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What Is King Cake?

What Is King Cake?

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A festive dessert with a surprise in the center

The concept behind the king cake is simple. It's a cake made from cinnamon and honey with a hollow circle, and somewhere inside the cake is a small plastic baby doll. Whoever finds the figurine in their slice must bake or purchase the next cake.

How did this tradition come about? It all began in Europe, with the advent of the celebration of Epiphany, a Christian holiday that takes place 12 days after Christmas, celebrated in many parts of the world. The original interpretation of the cake is that it is a symbol for the three wise men who brought gifts for the baby Jesus. The celebration culminates in a grand feast and an exchange of gifts among family and friends.

However, here in the United States, the king cake is most often associated with the celebration of Mardi Gras. The top of the cake is decorated with the trademark symbolic colors of the celebration — purple, green, and gold, each representing justice, faith, and power, respectively. Here, the hidden surprise takes on another meaning. It is often said that whoever is lucky enough to receive that slice with the figurine becomes the king or queen for a day — surely a welcome surprise, unless, that is, one is unfortunate enough to bite down on the doll. So eat your king cake carefully...

Click here to see David Guas' King Cake Recipe.

  • For the Brioche Dough:
  • 1/2 cup water (lukewarm, 110 to 115 degrees)
  • 2 packages active dry yeast (about 4 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 cups flour (sifted, all-purpose)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (granulated)
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (freshly, grated)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon lemon rind (grated)
  • 1/2 cup milk (lukewarm)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 4 large eggs (the yolks)
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter (softened)
  • 1 large egg (lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon milk for the egg wash)
  • 1 bean (dried, or a coin, or tiny china baby doll)
  • For the Vanilla Glaze:
  • 1/2 cup sugar (sifted confectioners')
  • 2 teaspoons milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • Garnish: colored sugars (purple, yellow, and green)
  • Garnish: candied cherries (and other fruits, as desired)

Gather the dough ingredients.

The Spruce / Bahareh Niati

Soften yeast in water in a small bowl.

The Spruce / Bahareh Niati

Combine flour, sugar, nutmeg and salt in a separate large mixing bowl. Stir in lemon peel.

The Spruce / Bahareh Niati

Make a well in center of the dry ingredients and pour into it the yeast mixture and milk. Add eggs and egg yolks, and with a large wooden spoon gradually incorporate dry ingredients into liquid ones.

The Spruce / Bahareh Niati

Beat in butter and continue beating until dough forms a ball.

The Spruce / Bahareh Niati

Place the dough on floured board and sprinkle with more flour if necessary to keep from sticking to the bowl or surface.

The Spruce / Bahareh Niati

Knead by hand or with the mixer with the dough hook attachment until smooth and elastic.

The Spruce / Bahareh Niati

Brush inside of large bowl with 1 tablespoon softened butter.

The Spruce / Bahareh Niati

Set the dough in bowl and turn it to coat the entire surface with the butter. Cover the bowl and set aside for 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in bulk.

The Spruce / Bahareh Niati

Brush a large baking sheet with remaining butter.

The Spruce / Bahareh Niati

Punch dough down on lightly floured surface.

The Spruce / Bahareh Niati

Knead for a few minutes, then pat and shape dough into a long roll about 14 inches long.

The Spruce / Bahareh Niati

Place on baking sheet and form into a circle.

The Spruce / Bahareh Niati

Brush with the egg and milk mixture. Press bean or doll into dough so that it is hidden.

The Spruce / Bahareh Niati

Set aside again to rise for about 45 minutes to 1 1/4 hours, until doubled. Position an oven rack in the center of the oven. Heat the oven to 375 F (190 C/Gas 5).

The Spruce / Bahareh Niati

Bake the cake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Slide the cake onto wire rack to cool.

The Spruce / Bahareh Niati

Easy King Cake

On a floured surface, roll out the dough to roughly a 10″ x 18″ rectangle.

Mix together cream cheese, powdered sugar, cinnamon, raisins, and pecans. Spread the mixture over the dough to within an inch of each edge. Roll longways to create a long log and brush the edge with water before sealing it.

Shape the log into a circle, pressing the ends together and using water to seal the edges. Lightly spray the top with cooking spray, cover it with plastic wrap, and set it in a warm place (approximately 80˚F) to rise for 45 minutes to an hour.

