Mardi Gras Kings Cake

You don’t need to live in New Orleans to enjoy the local festivities of Mardi Gras and Fat Tuesday!  There is something so colorful and fun about the New Orleans’ Kings Cake that I have to make it every year just to feel like I’m celebrating right along with the folks in New Orleans. 

Fat Tuesday is right around the corner wrapping up the the Mardi Gras or Carnival Season that is so well celebrated in New Orleans.  The season begins on January 6, also known as “King’s Day” honoring the meeting of the Three Wise Men with the baby Jesus.  The hiding of the baby in the cake was to symbolize the finding of the baby Jesus.

Before my move to Florida, I had considered a relocation to New Orleans.  I made several trips there to look around and during those times, the city grabbed my heart.  The people there seemed to live life to the max, enjoying food,drink and festivities of all the seasons.  It was there that I tasted my first Kings Cake, so sweet and naughty…it was love at first bite! 

There are many versions of the recipe; Jessica at Kitchenbelleicious posted her second version just the other day.  This is made as a brioche dough with a filling of both cream cheese and apples.  There are several steps involved but so well worth it!  Sprinkle on the colored sugars, the more the merrier and enjoy!!

Kings Cake

adapted from the LA Times test kichen

For the Apple filling:

2 tablespoons butter

2 large tart apples, such as Granny Smith, peeled, cored, quartered and sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch slices

1 tablespoon dark brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup toasted pecan pieces

1 tablespoon Apple Jack Brandy

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Stir in the apple slices, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt, and cook, stirring frequently, just until the apple starts to soften, 3 to 4 minutes (the slices should still be crisp). Remove from heat and stir in the toasted pecans and Apple Jack Brandy. Remove to a separate container, cool, cover and refrigerate until needed.

For the Cream Cheese filling:

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese

3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

5 tablespoons sugar

1/2 beaten egg (save the other half egg to make the egg wash for the cake)

In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large bowl using a hand mixer, beat together the cream cheese with the vanilla, salt and sugar. Add the beaten egg to the cream cheese mixture and beat until thoroughly combined. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

For the Brioche:

3/4 cup milk, divided

1 package (2½ teaspoons) active dry yeast

1/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar, divided

2 eggs, plus ½ beaten egg (use the remaining half egg leftover from the cream cheese filling), divided

10 tablespoons (1 stick plus 2 tablespoons) butter, at room temperature

3 1/2 cups (15.75 ounces) bread flour, plus more for dusting

1/2 teaspoon salt

Apple filling

Cream cheese filling

In a small pan, heat one-half cup plus 2 tablespoons of milk over medium heat just until warmed. Remove from heat and pour the milk into a small bowl or measuring cup. Stir in the yeast and 1 teaspoon of sugar, then set aside until the milk is foamy and the yeast is activated, about 10 minutes.

Whisk the 2 eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer using the whisk attachment (or in a large bowl with a hand mixer) until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Stir in the yeast mixture and remaining one-third cup of sugar until fully incorporated.

If using a stand mixer, switch to the paddle attachment. With the mixer running, add the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, until incorporated.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. With the mixer running, add the flour mixture, one spoonful at a time, until fully incorporated.

Remove the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead until it is soft and somewhat silky (it’s a rich dough and won’t be entirely smooth), 5 to  7 minutes. Place the dough in a large, oiled bowl and lightly cover with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 1½ hours.

When the dough is doubled, punch it down (it will be very smooth and elastic) and roll it out onto a lightly floured surface into a 10-by-28-inch rectangle. Lightly cut the dough lengthwise to divide the dough into 2 equal halves.

Spoon the apple filling down the length of one side, leaving a 1½-inch border on the top, bottom and sides. Repeat with the cream cheese filling down the other side of the dough, leaving a 1½-inch border on the top, bottom and each side. Lightly brush the edges and center of the dough (along the score) with the egg wash to moisten. Gently and carefully pull the dough over the cream cheese filling, sealing the edge of the dough. Repeat with the apple filling. Press the sealed edges, making sure they are secure (otherwise the fillings could spill out while the cake bakes).

Gently twist the length of the dough to form a braid-like shape. Wrap the dough so it forms an oval wreath and gently press the edges together. Carefully transfer the wreath to a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise until almost doubled in volume, 45 minutes to an hour, or loosely cover and refrigerate the dough overnight, removing it from the refrigerator about 1 hour before baking for the dough to come to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Make an egg wash using the remaining beaten half egg (from the cream cheese filling) with the remaining 2 tablespoons of milk. Brush the top of the wreath lightly with the egg wash and place in the oven.

