Chef Ryan

Cajun Chef Ryan

Feeling & sharing a world of cooking ~ more than your average Cajun


King Cake & Twelfth Night

January 6th, 2010 · 23 Comments

Mardi Gras Reveller

The Carnival Season in New Orleans commences on January 6, or Twelfth Night, and concludes at Midnight of Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday), which is February 16th this year. The first seasonal King Cake is baked for Twelfth Night parties and the first parade rolls on the St. Charles Streetcar lines in Uptown New Orleans. Originally an uncooked dry bean, but more recently a small plastic baby figure is inserted into the bottom of the baked cake. The lucky person who finds the “baby” in their slice of cake is crowned “king or queen” for the day. The traditional Carnival colors of purple, green and gold (yellow) are depicted in tinted sugar on the top of cake.

Mardi Gras Party

This traditional King Cake recipe goes back to before the 1980’s and is a classic. It will yield 1 average 12 to 14-inch ring of King Cake. In the restaurant I would make a much larger batch that would yield 6 King Cakes this size. The size will also increase a bit with the addition of a filling. This is typically a small sized King Cake, however, in the bakeries and stores you have a choice of small, medium or large cakes available. Extra large King Cakes have been known to be made on special orders, but for very large parties it is customary to order a number of them to fulfill the crowds.

King Cake Dough

½ Cup Warm water (110 degrees F.)
2 Pkg Active dry yeast
½ Cup Sugar (plus 2 tsp)
Cups All purpose flour, un-sifted
1 Tsp Nutmeg, ground or fresh grated
2 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Lemon zest
½ Cup Warm Milk (110 degrees F.)
5 Each Egg yolks
1 Stick Butter, (plus 2 Tbsp) softened
1 Each Egg and 1 Tbsp milk beaten (egg wash)
1 Tbsp Cinnamon
Procedure Steps
1. In a small bowl add the warm water and sprinkle in the yeast with 2 teaspoons of sugar. Allow the yeast and sugar to rest for 5 minutes then mix well. Set the bowl in a warm place for 10 minutes, or until the yeast bubbles and mixture almost doubles in volume.
2. Combine 3½ cups flour with ½ cup sugar, nutmeg and salt, then sift into a large mixing bowl. Stir in the lemon zest.
3. Create a “hole” in the middle of the bowl with the flour mixture on the sides of the bowl. Gently pour in the yeast mixture and the warm milk into the flour mixture. Add the egg yolks and combine the dry ingredients with the wet mixture. When the dough is smooth cut in the stick of butter 1 Tbsp at a time and continue to fold and combine until the dough can be formed into a soft ball shape.
4. Place the ball of dough on a lightly floured surface and knead adding up to another cup of flour in small tablespoon portions at a time. Continue to knead the dough until smooth, shiny and elastic, about 10 minutes or so.
5. Using a pastry brush, coat the inside of a large bowl evenly with 1 Tbsp softened butter. Place the dough ball in the bowl and rotate until the entire surface is buttered. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and place in a draft-free place for about 1½ hours, or until the dough doubles in volume. Using a pastry brush coat a large baking sheet pan with 1 Tbsp of butter and set aside.
6. Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a lightly floured surface. Using your fist punch down the dough with a heavy blow. Sprinkle cinnamon over the top and roll the dough into a cylinder or tube shape. Twist the dough to form a curled cylinder and loop it onto the buttered baking sheet pan. Pinch the ends of the dough together to complete the circle.
7. Cover the dough with a kitchen towel and allow to rise again in a draft-free warm location for about 45 minutes or until the dough circle doubles in volume.
8. When ready to bake the dough, pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Brush the top and sides of the dough with the egg wash and bake on the middle rack of the oven for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool cake to room temperature on a wire rack. Now is the time to hide the bean or plastic baby.
Tinted Sugars
Cups Granulated sugar
¼ Tsp Purple food color
¼ Tsp Green food color
¼ Tsp Yellow food color
Procedure Steps
1. While the cake is cooling prepare the tinted sugars by taking three separate bowls with ½ cup of sugar in each. Then take the purple food color and slowly drop a dot or two at a time into the sugar. Using a spoon stir to mix and spread the color around until all sugar is tinted. Add more food color as needed. Repeat the process for the green and then the yellow in their own bowls as well. Set the tinted sugars aside.
3 Cups Powdered confectioners sugar
¼ Cup Fresh lemon juice, strained
3 to 6 Tbsp Water
Procedure Steps
1. Combine the sugar, lemon juice and 3 tablespoons of water in a deep bowl whisking until smooth. If icing is too stiff whisk in 1 tablespoon water at a time until spreadable.
2. Place cooled cake onto a serving platter or heavy cake cardboard and coat the top and sides of the cake with the icing. I like to dip my fingers into the icing and then drizzle it over the top of the cake. While the icing is still fresh immediately sprinkle the tinted sugars in individual rows about 2 to 3 inches wide of the purple, green and gold (yellow).

