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king cake recipe

A little history about King Cake.  King Cake is a traditional cake made to honor the three kings that visited Baby Jesus on the Epiphany.  King Cake is eaten from the 12th Day of Christmas until Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday.  It is a rich pastry that is similar to a brioche dough; sometimes filled with various fillings, but always decorated with purple, green, and yellow sugar sprinkles.  The purple sugar represents justice, the green represents faith, and the yellow represents power.

I had the best time making this Mardi Gras King Cake.  I made it awhile ago for a project that ended up not getting published so I am sharing it with you now.  The kids and I made it together and had fun adding the colored sprinkles.  They were super excited to see who would get the baby.  I sent Will to school with the piece with the baby the next day and that was the first thing that he told me when I went to pick him up.  I am making a few more this week to celebrate Fat Tuesday at our school.  It should be so much fun to do with the class.  This dough is beautiful to work with and is soft and tender.  Amazing.

The most fun part of eating a King Cake is finding the baby that is baked inside.  The baby can be a plastic baby, a pecan half, or an uncooked dried bean.  The bean represents the Baby Jesus.  The person that gets the slice with the baby is said to have good luck for the year, and also gets to host the next King Cake party.

This recipe yields one very large filled King Cake.

king cake recipeFor the dough:
1/2 cup warm water
2 packages yeast
2 teaspoons sugar
4 to 5 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 cup warm milk
1/2 cup melted butter, cooled
5 egg yolks
zest of one lemon
King Cake Baby

For the cream cheese filling:
1 (8-ounce) package room temperature cream cheese
1 cup confectioners sugar
2 Tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons lemon juice

For the icing:
2 cup confectioners sugar
4 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
purple, green, and yellow

king cake recipeCombine the warm water with the yeast and 2 teaspoons of sugar.  Mix it together and let sit for about 10 minutes.

king cake recipeIn the bowl of a stand mixer, combine 4 cups of flour, sugar, salt, nutmeg, lemon zest, milk, melted butter, egg yolks, and yeast mixture.

king cake recipeUsing the dough hook, knead until the dough pulls away from the sides of the mixer.  If the dough is very wet, you can add up to one more cup flour.  Knead for 5 minutes.

king cake recipeTurn the dough out into bowl that has been coated with cooking spray.  Turn the dough in the cooking spray and cover with plastic wrap.  Let the dough rise until it has doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.

king cake recipeMix together the cream cheese, confectioners sugar, flour, vanilla, and lemon juice.  Set aside.

king cake recipeRoll the dough into a rectangle about 30 inches long.  Spread the cream cheese mixture evenly on the dough.

king cake recipeRoll the dough into a cylinder.

king cake recipeLine a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Put a mason jar in the middle and wrap the dough around the jar.  Tuck the ends together to form a ring.  Cover with a towel and let rise for another 45 minutes.

king cake recipeBake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until golden brown.  Take the mason jar out and let cool.

king cake recipeMake the icing by whisking the confectioners sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla.

king cake recipeHello baby!  Press the plastic baby into the cake.  Please be smarter than me.  Press it underneath the king cake, not on the top.

king cake recipeCover the King Cake with the icing and sprinkle the cake with sugars alternating the colors.

king cake recipeIsn’t this festive and beautiful?

king cake recipeJust like him.

King Cake

Ingredients

  • For the dough:
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 2 packages yeast
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 4 to 5 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup warm milk
  • 1/2 cup melted butter, cooled
  • 5 egg yolks
  • zest of one lemon
  • King Cake Baby
  • For the cream cheese filling:
  • 1 (8-ounce) package room temperature cream cheese
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • For the icing:
  • 2 cup confectioners sugar
  • 4 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • purple, green, and yellow

Instructions

  1. Combine the warm water with the yeast and 2 teaspoons of sugar. Mix it together and let sit for about 10 minutes.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine 4 cups of flour, sugar, salt, nutmeg, lemon zest, milk, melted butter, egg yolks, and yeast mixture.
  3. Using the dough hook, knead until the dough pulls away from the sides of the mixer. If the dough is very wet, you can add up to one more cup flour. Knead for 5 minutes.
  4. Turn the dough out into bowl that has been coated with cooking spray. Turn the dough in the cooking spray and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise until it has doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.
  5. Mix together the cream cheese, confectioners sugar, flour, vanilla, and lemon juice. Set aside.
  6. Roll the dough into a rectangle about 30 inches long. Spread the cream cheese mixture evenly on the dough.
  7. Roll the dough into a cylinder.
  8. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Put a mason jar in the middle and wrap the dough around the jar. Tuck the ends together to form a ring. Cover with a towel and let rise for another 45 minutes.
  9. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until golden brown. Take the mason jar out and let cool.
  10. Make the icing by whisking the confectioners sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla.
  11. Hello baby! Press the plastic baby into the cake. Please be smarter than me. Press it underneath the king cake, not on the top.
  12. Cover the King Cake with the icing and sprinkle the cake with sugars alternating the colors.
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39 Responses to King Cake

  1. I didin’t know it was called Fat Tuesday! We call it Shrove Tuesday or pancake day.

    King cake looks delicious, I love filled breads.

