It’s not Mardi Gras without a King Cake! Celebrate with this easy homemade sweet roll that is baked in a circle, decorated with icing and topped with a mixture of purple, green and gold sugars. A surprise of cinnamon sugar with pecans is found in the middle of this cake. Don’t forget to hide the baby inside!
With Mardi Gras coming up it’s the perfect time to make a homemade king cake!
Mardi Gras (or Fat Tuesday) is a big celebration the day before Ash Wednesday, which is the start of Lent. Those who observe Lent give up things like certain foods and habits as a religious practice, so Mardi Gras is the chance to indulge before Lent, and the king cake is a part of it.
What is a King Cake?
Although it’s called a “cake” it’s more like an enriched bread similar to cinnamon roll dough. The dough is made with yeast, rolled out, and topped with cinnamon and nuts before being rolled up and baked.
The fun part of a king cake is the hidden plastic baby baked inside. The meaning of it varies – some think whoever finds the baby gets to be king or queen for the day, while others believe the baby represents good luck and prosperity. I’ve also read that whoever finds it has to host and provide the king cake for the next party. Whatever it means, it’s fun to hide it and serve the cake to see who gets it!
The cake is topped with glaze and purple, gold, and green sugar, which has meaning, too. The colors signify justice (purple), power (gold), and faith (green) and are the royal colors of Mardi Gras.
Maybe you’re planning your own Mardi Gras celebration this year, so why not make your own king cake? It’s the perfect way to celebrate.
- Active dry yeast
- Warm water
- Granulated sugar
- All-purpose flour
- Warm milk
- Room temperature eggs
- Softened unsalted butter
- Brown sugar
- Ground cinnamon
- Chopped pecans
- Melted butter
Glaze and Decoration Ingredients
- Powdered sugar
- Mini plastic baby
- Colored sugar – purple yellow and green
How to Make the Dough
Activate the yeast: Pour the warm water (it should be 100-110°F) in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle. Add the yeast and sugar and stir gently. Let the yeast sit until it’s bubbling, about five to ten minutes.
Mix the dough: Add granulated sugar, butter, milk, eggs, salt, and some flour to the bowl and mix until smooth. Gradually add more flour until a sticky dough forms.
Knead: Place the dough on a floured surface and knead it until it’s smooth and elastic.
1st rise: Form the dough into a ball and place it in a greased bowl. Turn to coat it and then cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Leave the dough to rise until it’s doubled in size, about 45 to 60 minutes.
Tip: It’s best to leave the dough in a warm spot. If it’s cooler it will take longer to rise.
How to Make the Filling
Mix the filling: In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, cinnamon, and the pecans.
Roll out the dough: Punch the dough down and place it on a floured surface. Roll it out so you have a rectangle about 10″ x 20″.
Fill: Sprinkle the filling mixture over the top of the dough. Leave a 1/2″ border around the edge. If you are hiding the plastic baby, place it on the dough at this point so you can roll it up in the dough.
Roll: Starting at a long edge, roll the dough up like a jelly roll. Pinch the seams once it’s rolled so it’s sealed. Place the roll on a prepared baking sheet and join the ends together to form a ring. Pinch the edges together to seal the ends.
2nd rise: Cover the dough ring with wrap and leave it to rise for 45 to 60 minutes or until it’s doubled in size.
Bake and Decorate!
After the second rise, remove the plastic wrap and bake the bread ring for 25 to 35 minutes at 350°F. Cool it on a baking rack.
To make the glaze, mix powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla in a small bowl. Spoon the glaze over the top of the cake. Sprinkle the different colored sugars over the top.
Slice, serve and, as they say in New Orleans, let the good times roll!
Be sure to check the expiration date on your yeast – if it’s expired it may not work. Also, make sure the water is between 100 and 110°F – if it’s too hot it can kill the yeast and your dough won’t rise.
I give a time estimate for how long the dough should rise, but it’s always best to go by how it looks. The temperature of the room can speed up or slow down the rise depending on how warm or cool it is. So, once it’s doubled in size it’s ready.
Be sure to let the cake cool completely before adding the glaze. If the cake is hot, it will absorb the glaze.
Leftover Mardi Gras king cake will keep for a few days at room temperature. Just keep it wrapped in plastic wrap.
This king cake recipe takes some time, but it’s a fun project and everyone will be so impressed with your homemade Mardi Gras cake. Don’t forget to warn your guests about the baby hidden inside!
More Celebration Recipes
- Make my homemade Valentine’s Day Hot Cocoa Bombs for a fun drink to celebrate the day!
- Chocolate Covered Strawberries are perfect for date-night, anniversaries, or whenever you want to treat yourself!
- My Three-Toned Cupcakes can be customized to celebrate any holiday. They’re topped with your favorite frosting for the perfect sweet treat.
Did you try the recipe? Rate it, please! Seriously though a five-star rating below will make my day!
If you snap a photo, please be sure tag me on Instagram at @julieseatsandtreats or #julieseatsandtreats so I can see your yummy treat!!
- 1 packet active dry yeast (.25 ounce)
- ¼ c. warm water 110-115 degrees F
- 1 tsp granulated sugar
- 3 ½ – 4 c. all-purpose flour divided
- ¼ c. granulated sugar
- 1 c. milk warm 110-115 degrees F
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 large eggs room temperature
- 6 Tbsp unsalted butter softened
- 1 c. brown sugar packed
- 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
- ½ c. pecans chopped
- ½ c. unsalted butter (1 stick), melted
- 1 c. powdered sugar
- 1-2 Tbsp milk depending on consistency
- ½ tsp clear vanilla
- Mini plastic baby
- Colored sugar – purple yellow and green
- Heat ¼ cup water to 100-110 degrees F. Pour into mixing bowl. Add the packet of yeast and 1 tsp sugar. Stir gently to coat yeast.
- Let set to proof for 5-10 minutes or until bubbly.
- Add ¼ cup sugar, butter, milk, eggs, salt and 2 cups flour to yeast mixture in mixing bowl. Beat mixture until smooth.
- Gradually add more flour until dough forms soft ball, it will be sticky.
- Turn dough onto floured surface and knead until dough is smooth and elastic.
- Form dough into ball and place in greased bowl, turn dough over to coat other side. Then cover with plastic wrap and let rise 45 – 60 minutes or until dough has doubled in size.
- Punch dough down and turn onto lightly floured surface. Roll dough into a rectangle about 10'' x 20''.
- In a small bowl combine brown sugar, cinnamon, and pecans. Add melted butter to mixture and stir until combined.
- Sprinkle cinnamon mixture evenly over dough leaving ½ inch around the edges. If you are using a small plastic baby to hide in the dough place the baby in the dough now.
- Prepare baking sheet with silicone mat or parchment paper.
- Roll dough beginning on the long side, jelly-roll style. When it is completely rolled up pinch seam to seal.
- Place dough on baking sheet and form a circle, pinching the edges together tightly.
- Cover dough ring with plastic wrap and let rise 45-60 minutes or until almost double in size.
- About 20 minutes before rise is done, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- When dough has raise bake 25-35 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and place on wire rack to cool.
- When cake is cooled mix together glaze ingredients in small bowl until smooth and desired consistency.
- Spoon glaze onto cooled cake . Add colored sugar on top to decorate.