King Cake

If preparing in advance allow the icing and tinted sugars to set up a bit then cover with a plastic bag or plastic wrap. Typically a King Cake can last 2-3 days un-refrigerated.

Note On Fillings: If filling the cake you will want to have your filling prepared prior to the step where you are twisting the dough. In fact, for filled King Cake dough’s I will roll the dough out similar to cinnamon roll or Danish dough style, instead of the cylinder shape as described above. Then I will sprinkle more cinnamon sugar and then add the filling. Then the dough will get rolled up around the filling jelly roll style. Then the filled dough is added to the baking sheet pan and looped into the circle and pinched before the second rising and baking stages. Typical fillings include sweetened and softened cream cheese, cherry pie filling, blueberry pie filling, lemon filling, custard filling, and my favorite is a double chocolate chocolate cake filling. Typically any pie or doughnut filling will work, you are only limited by your imagination.

Here is a typical cream cheese and fruit filling recipe:

Cream Cheese and Fruit Filling
1 Can Cherry, apple or apricot pie filling (16-ounces)
8 Ounces Cream cheese, softened
¼ Cup Sugar
2 Tsp Flour
2 Each Egg yolks
1 Tsp Vanilla extract
Procedure Steps
1. Using a floured roller on a floured surface, roll out the dough into a 30-by-9-inch rectangle as thin as pie crust. Let dough rest.
2. If necessary, drain extra juice from pie filling. Mix the softened cream cheese with the sugar, flour, egg yolks and vanilla. Spoon an inch-wide strip of fruit filling the length of the dough, about 3 inches from the edge. Spoon the cream cheese mixture alongside the fruit, about 3 inches from the edge. Brush the exposed dough with egg wash.
3. Fold or roll one edge of dough over the cream cheese and fruit in jelly roll fashion, and continue to roll the dough to the end, then brush with a little egg wash. Gently place one end of the filled rolled dough onto the buttered baking sheet pan, and then ease the rest of the roll onto the pan, joining the ends to form the loop or circle. Add more egg wash to “glue” the ends together. And then pick up from step 7 in the dough procedures above.

Twelfth Night Starts Mardi Gras Season

The first parade in New Orleans tonight is the krewe affectionately known as the Phunny Phorty Phellows with their annual 12th Night Streetcar Parade starts and ends at Beauregard Circle, at N. Carrollton Ave. near City Park and travels down Carrollton to Canal Street, turning at St. Charles Avenue, continuing to Napoleon Avenue where it turns and retraces its route to Lee Circle, Carondelet Street, Canal and Carrollton. The maskers will assemble on the neutral ground, 6:30 Sun., and board the streetcar at 7.

The Krewe of Alla hosts the first parade of the season, 1 p.m. Sun. in downtown Gretna, in addition to its traditional parade on Jan. 27, featuring 10 floats, including one from Grela, and marching bands. It begins at the base of the Crescent City Connection at Franklin Street, travels down Franklin, turns right at Stumpf Boulevard, left at Fifth Street, left at Lafayette Street, right at the West Bank Expressway and right at Huey P. Long Avenue, concluding at the end of Huey P. Long in downtown Gretna.

The Krewe of Claude begins their parade at Salmen High School off Pontchartrain Drive, ending at the Midtown Square shopping center off Gause Boulevard, Slidell and features krewe floats, a Sweet 16 float, and units including the Moss Point, Miss., High School band, St. Mary’s Academy New Orleans band, Salmen High School color guard and band, the Baby Dolls dance team, Galloway’s dance team and the Northshore Classic Car Club, 1 p.m. Sun.

Mystic Krewe of Satyricon hosts its 12th Night Ball at the Country Club, 624 Louisa St. The 6th annual gala benefits the krewe’s Carnival ball and features an open buffet, cash bar, silent auction and music by a deejay, 7-11 p.m. Sat. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door. Dress is cocktail attire. Call 525-4498.