Bake the cake until golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (the toothpick will remain moist if it hits the cream cheese filling, but there should be no crumbs sticking to it), about 30 minutes. Rotate the pan halfway through baking for even coloring.

For the Glaze:

2 cups confectioners sugar

3-4 tablespoons warm milk

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

In a medium bowl combine the confectioners sugar and vanilla extract. Slowly pour in the milk and stir until smooth and slightly thick. Add in the milk slowly, it will become smooth fairly quickly without alot of milk.

Purple, green and yellow colored sugars for decorating

Plastic baby, if desired

Allow the cake to cool before it is frosted. Drizzle the glaze evenly over the cake, then lightly sprinkle over the colored sugars. If using the plastic baby, hide it somewhere in the cake (press the baby in through the bottom of the cake so as not to disturb the top or sides of the cake). Serve the cake warm or at room temperature.  Serves approximately 12-16.

190 thoughts on “Mardi Gras Kings Cake

  1. Sorry! My computer is stuffing up!
    Ok let me make this quickly typed 😛

    I love the twist on the original king cake with addition of apples 😀 and your presentation is really pretty!

    Choc Chip Uru
    P.S. SUCCESS 😀

    1. I actually do make this throughout the year – minus the sprinkles! The icing is good to sweeten it a bit and I’ve used different fillings. It makes a nice coffee cake / danish treat!

  2. This looks ace – so pretty, and the fillings sound amazing. I think I’d give the plastic baby a miss after almost cracking my teeth on one of these cakes they sell in France around New Year.

  3. This is just beautiful Linda! I love how you’ve decorated the cake too – so festive! I know the kids would just love to sprinkle the top of a King cake. I can just see the rainbow now. 😉 What a fun way to celebrate Fat Tuesday. Love it!

  4. Leave it to New Orleans to come up with a cake that all by itself screams, “laissez les bon temps rouler” but yet includes the Infant Jesus. And your cake, Linda, looks like you bought it in New Orleans. I bet that apple & cream cheese filling is delicious! Really quite beautifully done! Considering all that’s transpired in New Orleans, I think you made the better choice. Whew!

    1. Look at you throwing in a bit of French there!! I love it!! and yes, they do let the good times roll!! In the end, I did decide it was best to be a visitor to New Orleans than an actual resident. It worked out well!!

  5. Wow Linda, that is incredible and it looks so professional. I don’t know where I’ve been but I’ve never heard of a King’s Cake. I didn’t know there was such a thing but now I know. And it looks so beautiful! Love how you styled it. Just precious! xxx

  6. Linda, congratulations for this elaborate, perfect cake! I had no idea King’s Cake was eaten also on Fat Tuesday in New Orleans (the French have different culinary traditions for these two days and in some regions a very similar cake is baked for 6th January). I love your colourful, carnival presentation.

  7. This looks to die for and very complicated. I am sooooooo impressed with you Linda. What a gorgeous, gorgeous specimen of a king cake. I have never had one! Shameful, isn’t it? I may have to make this but it’s going to take some courage and maybe a cheering section. I Pinned your bread/cake pic before the goodies were added because I thought the bread/cake spoke for itself in that golden shot. Whoa.

    1. Geni, by far you are the Queen of Baking and this would be easy peasy for you my dear!! I am surprised you’ve not had one yet, I’d invite you over for a slice but its all gone!! Now you’re getting more advanced on me…Pinned me?? You’re right on the plain look, I’ve made this with different fillings and not sprinkled up with colors throughout the year. It makes a nice danish type brunch / dessert treat.

  8. Why does it seem that when most people mention Louisiana and/or Mardi Gras they almost invariably mention New Orleans, as if that city is the ONLY city that exists in Louisiana or that it’s the be all and end all and/or focus and locus of the state.

    Mardi Gras exists outside of New Orleans, and I dare say there are far better Mardi Gras celebrations in the rest of Louisiana, especially out in the country-side, the Cajun Mardi Gras.

    As for King Cakes… apples?! Maybe it’s just because I’m a purist. I don’t recall ever seeing, hearing or eating such a concoction. It might still be good though, but I don’t believe it’s true to form.

    C’est la vie.