    • bakedbree says:

      We called it Fat Tuesday in the South, but it has a lot of names. I never heard of pancake day until last year.

  2. Leslie says:

    I had no idea the history behind King Cake. It does look very fun to make. Does it taste good??
    Leslie recently posted..Today

  3. YUMMY. We love love love King Cake…and since we have to be good started Wednesday (er sort of) we totally plan on making it this year and going totally overboard on Tuesday! Delish!
    The Blue-Eyed Bakers recently posted..Chocolate Custard Tart

  4. My wife has challenged me to come up with a meal that is all Nawlins in color. So I have to make a vegetarian meal that has green, yellow and purple in it. Going to be fun.

  5. Marissa says:

    I’m from New Orleans, but I live in Texas now. Everyone always asks me to make a King Cake around Mardi Gras time! I have been using a Southern Living recipe, but I may have to try yours this time! YUM! I sure miss this stuff. :)

    -Marissa
    Marissa recently posted..2 Minute Mug Chocolate Cake!

  6. Jessica says:

    This is lovely! Thanks for sharing!
    Jessica recently posted..When Hes Gone

  7. Nina says:

    Bree, your king cake looks sensational! I use a cream cheese frosting also and love it!! Yours looks sooooo good! Love all your photos. Have a great weekend! xo
    Nina recently posted..big mamas whipping cream pound cake

  8. Ive never had King Cake … but it looks just wonderful! I may have to give it a try.

  9. I have seen King Cake’s before, but this is the first time I have ever read about the History behind it. Very interesting. I have always wanted to try one and my boyfriend has always wanted me to make one. I might actually attempt it now, thanks to your step-by-step photos. Yours looks absolutely perfect. What happens if you put the baby in it before you baked it? Would the plastic melt?

  10. Emma says:

    This looks and sounds fantastic! Does the cream cheese stay in the middle as a filling, or does it sort of melt into the dough? Stunning pics!
    Emma recently posted..Not-at-all Borscht

  11. Corey says:

    Hi~ I was just wondering if maybe you could post some pictures of what the inside looked like after it was all done, like a slice of the cake. Please and thank you~

  12. MNBaker says:

    I’ve put the baby in before baking before, and I haven’t had issues with it melting. Plus, this makes it more of a surprise for everyone when it’s time to cut the cake.

  13. [...] more traditional recipes of the flamboyant cake can be found here and [...]

  14. Thanks for posting this! I went a little nuts and tried 5 different king cake recipes this year. (I’m from Louisiana and became home sick during Mardi Gras, LOL) I found that if you pinch it closed and then flip the dough vs. roll up the dough jelly roll style, the cream cheese filling will not melt into the cake when it’s baked. I liked the Southern Living recipe the best of the 5 I tried. I can’t wait to try your recipe!! It looks yummy.
    Robin Christeson recently posted..Whats up with DIY Diaper Sprayers

    • bakedbree says:

      wow, you really did go a little King Cake nutty! I like that, something that I would do. Thanks for the tip, and I will try the Southern Living recipe next year.

  15. [...] KIng Cake Recipe – A traditional King Cake Recipe. A sweet yeast dough with a cream cheese filling. Topped with a lemon icing with yellow, green, and purple sugar crystals. preview [...]

  16. anonamous says:

    can anyone tell me who eats the king cake. is it like each household has a different king cake or is it like every one in town eats the same cake!?!?!?

  17. Yvette says:

    I’m definitely trying the King Cake recipe! And want you to know that I enjoy your website so much… Keep up the great work!

    Yvette

  18. Kristen Dixie says:

    Interesting. This is just like the Pan de Rosca that is made here in Mexico for Dia de Los Reyes ( jan. 9). Whoever gets the baby Jesus has to make tamales for all in attendance on Feb.2, Candeleria (Candle Mass) .

  19. bit.ly says:

    [...] moved here [...]

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