Remove the plastic wrap and bake at 350˚F for 30-35 minutes. After cooling, drizzle the icing over the cake and top with colored sugar.

Paula’s Tip #1: Let your oven warm and then turn it off. This makes for a great place to let your dough rise!

Paula’s Tip #2: If you’re putting the traditional baby or pea in the cake, find a discreet place to put it after it’s been baked. Then make sure it’s disguised with your decorations!


Mix the confectioners sugar, milk, and vanilla extract together. If it appears too thick, thin it out slowly by adding a little bit of milk at a time until it reaches your desired consistency.


  • 4 cups all-purpose flour (Optional)
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 1 (.25 ounce) package rapid rise yeast
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons salt
  • 3 eggs at room temperature
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • ¾ cup Bulgarian-style buttermilk
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour (Optional)
  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (Optional)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 4 teaspoons corn syrup
  • 4 teaspoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice, or as needed

Mix 4 cups of flour, white sugar, yeast, and salt together in the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.

Whisk 3 eggs in a separate bowl. Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat and whisk buttermilk into melted butter heat until an instant-read thermometer reads 120 degrees F (49 degrees C). Whisk buttermilk mixture into beaten eggs and cool the mixture to 110 degrees F (43 degrees C).

Beat egg mixture into flour mixture on medium-low speed to make a firm, elastic dough, about 10 minutes. If dough doesn't separate from the sides of the mixing bowl during kneading, beat in 1/4 cup more flour.

Turn dough out onto a work surface and knead for 1 minute form into a ball and place into a buttered bowl, turning dough around to lightly coat with butter. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Butter the outer edge of an 8-inch cake pan.

Stir cream cheese, 1 cup confectioners' sugar, 2 tablespoons flour, lemon juice, vanilla extract, and nutmeg in a bowl until filling is smooth.

Punch down dough and turn out onto a lightly floured piece of parchment paper. Roll dough into a 10x28-inch rectangle. Spread cream cheese filling over the rectangle, leaving a 1-inch border along each edge. Lift an edge of the parchment paper sheet to roll dough into a log shape, starting at a 28-inch edge. Pinch seams closed to seal in filling, keeping roll on the parchment paper.

Wrap the filled dough around the outside of the buttered 8-inch cake pan to form the dough into a ring pinch the edges closed. Use parchment paper to lift the cake and cake pan and slide a baking sheet beneath the parchment. Gently free cake pan, leaving the ring-shaped cake. Whisk 1 egg with water in a small bowl brush cake with egg wash.

Bake king cake in the preheated oven until golden brown, about 40 minutes. Let cake cool.

Stir 1 cup confectioners' sugar, corn syrup, and milk in a bowl mix in 1 teaspoon lemon juice, or amount needed to thin icing to a thick but slightly runny texture. Drizzle king cake with icing.

Our Most Traditional King Cake Recipe

King Cake is the traditional Mardi Gras dessert. Celebrate with this classic king cake recipe.

Watching my first Mardi Gras parade in the French Quarter from atop my cousin&aposs shoulders is a memory I love to conjure up. Right there with that parade, I also recall my first bite of Mardi Gras King Cake. Similar to coffee cake, this ring-shaped confection is as rich in tradition and history as it is in color and taste. Trademark decorations--sugars in the royal colors of purple (justice), green (faith), and gold (power)--honor the three kings who visited the Christ child on Epiphany, the 12th day after Christmas.

Also known as King&aposs Day, Mardi Gras marks the start of merrymaking that continues until the grand finale on Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday.

It&aposs my hope that the streets of New Orleans and other cities along the Southern coast will again be filled with the magic of Mardi Gras. So no matter where you live, I hope you will join me in a toast to our friends on the Gulf Coast with your favorite beverage and a piece of king cake.

Mardi Gras King Cake Baking Tip
Remember, always spoon (not scoop) your flour into the dry measuring cup then level with a knife. Scooping the flour with a dry measuring cup can add more flour, compromising the results of your recipe.

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • Purple, green, and gold decorative sugars
  • 1 fève (fava bean) or plastic baby to hide in the cake after baking

Method of Preparation

1. For the cake, pour the warm milk into a large bowl. Whisk in the granulated sugar, yeast, and a heaping tablespoon of the flour, mixing until both the sugar and the yeast have dissolved.

