnamon rolls, this dessert is best recognized by it’s beautiful coating of gold, green, and purple sugars. Hidden inside the delicious layers is the baby trinket. If you get the slice containing the baby, you are King or Queen of the day, obligating you to bring next year’s cake. For more history of the King Cake, see here.

This was my first attempt at the king cake. Next year, I’ll probably do a couple of things differently. I think I overworked the dough because it was denser than I had hoped. I also would use a thicker filling than the one used in this recipe. Overall though, this recipe was very tasty and my co-workers had no problem eating the whole thing.

For more recipes in this series, check out these links:

Barbecue Shrimp- NOLA Series Part 1

DSC_0251King Cake

The Dough: 

  • 1/2 c warm water (110-115 degrees F.)
  • 1 tbsp active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup sugar + 2 tsp, divided
  • 4½-5 ½ c all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • ½ cup lukewarm milk (110 degrees F.)
  • 3 eggs
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 c plus 2 tbsp butter, melted then cooled
  • 1 King Cake baby, coin, dried bean, or pecan

The Cream Cheese Filling:

  • 6 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 c sugar
  • 1-2 T flour
  • 1 small egg
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon


  • 1/2 lb powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • milk

Sugars: (sugars can be colored ahead of time and stored in an airtight container)

  • ¾ cup granulated sugar, divided in thirds
  • purple food coloring, or red and blue
  • green food coloring
  • yellow food coloring

In a small bowl, add warm water, yeast and 2 tsp of sugar. Set aside for 10 minutes and allow to proof. The yeast will bubble and nearly double in size. Combine 4 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 c sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the lemon zest. Make a well in the center and pour in the yeast mixture and warm milk. Add the eggs, egg yolks, and butter, gradually combining the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients. A soft ball will form. Place ball on a floured surface and incorporate more flour if needed. Knead until smooth and elastic. Brush the inside of a large bowl with 1 tbsp softened butter. Set dough in bowl and turn to coat with butter. Cover bowl and set aside for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until doubled in volume. While the dough is rising, combine the filling ingredients and mix until smooth. When dough is doubled in size, roll the dough out in a 30 inch x 9 inch rectangle on a well floured surface. The dough will be thin. Spread filling in a thin line down the 30” length of the dough, keeping the filling away from the edges. Fold the edge over the filling, then slowly roll the dough into a cylinder, like rolling a jelly roll. Place on baking sheet to form a ring, pinching ends together. Cover and set aside to rise again, about 45 min. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake cake on a rack placed in the middle of the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool cake to room temperature on a wire rack. Hide the baby, bean, nut, or coin into the cake (through the bottom). For the icing, mix the powdered sugar and vanilla together. Add milk, a small amount at a time, until icing is smooth. Drizzle over cooled King Cake using a fork or your fingers. For the colored sugars, either mix in separate bowls or shake and knead in plastic bags. Add 3-4 drops of yellow food coloring to the sugar and mix to coat all of the sugar. Repeat with green food coloring. For purple, red and blue food coloring can be used but purple colored paste will give a richer color. Sprinkle the sugars over the King Cake while the icing is still wet. Sprinkle in alternating colors, purple, green, and yellow, in rows about 2-3 inches wide.