    1. You are correct, most people do say that. For me, I’ve only visited New Orleans area. I could mention the surrounding suburbs I visited while looking for a home but I’m not sure most would be familiar with those areas. And you’re right again about all areas of Louisiana celebrating as those suburban areas were enjoying lots of celebrations during the season.
      I actually did have apples in one of the King Cakes I purchased but maybe its not so common. Good but not so common!

  9. What a beautiful cake! I had never heard of a King Cake, and I have family right outside of New Orleans… Hmmm… Oh well! It looks and sounds lovely! Thank you for sharing, and congratulations on getting freshly pressed!

    Peace and Harmony

  10. Looks utterly and amazingly delicious! My mouth is watering, must try this recipe, and I love the look of the cake pre-icing and colored sugar even better actually, but you must go all out for Mardi Gras!

      1. ladynblackdiamonds!: Those have been the traditional Mardi Gras colors since a member of the House of Romanov visited new Orel;ans in the nineteenth century. They were the House of Romanov colors until the Russian Revolution of 1914 put an end to the dynasty.

        I’ve just forgotten what the colors mean.

    1. Basically it’s a white/chocolate or a yellow/chocolate marble cake with white buttercream frosting background decorated with a plastic mask, a string or two of beads, dollops of Mardi Gras colors buttercream, a top border of green or purple frosting shells and a bottom border of the color that WASN’T used on the top border.

      Very boring looking: Seen one, seen ’em all!

      1. Yeah….you probably have.

        Last night, I FINALLY had a piece of King Cake that was CLOSER in style to yours, though the filling was seedless raspberry rather than cream cheese with apples and cinnamon.

  11. I’ve wanted to try the King Cake for sometime now. I’ve also seen this recipe on KitchenBelleicious and thought it was amazing. My girlfriend is from New Orleans.. so I think I will pass this recipe on to her 🙂

  12. This turned out so beautiful Linda! My 5 y/o just saw your picture and wants me to make some tomorrow! lol Can you believe I’ve never had this king cake! The thing is I don’t think it will look or taste have as good as yours. You did a great job with dressing up the cake with the beads.

    1. That’s so cute Lisa! This may break every rule of your diet but honestly a little goes a long way!! But you must try it one day! Your son would love to help with all the sprinkles!!

    1. I’m surprised when I hear that you’ve not seen a King Cake with filling!! I’ve had it in New Orelans and someone in the office had ordered one with a filling! I hope you do try the recipe one day…I think you’ll like it!!

  13. Love your post it sounds so good. In over 30 years I had never seen or heard of this cake. I seen one the other day in the store and knew it was something for Mardi Gras from looking at it. But could not figure out what the baby was for.

    I wish I was a baker so I could make one it looks so good. But I am not good at baking I could see this turning into a mess. Maybe I will buy one at the store even though I know it won’t be near as good or the same probably. Maybe I could talk my sister into making me one she bakes all kinds of cakes.

    1. Start by buying one so you get the idea of the taste. Its like eating a danish, filling with fruit or cream cheeese filling. Those colors are definitely a give away to the Mardi Gras look!

  14. Oh I wish I could bake soon! This looks really festive. I’ll stick to cooking for now but I’ll definitely learn how to bake this year. 🙂

  15. Your recipe is spot on spicegirlfla! Too many King Cakes end up being just large sweet rolls but the “REAL” ones are brioche all the way! I make them year round but just use different colored sugars to decorate. Some I even leave in a log. If you have a bread machine, the dough will be a snap to start. Thanks for doing our King Cake justice girl!

  16. your filling is AMAZING! I only wish I would have thought of it! Wow, seriously, the cake is one thing but having the right filling is the key and this sounds perfect-very comforting after a long day of walking in mardi gras parades! Love it and thanks ever so much for the shoutout!

  17. Spoken like a true New Orleanian (even though you live in Florida!) You’d love living in the “City That Care Forgot” also known as America’s Most Interesting City” Thanks for making an ex-pat home sick in a good way! I invite you to drop by and see my latest posting “Mardi Gras – A Local’s View”. I think that you will enjoy it. J.

  18. i love your photos, looks really yummy! also love your artistry in making use of those beads to liven up the overall appearance of that yummy king cake. congrats on being FP.