A King Cake Kick Off Party will be held at Trinity Lutheran Church, 438 Oliver St., Algiers Point. Food, King Cake, German beer and entertainment by Benny Grunch and the Bunch, noon Sun. Call 368-0411.

Benny Grunch and the Bunch headline Mid City Lanes Rock and Bowl’s annual Twelfth Night celebration Sunday. The Bunch is enjoying their busy season and are now gearing up for Carnival. If you haven’t seen the band, they specialize in what only can be described as a very home town, lyrically influenced, “Weird Al” type of show.

Tags: Cajun · Desserts · Heritage · Holidays · Mardi Gras · Recipes

23 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Emily // Jan 6, 2010 at 10:41 am

    Wow! This looks awesome!!!

  • 2 The Hungry Mouse // Jan 6, 2010 at 10:54 am

    Definitely putting this on my list to make soon! Thanks so much, as always!


  • 3 Drick // Jan 6, 2010 at 11:09 am

    This is much more than I expected – very, very well done. Your recipe for the cake is awesome. My favorite filling is the vanilla custard followed by a cream cheese cinnamon nut filling.

  • 4 Gera @ Sweets Foods Blog // Jan 6, 2010 at 11:13 am

    Really this cake is for a King and Queen, absolutely scrumptious 🙂

    All the best,


  • 5 Shirley // Jan 6, 2010 at 11:37 am

    Wow! That’s some cake! and a lot of information.

  • 6 Alta // Jan 6, 2010 at 11:53 am

    The only king cakes I’ve ever had were store-bought, dried-out, sad excuses for cakes. Yours, on the other hand, looks delicious! And thanks for all the history behind it – I didn’t know all of this!

  • 7 Sook // Jan 6, 2010 at 11:54 am

    i like how colorful it is! Nice!

  • 8 HoneyB // Jan 6, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    I have never had King cake. I think I should experience the cake and mardi gras!

  • 9 Vegan Thyme // Jan 6, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    Love this recipe–I have been so afraid of trying this–and making a vegan version. I may have to give it a go! This cake is a very prominent item in St. Louis as we are home to the 2nd largest Mardi Gras in the country–down in Soulard. Can’t wait to read more about your celebrations!

  • 10 Noelle // Jan 6, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    Nice colors and recipe!

  • 11 sweetlife // Jan 6, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    I love the colors, I really need to try making this, my girls’ would love it!

  • 12 Trix // Jan 6, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    What a great series this is, I can’t tell you (and Drick of course!) how much fun I am having reading your posts, and wishing I were in Louisiana.

  • 13 PT // Jan 6, 2010 at 8:52 pm

    I feel like I’m enjoying in all the celebration, because this blog is so well presented. Thank you for sharing.
    Cheers, PT

  • 14 Beth // Jan 6, 2010 at 9:33 pm


  • 15 pegasuslegend // Jan 6, 2010 at 9:43 pm

    Wow this is the cake I love with the babies on it!!! I love it what a fantastic post thanks!!!

  • 16 Natasha - 5 Star Foodie // Jan 7, 2010 at 3:48 pm

    Thank you for the recipe, awesome!

  • 17 Sharlene Thomas // Jan 7, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    I just read all about you and these wonderful King Cakes in our little tiny local paper, today! Small world. What a wonderful venture.

  • 18 sizzlechef // Jan 11, 2010 at 9:53 pm

    Nice. Thank you for sharing. Cheers!

  • 19 CNY Dessert Muse // Jan 12, 2010 at 10:31 am

    Last year my daughter’s girl scout troop learned all about Mardi Gras. They even had a sleep over with other troops which included a Mardi Gras dance. They had to research, and I have to admit it was all so very interesting.

    Being that Fat Tuesday is on my birthday this year, we’ll be making a King Cake. I am so excited!!

    Thank you so much for sharing!! Cheers!

  • 20 Gitte // Jun 3, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    My friend Sue is a New Orleans native misplaced in Virginia. She has been telling me about the King Cake and other New Orleans traditions. I am SO giving her this recipe. Thank you for sharing. Love your web site btw.

  • 21 Cookery Classes Dubai // Mar 28, 2011 at 9:20 am

    Wow! Awesome, thanks for sharing…

  • 22 Eftychia // Aug 26, 2011 at 9:33 am

    What a beautiful cake! Thanks for sharing.

  • 23 chris // Feb 20, 2012 at 11:52 am

    This looks marvelous!!! Thanks for all of the specific directions–even tho I am late, I will try it.