Chef Ryan

Cajun Chef Ryan

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King Cake ~ The Recipe

January 7th, 2009 · 11 Comments

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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 24th 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).

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.
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Tags: Baking · Cajun · Creole · Desserts · Mardi Gras · Pastry · Recipes

11 responses so far ↓

  • 1 King Cake ~ The Recipe // Jan 7, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    […] Go to the author’s original blog: King Cake ~ The Recipe […]

  • 2 King Cake ~ The Recipe | // Jan 7, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    […] King Cake ~ The Recipe […]

  • 3 Jeff Guillot // Feb 7, 2010 at 5:37 am


    I prepared your king cake for family and the result was amazing. the flavors were right on. King cake may not seem like a big deal except that I moved from Port Allen, La to Illinois and they aren’t as easy to come by here. Thanks

    Jeff Guillot

  • 4 Ryan Boudreaux // Feb 7, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    Oven temp is 350 degrees F!

  • 5 AnnaBelle // Feb 16, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    Fantastic recipe, I really enjoyed putting this together this morning. (Don’t worry, I’ll have it all served by the end of the night.) Thanks so very much!

  • 6 Tracy // Feb 20, 2011 at 9:39 pm

    I am really excited to try these recipes on my storytime students when we celebrate Mardi Gras. My question is I have only seen recipes for a white dough is there one for a chocolate or flavored dough, not just filling?
    Thank you

  • 7 Cajun Chef Ryan // Feb 21, 2011 at 9:26 am

    I have never made flavored King Cake dough; however, there is nothing wrong with experimentation. You could try adding some cocoa powder to the flour which would add some chocolate flavor to the dough. Might start out with about two tablespoons of cocoa powder the first time, if that is not enough then add more, again trial and error on several occasions would be the best bet. You could also try to add some chocolate chips to the dough as well, not sure how that would come out, but you can give it a try.

  • 8 LEARN FROM EXPERTS: King Cake Recipe Cream Cheese? - Directory // Sep 13, 2011 at 9:06 am

    […] King Cake ~ The Recipe ~ Cajun Chef Ryan – 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 res preview […]

  • 9 lee // Jan 6, 2012 at 9:09 pm

    If I add pudding, using already prepared pudding, is it safe to bake the already prepared pudding?

  • 10 Ryan Boudreaux // Jan 9, 2012 at 10:42 am

    Hey Lee, I am sure if the pudding is firm enough yet not over cooked that it should hold up when baked inside the king cake. It is only in the oven for about 30 minutes.

  • 11 Casey // Feb 4, 2012 at 8:57 pm

    Hi Ryan! This recipe looks great and I am going to try it Gluten free…I have Celiac and I really miss King Cakes!! Would you have any sugestions working with gluten free flours?!?! Thanks, Casey