Home Β» Recipes Β» Homemade Mardi Gras King Cake

Homemade Mardi Gras King Cake

This post may contain affiliate links, please visit our privacy policy for details.

Celebrating Mardi Gras with the easiest Homemade King Cake. Perfectly sweet, soft, and fluffy sweet dough swirled with cinnamon and brown sugar. It’s so simple, but so delicious. From there, the cake is generously frosted with a simple vanilla glaze and finished with the classic purple, yellow, and green decorative sugars. There is no better way to celebrate Mardi Gras! Every bite is melt in your mouth delicious. It’s almost like having a little bit of New Orleans in your very own kitchen!

angled shot of king cake on parchment paper with flowers, beads, decorative sugar in jars, and glass of milk

About The Recipe

Somehow, it’s officially a little over half way through February and I could not be more excited to share a recipe with all of you! We are finally sharing THE Mardi Gras classic…King Cake! And, I have to admit, this delicious dessert is worth allllll the hype. It’s perfectly sweet, just a touch cinnamon-y, soft, fluffy, and just so DARN. GOOD.

And the absolute best part? This king cake is actually REALLY easy to make!

A super simple sweet dough that’s filled with melted butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon, then rolled into three ropes, braided, and pulled into a circle! After that, it’s baked to a beautiful golden brown, topped with a simple vanilla glaze, and (of course) finished with the three classic colored decorative sugar.

Think, your favorite cinnamon roll, but made even BETTER!

Plus, this recipe has a bit of a special inspiration. My mom’s best friend, who I call my Aunt Kitty, lives in New Orleans. She always posts the best Mardi Gras celebration photos and it always makes us smile!

front photo of king cake on parchment paper with amrdi gras beads, colored sugar, and plates

And, can you really celebrate Mardi Gras without King Cake? (The answer is NO!). So, I have to admit, the recipe testing and the planning that went into this cake was a lot of fun. Especially when we got it finished and I got to take the finished shots! I mean, my step-stool DID fall with me on it causing my camera to dive head first into the back left side of the king cake…but I and it survived.

Though, my favorite part about this whole thing was buying some Mardi Gras beads and getting to throw them around my scene! I’ve always wanted to throw them so, I took a few steps back from our counter and just threw! What you see in the pictures is where they landed.

It was such a simple thing, but it was so much fun! Though, I hope you all love this King Cake just as much as we do and that it can bring joy to you, your family, and friends!.

Why You Need To Make This King Cake

  • The perfect dessert to make for Mardi Gras!
  • Super easy to make and ready in 2 hours or LESS.
  • Tastes absolutely delicious.
  • Doesn’t use any specialty ingredients.
  • No specialty pans needed for this recipe.
front shot of king cake on parchment paper with slice on cake server, slice on stack of plates behind, and mardi gras beads around

Equipment Needed

Ingredients

(Full ingredient amounts and instructions can be found in the recipe card at the bottom of the post)

For The Dough:

  • All-Purpose Flour
  • Instant Yeast
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Whole Milk
  • Unsalted Butter
  • Egg
flour, evaporated milk, egg, water, yeast, sugar, butter, and salt on amrble surface

For The Filling:

  • Melted Butter
  • Brown Sugar
  • Ground Cinnamon
brown sugar, ground cinnamon, and melted butter on marble surface

For The Topping:

  • Powdered Sugar
  • Whole Milk
  • Vanilla
  • Yellow, green, and purple decorative sugar
powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla in glass bowls

How To Make King Cake

Step 1: Make the dough

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine 2 cups of the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt.

Heat milk and butter until butter is melted. Cool to 120 degrees.

Add to flour mixture and mix until well combined.

Add egg and remaining 2 cups flour. Mix on low speed for 3-4 minutes. Increase speed to medium and knead for another 5-6 minutes.

Turn into prepared bowl. Let rise at warm room temperature (78 degrees F) until doubled in bulk 1-1/2 hours.

Step 2: Make the filling

Mix together brown sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.

Step 3: Roll, fill, cut, and braid the dough

Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Roll into 12 inch by 18 inch rectangle that is ¼ inch thick.

Brush with melted butter.

Top with brown sugar and cinnamon mixture.

cinnamon sugar mixture spread across dough

Cut dough lengthwise into thirds. Starting with a long side, roll each piece of dough into a rope.