2. Once bubbles have developed on the surface of the milk and it begins to foam, whisk in the butter, eggs, vanilla, and lemon zest. Add the remaining flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg and fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients with a large rubber spatula.

3. After the dough comes together, pulling away from the sides of the bowl, shape it into a large ball. Knead the dough on a floured surface until it is smooth and elastic, about 15 minutes.

4. Put the dough back into the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside in a draft-free place to let it proof, or rise, for 1 1/2 hours or until the dough has doubled in volume.

5. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Once the dough has risen, punch it down and divide the dough into 3 equal pieces. Roll each piece of dough between your palms into a long strip, making 3 ropes of equal length. Braid the 3 ropes around one another and then form the braided loaf into a circle, pinching ends together to seal. Gently lay the braided dough on a nonstick cookie sheet and let it rise until it doubles in size, about 30 minutes.

6. Once it's doubled in size, place the cookie sheet in the oven and bake until the braid is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven, place on a wire rack, and allow to cool for 30 minutes.

7. For the icing, while the cake is cooling, whisk together the powdered sugar, condensed milk, and lemon juice in a bowl until the icing is smooth and very spreadable. If the icing is too thick, add a bit more condensed milk if it's a touch too loose, add a little more powdered sugar.

8. Once the cake has cooled, spread the icing over the top of the cake and sprinkle with purple, green, and gold decorative sugars while the icing is still wet. Tuck the fève or plastic baby into the underside of the cake and, using a spatula, slide the cake onto a platter.

Bread flour glutens are longer and are thus better for kneading dough. But you can also use all-purpose. I would check the oven's actual temperature. Sounds like yours may be hotter than it ought to be. Ovens are notorious for running hotter or cooler than set, especially the way appliances are made today.

This is not a traditional New Orleans king cake recipe. I followed the directions to the to the tee and ended up with with a doughy mess. They were beautiful and golden brown outside and a doughy mess inside. I tested them with a toothpick and the toothpick came out clean. However, after cooling for about 30 minutes, it sunk in the middle, leaving me with a ugly, deflated mess. 375 for 16 minutes is far too hot and too fast for a cake this big. I have 2 thermometers in my oven for extra assurance. My oven was exactly 375. There are also some inconsistencies between the Southern Living video and this recipe. When she is mixing the dough, she said to add 1/2 cup of sugar. However, the recipe says to add 1/3 cup of sugar. The ingredients only call for 1/3 cup of butter, but it says "spread 1/3 cup softened butter evenly on each rectangle." So, does each rectangle get 1/3 cup or is that 1/3 cup spread over both rectangles? What I've tasted of this disaster is far too sweet for what I would consider a king cake. This recipe more closely resembles cinnamon rolls, especially with the hot and short baking time.

What is King Cake ? Recipe to Bake King Cake at Home ?

Fat Tuesday is simply round the corner, and with it comes all the fastnachts you may hope to consume.

But if you’re searching for one thing somewhat completely different to get pleasure from this pre-Lenten season or if lard-fried doughnuts simply aren’t enough when it involves satisfying your sweet tooth, we recommend the king cake.

This Mardi Gras treat has been around for hundreds of years however is simply currently commencing to build inroads in central Pennsylvania.

What is a king cake?

A king cake isn’t a cake however a brioche — a sweet, breadlike dough that’s rolled and twisted into an oval form, and then sometimes coated with icing and topped liberally with 3 colours of sugar. typically Mardi Gras beads are added for an ornamental result.

The 3 colours are the normal Mardi Gras colours — inexperienced, yellow and purple. inexperienced represents religion, yellow depicts power and therefore the purple is for justice.

What’s the importance of the king cake?

The king cake takes its name from the 3 kings or Magi who visited baby Jesus on the night of Epiphany, additionally called Twelfth Night or King’s Day. The follow of baking a cake to honor the 3 kings dates to the twelfth century. The cakes are oval-shaped to symbolize the circular route the Magi took within the journey.

In Gulf states like Louisiana, where king cakes are standard, they need long been a section of the normal Mardi Gras celebration within the same means fastnachts are here in central Pennsylvania.

What’s that within the king cake?