  19. Reblogged this on Inspiredweightloss and commented:
    King Cakes are so delicious and they are decorated beautifully! Many Americans may think of king cake as a New Orleans Mardi Gras tradition, but its origins reach back to early pagan Europeans. Surprisingly, though much about the tradition has changed over the years, the recipe, the involvement of a king figure and at least one trait of the king cake ritual remains much the same. Though often decorated ornately in recent history, this relatively simple cake with the royal name resembles a traditional coffee cake in taste, texture and presentation more than the extravagant cake the name implies.

  20. We don’t celebrate this holiday in my culture, but apples and cream cheese sounds absolutely delish! Love how you’ve decorated the cake in the photos too – a sure magnet for those who spot this on Freshly Pressed. Congrats! 🙂

  21. This sounds good, especially seeing how it actually comes together in the recipe. I am actually from Mobile which is actually the home to the first Mardi Gras, but I’ve never tried King Cake. Maybe I will one of these days. Congratulations on being freshly pressed!

  22. You make this look so easy, it’s daunting to even attempt it, but you’ve hooked me with the sweet naughtiness of it. Thanks for posting this and congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  23. My God. I never imagined any recipe could have this much butter in it without breaking physical law. It looks DELICIOUS, though. But definitely once-a-year-food!

  24. Reblogged this on Better Built Structures and commented:
    Trying to find a recipe to enjoy this evening for Mardi Gras? Picking up a King Cake from the local bakery is a quick fix to help get in on the fun of Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras is a day of fun, indulgence and celebration leading up to Lent, a Christian holiday observing the liturgical year. Typically, observers will select a vice or indulgence to give up for 40 days to honor and observe this 40 day period, mirroring the story in the Bible documenting Jesus’ 40 days of fasting in the desert, where he was tempted and confronted by the Devil but resisted.

    Are you observing Lent? If so, what are you giving up for 40 days? We’d love to hear from you here at Better Built!

  25. Hmm I do love cake!

    Spain has a similar cake tradition on 6th January when the Wise Men apparently gave Jesus gifts (kind of like a second Christmas) – only it’s a bean instead of a baby. How funny that traditions can be so similar on opposite sides of the world!

  26. Sounds yummy! And if it “sounds” yummy I wonder what it must taste like!!! But…does the word “beaten” have to appear so frequently in the recipe? Sounds so “medieval” you know? And “twisted”…surely there are other words? How about “mixed vigorously” “gently persuaded over time until adapted to the form?” I know…too wordy…I’ll just pretend it’s only a cake…there…I’m better already…and famished!

  27. Love it! Mardi Gras colors are the best, definitely makes me want to celebrate. I’m going to New Orleans for the first time in April, and I can’t wait! The idea of a real-deal king cake makes it even more exciting, too!

  28. Gorgeous King cake Linda! I saw it on LA Times, but not as courageous as you to make it…this is sure a beautiful cake…absolutely perfect…and I am running out of words to express how amazing your cake turned out…are you sending it to the paper so your picture can be published? Please do!
    Hope you are having a fabulous week 🙂

  29. Gorgeous cake Linda!!!! Can you believe I didn’t even realize it was Mardi Gras yesterday? Not until people were discussing it at a concert I was at. I’m embarrassed for myself, ha! Guess that explains why I saw so many King cakes floating around the blogosphere. 😉 Must make one soon.

    1. You must be one busy gal Caroline!! Though honestly not much of Mardi Gras was celebrated where I live so if I wasn’t so crazy about the holiday, I probably would have not noticed either!

  30. This cake is the cake these days…. I have been seeing so many version of this beauty lately…
    I have to say ur recipe looks fabulous… Rich and buttery just the way a King- Cake should be…

  31. I was looking around all week for good recipes for King Cake, which I’ve never made before. I loved the apple and cream cheese combination in this recipe, so I actually made it last night! Turned out beautifully, though I had a hard time keeping the cream cheese piece of dough from coming apart, but it still baked well. Any idea if it freezes well? I wanted to save some for when my boyfriend is in town next week.

    1. I’m so excited to hear you made this. Yes, the cream cheese filling could slip out, you need to seal the dough well. It will freeze well. By now I’m sure its cooled 🙂 wrap tightly and freeze. It would last a month or two. I’ve baked two in the past and froze one. I have also just made the dough ahead and froze it to make the cake at a later time. I hope he likes it!!

  32. Linda, I make a Traditional King cake almost every year, I even posted it last year! This year, due to my being in Florida, I bought one at Publix!! Not the same!! Your King Cake looks fabulous! So absolutely perfect…love the apple filling! Maybe next year I’ll give this one a try!

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