Traditional King Cake Recipe

March 5, 2019Van
Blog post

Prep time: 2 hours 30 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

Serves: 12

The best way to start any diet is to binge on delicious treats in the name of celebration.  Ask anybody from New Orleans and they’ll happily agree.  Nothing symbolizes the city of New Orleans, Mardi Gras, and the Southern “zest for life” more so than this delicious cake.

Beginning each January, the fine folks of New Orleans begin holding parties centered around King Cake.  The cake itself is reminiscent of a brioche cinnamon roll, with a hint of lemon flavor and decorated in a trifecta of color that originated from the Christian Bible.  Inside the cake you will typically find a tiny plastic baby.  If you are the lucky recipient of the piece containing the baby, its now your turn to host the next King Cake party at your place!  The cycle of partying continues in New Orleans—the rest of us can dream.

Print Recipe

Traditional King Cake Recipe

  • Prep time: 2 hours 30 minutes
  • Cook time: 30 minutes
  • Serves: 12



  • 3 Cups + 2 Tablespoons All Purpose Flour
  • ½ Cup Buttermilk
  • ½ Cup Warm Water (110 °F)
  • 3 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1 Large Egg
  • Lemon Zest from 1 small lemon
  • 1 Packet Active Dry Yeast, (2¼ Teaspoons)
  • 5 Tablespoons Granulated Sugar, divided
  • ½ Teaspoon Kosher Salt


  • 4 Tablespoons Salted Butter, softened
  • ⅓ Cup Granulated Sugar
  • 2 Teaspoons Ground Cinnamon


  • 2 Cups Powdered Sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons Hot Water
  • 1½ Teaspoons Lemon Juice
  • ½ Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • Purple, Yellow and Green Sanding Sugar Sprinkles


  • 1)

    Pour ½ Cup of Warm Water into a bowl. Add 1 Tablespoon of Sugar and 1 Packet of Active Dry Yeast. Stir & set aside – after a few minutes it should be a little foamy

  • 2)

    Melt 3 Tablespoons of Butter in a sauce pan. Turn off the heat and add ½ Cup of Buttermilk, 4 Tablespoons of Sugar, Lemon Zest and 1 Egg. Whisk well to mix in the egg. Pour this mixture into mixing bowl and add the yeast mixture.

  • 3)

    Use the paddle attachment with your stand mixer. Add 1 Cup of Flour and mix on medium until the flour looks blended in. Add another cup of Flour and ½ Teaspoon Kosher Salt – mix on medium until blended in. Add the remaining 1 Cup + 2 Tablespoons of Flour ½ Teaspoon Kosher Salt and mix on the lowest setting until the flour starts clumping. Switch to the dough hook and kneed on low speed for about 9 minutes or until the dough is soft and smooth.

  • 4)

    Form the dough into a ball and place it into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with cling wrap and let it rise in a warm draft free place until it has doubled in size. About 2 hours.

    *INSTANT POT PROOFING: Lightly oil the Instant Pot liner. Place the dough into the pot & seal the lid. Press the Yogurt button and set for 1 hour.

  • 5)

    Punch down the dough and place onto a floured surface. Lightly flour the top of the dough and roll out to about 12 x 19 inches. Using your hands or silicone spatula, spread 4 Tablespoons of softened butter evenly onto the dough, leave the top 1 inch uncoated so you can seal it later. Mix ⅓ Cup of Granulated Sugar and 2 Teaspoons of Ground Cinnamon in a bowl, sprinkle this mixture evenly on the dough. Starting at the long roll the dough tightly to form a log, pinch the seam to seal the roll well. Your roll should be about 19 long. You can trim the uneven ends with a bread knife.

  • 6)

    Place a silicone baking mat or parchment paper onto a baking sheet. Form a circle using the roll and pinch the ends together to seal it well. Cover with a thin, slightly damp kitchen towel and let it rise until it doubles in size – about 30-45 minutes. You can tell if it’s been proofed enough if you press your finger into the dough and the indentation bounces back half way. Using sharp scissors, cut the top outer edge of the roll about an inch deep every two inches.

  • 7)

    Preheat the oven to 350°F. Bake the King Cake for 30-35 minutes. The top will be golden brown. Internal temp of the cake should read 190°F. Let it cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, the move to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

  • 8)

    In a large bowl, add 2 Cups of Powdered Sugar, 2 Tablespoons of hot Water, 1½ Teaspoons of Lemon Juice and ½ Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract. Whisk well until you have a smooth, pourable glaze. Add a little more water if the glaze is too thick. Spoon the glaze to cover top of the cake. Decorate by sprinkling Purple, Yellow and Green Sanding Sugar onto the glaze.

    *Optional – Hide the little plastic baby by sticking it into the bottom of the cake. Be sure to tell your guests to check for the baby before eating. Enjoy!

↓ Supplies to make this recipe ↓


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