Gather top ends together and pinch to seal. Now, starting with the strand on the far right, let’s call this strand 1, place stand 1 over the middle strand (2), then take strand 1 and tuck it under the final strand (3). Now, your middle strand (2), now becomes strand 1 as it’s the furthest on the right. Repeat this pattern until you’re most of the way done with the braid.

Taking both ends, turn the braid into a circle shape. Finish the braid by braiding the two ends together the best you can. It may take some pinching or a bit of re-braiding to get it together!

Step 4: Proof and bake

Place carefully on a lined sheet pan and let the pastry rise at warm room temperature (78 degrees F) for 30 minutes to 1 hour, or until doubled in size.

Bake for 35-40 minutes until done (190 degrees), covering after the first 20 minutes to prevent over browning. Let cool completely.

baked king cake on lined sheet pan

Step 5: Make the icing

In a small bowl, beat together powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla until smooth.

Step 6: Decorate

Spread icing across cooled King Cake. Decorate with yellow, green, and purple sugar.

King Cake Faq’s

Can I add the plastic baby to my king cake?
Of course! You can add it during the braiding process so, while it rises, the dough secures the baby in its place. Though, if you don’t like the idea of baking plastic into your cake but still want to be apart of the tradition, no worries! You can actually use a fava bean in its stead.

Why is there a plastic baby in a king cake?
The baby inside the king cake symbolizes luck and prosperity to whoever finds it in their slice! From that moment on, they are deemed the queen (or king!) of the evening…and that generally means that they have to bring next years cake. Of course, every family has their own twist to the meaning, going back generations, but it’s really a positive and lovely meaning!

When am I supposed to eat a king cake?
The great thing about Mardi Gras that you can celebrate and enjoy a king cake any time from January 6th to Ash Wednesday (this day should be marked in your calendar as it changes every year!). Ash Wednesday occurs on the first day of lent, which is exactly 46 days before Easter.

king cake on parchment paper with mardi gras beads around

Sweet Dough Troubleshooting

Why is my dough sticky?
This dough is an ENRICHED dough! It’s meant to be this way due to the addition of eggs, milk, and sugar.

How can I tell when my dough is kneaded properly?
A properly kneaded dough should be smooth and shiny. The bowl of the mixer should also be clean and the dough should lift out of the mixer in one piece, rather than ripping into two pieces.

The dough is still soft! Should I add more flour?
Have you been kneading the dough long enough? Is it smooth and shiny? If it’s not, keep kneading! You really don’t need to add anymore flour to this recipe. It’s an enriched dough, which it means should softer than what you may be used to.

My dough isn’t rising in the times stated in the recipe card!
The recipe card/post states the times it took our dough to rise. We live in Texas. So, it tends to be a bit warmer here and doughs generally take less time to rise. I promise there’s nothing wrong with the dough! Just let it do it’s thing, but if you really need it done, try placing near a warm oven. The warmth from being near the oven will help it rise faster. Just don’t put the dough in the oven! You can also invest in a bread proofer which works WONDERFUL for holding the dough at a consistent temperature and letting it rice properly. We provided temperatures in the recipe card.

My dough didn’t rise at all.
Is your yeast in-date? If not, then you need to get new yeast and try again. If it is, did you check the temperature of the butter/milk mixture? When the mixture is over 120-130 degrees, it’ll kill your yeast! Be sure to have a thermometer on hand.

How To Store

If you have leftover king cake, no worries! You can easily store this cake in the fridge for a few days or in the freezer for up to a month! Just be sure that, if you freeze this king cake, you get it out freezer a few hours prior to when you want to eat it to allow it to thaw and come to room temperature.

king cake on parchment paper on marble surface with flowers, mardi gras beads, stack of plates, and jars of decorative sugar

Expert Tips

  • Check your yeast and make sure it’s in-date.
  • If milk mixture does accidentally boil, don’t worry! It just takes longer to cool down this way. Just give it time to cool to 120-130 degrees before pouring it into the dry ingredients.
  • Use a bread proofer for best results with the raising of the dough.
  • If you aren’t using a bread proofer for the dough, you will need to cover it with plastic wrap.
  • Braiding can be a little difficult! Use the step-by-step photos in the post above to help you through it.
  • The dough may not want to stick to itself toward the ends. This happens! You can use just a few drops of water to help really seal the ends and pinch them together.
  • You can use a plastic baby or a fava bean in this recipe. Just be sure to add it during the braiding process!
  • This recipe freezes well.