Traditionally, king cakes accompany a hidden surprise — be it a pea or coin or different trinket. In Mexico and different Latino cultures, it’s a bean.

These days, most king cakes accompany a little plastic baby doll representing the baby Jesus. For sanitary reasons, these very little dolls are sometimes connected to the highest or aspect of the cake in order that shoppers will slyly insert it within the filling before serving.

In olden times, the one that got the trinket was declared king for on a daily basis and was said to own smart luck for the approaching year. These days, it’s not that a lot of of a blessing the one that finds the baby or bean is typically needed to perform some kind of obligation, like hosting the subsequent year’s Mardi Gras party or baking the cake.

Are king cakes standard within the midstate?

They’re not about to surpass the fastnacht anytime soon, but yes, additional and additional people within the Harrisburg space are discovering this sweet treat.

“We simply started [selling] them last year. we have a tendency to thought we’d check the waters. The reaction was terribly positive,” said Deborah Murdoch, bakery supervisor at Karn’s Foods. “We tried doing it years ago, and nobody knew what they were.”

“We in all probability beginning carrying them six or eight years ago. it’s extremely gained in popularity,” said Gary Wagner, bakery sales manager at large Foods Stores.

Why the sudden interest in New Orleans-styled Mardi Gras celebrations? Wagner suggests a growing influx of individuals from different states additionally as an interest in New Orleans once the Katrina disaster has heightened awareness.

“It’s a fun factor to try and do. If you can’t attend New Orleans, you’ll celebrate here and have a number of that have,” Wagner said.

“In this present day and age, we glance for reasons to celebrate,” Murdoch said.

Is there only 1 flavor of king cake?

Heavens, no. The Pennsylvania Bakery in Camp Hill, for instance, makes many varieties, as well as cherry, cheese, raspberry and cinnamon, owner Ken Schenk said.

Do I solely eat it on Fat Tuesday?

Certainly not. In Europe, king cakes are sometimes eaten around or simply once the Christmas holidays. we have a tendency to won’t say something if you choose to own one on Easter.


3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 package Active Dry Yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
For glaze:
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
3-4 teaspoons two % milk
Top glaze with inexperienced coloured, gold coloured, and purple coloured sugar (you will dye sugar with food coloring)
Toy baby

Scald milk, take away from heat, and stir in butter. permit mixture to cool down to area temperature.

In a massive bowl, dissolve yeast within the heat water with sugar. Let stand till creamy, concerning ten minutes. When yeast mixture is effervescent, add cooled milk mixture. Whisk in eggs. Stir in salt. Beat the flour into the milk/egg mixture one cup at a time.

When the dough has pulled along, flip it out onto a gently floured surface and knead till sleek and elastic (8-10 minutes).

Lightly oil an outsized bowl, place dough in a very bowl to coat with oil. cowl with a moist cloth or plastic wrap and let rise in heat place till it doubles in volume, for concerning two hours. When risen, punch down.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Grease a cookie sheet or line with parchment paper. Bake around forty minutes or till golden brown. once king cake has cooled, prime with glaze mixture and beautify with coloured sugars. Tuck in toy baby in cake from very cheap.

Ingredients for Basic French King Cake Recipe: New Orleans Style

Check out all my recipes for different varieties. These are the basic ingredients you will need for a traditional New Orleans King Cake. In addition to the traditional king cake recipe, you'll also find filled king cake recipes. I've tred a few different ways to make the cakes, but these are the best king cake recipes I've tasted!

1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup melted butter
2 (.25 ounce) packets active dry yeast
2/3 cup warm water (About 110 degrees F or 45 degrees C)
1/2 cup white sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 small plastic doll (to be added at the end of the baking process)

1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup melted butter


1 cup confectioners' sugar
2-3 teaspoons warm water
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Why is there a plastic baby in king cake?

It is very common to find a small plastic baby figurine hidden within a ring of king cake. While there are many beliefs, some say that the figurine represents the Baby Jesus. (During the celebration of Epiphany, it is recognized that the Three Kings or Wise Men brought gifts to the Baby Jesus.) Things like beans, coins, and pecans have also been hidden inside a king cake instead of a plastic baby. As tradition goes, whoever finds the trinket inside their slice of king cake is crowned king or queen for the day&mdashit's a symbol of good luck.


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