We’re serving up our favorite traditional Mardi Gras King Cake to celebrate this Mardi Gras season! If you’re not familiar with this Mardi Gras tradition, we’re excited to share with you this Mardi Gras treat!
What is a King Cake?
King Cake is the traditional dessert served during Mardi Gras. It’s a type of sweet roll, shaped into a ring. Traditional King Cake is made with a rich brioche dough and filled with a sweet cinnamon cream cheese filling, topped with sweet glaze, and colored sanding sugar.
Brioche is an extra rich yeasted dough, it has eggs and lots of butter to make the dough rich and moist. Classic king cake has a cinnamon cream cheese filling, however, you’ll find that people fill their king cakes with all sorts of things! Once you have the basic dough recipe you can fill it with sweet cream cheese and chocolate, cherry pie filling, or even blueberry or apple pie filling, or if you’re feeling extra indulgent, almond paste!
You can read a little about what its like to live in Louisiana and celebrate Mardi Gras on our Mardi Gras 101 post!
What is the symbolism behind a Traditional Mardi Gras King Cake?
King Cake is symbolic of arrival of the 3 Wise Men (sometimes called the 3 Kings) in Bethlehem to visit baby Jesus. King cakes are traditionally topped with sanding sugar in Mardi Gras colors—purple, green, and gold. The colors represent the jeweled crowns the 3 Wise men or Kings that wore them—which is where the name “King Cake” comes from. The royal colors are significant: purple stands for justice; green is for faith, and gold is for power.
Making the King Cake
Making King Cake is pretty easy, if you’ve ever made cinnamon rolls the method is extremely similar. You’ll make your dough and let it rise. Then roll it out, and place your filling inside and tightly roll it up. You’ll shape it into a ring and let it rise a second time. Then bake it and frost it, decorate it with purple, green, and gold sanding sugar!
Hide yo’ baby. What does it mean when you find a baby in your King Cake?
In King cakes your typically hide a plastic baby (representing baby Jesus in the bottom of the cake. Whoever finds the baby in their slice is “King” for the day and is traditionally supposed to bring the King Cake to the party next year or even host the next Mardi Gras bash! Some people will say that finding the baby also symbolizes good luck and prosperity.
What can I substitute for the plastic baby?
A plastic or porcelain baby is pretty common in Louisiana (make sure you insert these AFTER you bake the king cake) and nowadays its always easy to find them on Amazon! If you don’t want to use a plastic baby you can also use a dry bean or a pecan! These can be hid in the dough before it’s baked, or inserted in the bottom afterwards.
We had a blast showing you all how to make this King Cake on ABC4's Good Things Utah, pop on over there to check it out!
You may also like these other Mardi Gras festive foods:
- READ: Cajun vs Creole Food--What's the difference?
- Creole Chicken & Sausage Gumbo
- White Chocolate Raspberry Bread Pudding
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Traditional Mardi Gras King Cake
- 1 ¼ oz package active dry yeast
- ¼ cup warm water water should be warm but not hot
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- ½ cup milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 egg
- 1 egg yolk
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 2 ¾ cup flour measured correctly
- ½ cup butter softened
- 12 oz or 1 ½ cups Cream cheese
- ¼ cup Butter
- ½ teaspoon of salt
- 2 teaspoons ground Cinnamon
- ½ cup Brown sugar packed
Glaze and decoration:
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- ¼ cup milk or buttermilk (for a little tang)
- ¼ cup butter melted
- pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- green purple, and yellow sanding sugar
- 1 plastic baby,1 dry bean, OR 1 pecan
- In a large stand mixer with a dough hook (if you don’t have a stand mixer you can use a large bowl) add warm water, yeast, and 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar. Let stand for 10 minutes until foamy.
- Add in remaining granulated sugar, milk, brown sugar, vanilla, egg, and egg yolk. Beat together on low until thoroughly combined.
- Add in salt and a little bit of flour. Mix together. Add in remaining flour and knead on medium until combined. Then knead on high for 4 minutes.
- Add in butter and continue kneading dough until dough is smooth and dough pulls away from bowl. It will take about 5-6 minutes.
- Place dough in a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Place in a warm place to rise until dough has doubled in size 1-1 ½ hours.
- While dough is rising make filling. And then continue to step 7 when dough has risen.
- Punch dough down and turn dough out on to a flour surface. Use a rolling pin, coated in flour, to roll dough out. Roll out into a rectangle ¼” thick, approximately 21” long by 9” wide.
- Make filling and assemble.
Filling, Assembly, & Baking:
- Combine cream cheese, butter, brown sugar, cinnamon until smooth.
- Spread filling over rolled out dough spreading filling about to about ½” away from the edge.
- Roll longwise into a tight swirl (like you would with cinnamon rolls) pinching the dough underneath to seal filling in. Form your long tube into a circle and pinch dough together to seal edges.
- Place on a large baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit for 1 hour.
- Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake uncovered for 20-25 minutes. Cake should be golden brown.
- Make glaze: mix butter and ½ cup of powdered sugar until smooth. Add in buttermilk and remaining powdered sugar, mix until smooth.
- Once cake is completely cool, insert plastic baby or bean into the bottom of the cake. Spoon glaze over top of cake. Top with sanding sugars, alternating colors. Slice and enjoy! I like to warm my slice up in the microwave for 8-10 seconds before eating!
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This is the only King Cake recipe I have found that tastes just like New Orleans!