When you make this Homemade Mardi Gras King Cake, leave a comment down below! We love hearing from you and answering any questions you might have! Also, be sure to tag us on social media and hashtag it #BakersTable.

angled shot of king cake on parchment paper with flowers, beads, decorative sugar in jars, and glass of milk
5 from 2 votes

Homemade Mardi Gras King Cake

A Mardi Gras Tradition! This Homemade King Cake is soft, fluffy, perfectly sweet, and filled with the simplest three ingredient cinnamon sugar. It's simple, but oh so delicious and best enjoyed with your family and friends!
Prep Time: 35 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Proofing Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours 45 minutes
Servings: 12

Ingredients
 

Pastry

  • 4 cups all purpose flour,, divided
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon instant yeast
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ½ cup salted butter
  • 1 large egg,, room temperature

Filling

  • ¼ cup salted butter,, melted
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon

Icing

  • 2 cups powdered sugar,, sifted
  • 3 Tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • purple, green, and yellow decorative sugars

Instructions
 

Pastry and Filling

  • Spray a clean glass bowl with cooking spray. Set aside.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine 2 cups of the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt.
  • Heat milk and butter until butter is melted.
  • Cool to 120 degrees.
  • Add to flour mixture.
  • Mix until well combined, 1-2 minutes.
  • Change to dough hook, if using.
  • Add egg and remaining 2 cups flour.
  • Mix on low speed for 3-4 minutes.
  • Increase speed to medium.
  • Knead for another 5-6 minutes.
  • Turn into prepared bowl.
  • If proofing in proofing box with water tray, there is no need to cover. If proofing on the counter, cover with plastic wrap.
  • Let rise at warm room temperature (78 degrees F) until doubled in bulk 1-1/2 hours.
  • While dough is proofing, make filling by combining brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Set aside.
  • Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface.
  • Roll into 12"x18" rectangle that is 1/4" thick.
  • Brush with melted butter.
  • Top with brown sugar and cinnamon mixture.
  • Cut dough lengthwise into thirds.
  • Starting with a long side, roll each piece of dough into a rope.
  • Gather top ends together and press to seal.
  • Braid the strands.
  • Form into a circle.
  • Twist ends together to seal.
  • Place on sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
  • Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Let pastry rise at warm room temperature (78 degrees F) for 30 minutes to 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
  • Bake for 35-40 minutes until done (190 degrees), covering after the first 20 minutes to prevent over browning.

Icing

  • In a small bowl, beat together powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla until smooth.
  • Spread on cooled king cake.
  • Immediately top with colored sugars.

Notes + Tips!

  • Check your yeast and make sure it’s in-date.
  • If milk mixture does accidentally boil, don’t worry! It just takes longer to cool down this way. Just give it time to cool to 120-130 degrees before pouring it into the dry ingredients.
  • Use a bread proofer for best results with the raising of the dough.
  • If you aren’t using a bread proofer for the dough, you will need to cover it with plastic wrap.
  • Braiding can be a little difficult! Use the step-by-step photos in the post above to help you through it.
  • The dough may not want to stick to itself toward the ends. This happens! You can use just a few drops of water to help really seal the ends and pinch them together.
  • You can use a plastic baby or a fava bean in this recipe. Just be sure to add it during the braiding process!
  • This recipe freezes well.

Nutrition

Serving: 1slice | Calories: 422kcal | Carbohydrates: 71g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 48mg | Sodium: 219mg | Potassium: 105mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 38g | Vitamin A: 416IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 47mg | Iron: 2mg

Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.

When you make this recipe, remember to tag @bakerstble or hashtag it #BakersTable!

– Still Hungry? –

Here are a few recipes may like!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

4 Comments

  1. Hi.. I just wanted to leave a comment for the author of this recipe…it must just be a typo but for the filling ingredients its says 1 Tablespoon of yeast ..I believe that should say cinnamon..took me a while to figure it out ..but I knew the yeast did not belong in that step and the cinnamon is missing from the recipe..thanks for the recipe im making is as I type!!! ..just wanted to let so someone know so It can be corrected..unless I’m mistaken…😍

      1. 5 stars
        Mine came out perfect!! Thank you for the wonderful recipe πŸ˜ƒ I will definitely be making this again πŸ˜‹