Mardi Gras King Cake

Happy Mardi Gras! No carnival celebration is complete without a big bowl of New Orleans Gumbo and a colorful King Cake!

Make your own braided King Cake for Mardi Gras, complete with brown sugar pecan filling, icing, festive colors and one plastic baby. #mardigras #kingcake #fattuesday

What is a King Cake?

King Cake is a traditional Mardi Gras sweet bread that symbolizes a crown, specifically one that the three kings who visited Christ on the day of his birth wore. Sparkling sugar colors represent purple for justice, green for faith and gold for power and prosperity.

How to make a mardi gras king cake.


A tiny plastic baby, baby Jesus, is inserted into each cake after baking. The individual who gets the slice with the baby will have good fortune for the upcoming year. They are also obliged to host the next year’s King Cake party or buy the next cake.

However, if you are slicing and happen to slice that poor little plastic baby, you will have bad luck for the upcoming year. If we are being honest, no one actually bakes the baby in anymore- they are a chiking hazard.

What is a king cake?

What Does King Cake Taste Like?

King Cake is called “cake” but is more of a cross between a Danish pastry and French brioche. They are typically only made during the time of Mardi Gras, which starts over a month before the actual week of festivities. Bakeries around town make their own rendition of the cakes and range from spongy to nutty and everything between.

Some are traditional, others aren’t. Antoine’s Bakery is wildly popular, but makes them in many shapes and sizes. While any local will tell you that Dong Phuong is absolutely the best. There are plenty available for tourists throughout the city and even at the airport out-of-season.

Mardi Gras King Cake Recipe - A giant sweet roll stuffed with brown sugar, raisins and pecans and decorated with icing and purple, green and gold sparkling sugar. Perfect for breakfast or dessert during carnival or on Fat Tuesday!

King Cake Fillings

The sweet and buttery bread can be stuffed with so many different things. My favorite is probably cream cheese, but each bakery makes a special filling every year. Other varieties include:

  • Pecan and praline
  • Caramel
  • Raspberry creme
  • Chocolate
  • Fruits and jams
  • Cinnamon sugar
  • Bavarian cream

My version is stuffed with a raisin, brown sugar and pecan filling and then topped with a powdered sugar glaze and bright sparkling sugar.

Make your own braided King Cake for Mardi Gras, complete with brown sugar pecan filling, icing, festive colors and one plastic baby. #mardigras #kingcake #fattuesday

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Overhead view of Mardi Gras King Cake

Mardi Gras King Cake Recipe

4.70 from 20 votes
Mardi Gras King Cake Recipe – A giant sweet roll stuffed with brown sugar, raisins and pecans and decorated with icing and purple, green and gold sparkling sugar. Perfect for breakfast or dessert during carnival or on Fat Tuesday!
Prep Time: 3 hours
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
Servings: 12 slices



  • 1/2 cup scalded milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter , melted
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1/3 cup warm water , no hotter than 110 degrees
  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar , divided
  • 1 egg , room temperature
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 3/4 cups flour



  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 3-4 tablespoons milk
  • Purple, Gold and Green Sparkling Sugar
  • 1 Plastic Baby


  • In a large mixing bowl or bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a which attachment, combine 1 package of dry active yeast, 1 tablespoon of sugar and warm water. Take care that water is not too hot or it will kill the yeast and prevent it from blooming. Allow to set until frothy and fragrant, approximately 10-15 minutes.
  • Whisk in scalded milk, melted butter and egg. When combined add remaining sugar (1 cup), nutmeg and salt, whisk again.
  • Change attachment to the bread hook (or beaters). Combine flour into wet mixture 1/2 cup at a time. Dough should start to pull away from the sides, if not, add small (1-2 teaspoons) of flour until it does.
  • Knead dough on low-medium speed (or with your hands on a floured surface) for 10 minutes.
  • Lightly grease a large mixing bowl, turning dough over once to evenly oil and prevent from drying. Dampen a tea towel, cover and set in a draft free place. Allow to rise until doubled in size, approximately 2 hours.
  • Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine all filling ingredients and toss until uniformly damp from melted butter.
  • Turn dough on a lightly floured surface and using a rolling pin, create a rectangle about 18×8 inches. Cut in half length wise with a knife.
  • Spread filling mixture evenly over both sections of dough, leaving a 1/2 inch at each edge.
  • Roll, lengthwise and jelly roll style, into a rope. Carefully, twist together the two ropes and form into a circle, pinch the two ends together to make a wreath.
  • Carefully transfer to a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Cover with damp tea towel and allow to rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes. King Cake should be lightly browned.
  • Remove and allow to cool fully. Whisk together glaze ingredients and drizzle over King Cake. Sprinkle alternating gold, purple and green sparkling sugar while glaze is still tacky.
  • You are ready to serve!
  • If you’ve tried this recipe, come back and let us know how it was! 


Calories: 505 kcal, Carbohydrates: 90 g, Protein: 5 g, Fat: 14 g, Saturated Fat: 6 g, Cholesterol: 40 mg, Sodium: 250 mg, Potassium: 156 mg, Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 58 g, Vitamin A: 335 IU, Vitamin C: 0.3 mg, Calcium: 52 mg, Iron: 2.1 mg
Author: Jessica Formicola
Calories: 505
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Creole
Keyword: king cake, mardi gras food
Did you make this recipe?I’d love to see your recipes – snap a picture and mention @savoryexperiments or tag #savoryexperiments!
Jessica Formicola in her ktichen

About the Author

Jessica Formicola

Jessica the mom, wife and food lover behind Savory Experiments. She is obsessed with butter, salt and bacon and spends all her time in the kitchen and behind a camera. Jessica is a contributor to PopKitchen by Parade, Better Homes & Gardens, The Daily Meal Food + Travel and more!

Read More About Jessica

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Recipe Rating

Questions and Reviews

    1. Just the regular .25 ounce, but if it didn’t rise that isn’t a sign of the quantity of yeast, it was likely that yours was no good. The concept of proofing the yeast (letting it rise) is proofing that the yeast is still active. It can go bad or if the water is too hot, it can kill it.

  1. You say 1/4 sugar in the ingredients then an entire cup in the directions. Which is it? Had to throw the first try out

    1. Hi Megan! So sorry for the confusion- I imported recipes from my old site and it seems this one had a glitch when using fractions. It is 1 cup and I’ll update the ingredient list.

  2. 5 stars
    loved the flavor. my only complaint is that the cake was very brown at the 18 minute mark when I checked on it. ended up lowering the temp to 350 and covered it with foil the last 12 minutes but the bottom was very tough.

  3. 4 stars
    I tried this recipe today. Thank you for sharing it.
    Although it did turn out tasty, I have a couple of requests:
    1. Please clarify the sugar measurements – I wasn’t sure what this meant –
    “1/4 tablespoon cup plus 1sugar, divided”
    I ended up using the 1 tablespoon in the yeast mixture and 1/4 cup in the cake mixture.
    I’m not sure if this was correct or not, I was going by similar recipes.
    2. The recipe doesn’t state how/where to use the cake portion’s 2 tablespoons of butter. I added it to the wet cake mixture ingredients, because that’s what made the most sense to me at the time.
    Aside from those two items that I was unsure of, it still turned out great and was
    exactly what I was hoping for texture-wise. Cheers and Happy Mardi Gras!

    1. Thank you for the feedback! We recently switched recipe templates and it seems some of the instructions were lost in translation. We will clarify.

    2. 5 stars
      I was nervous about the couple of errors in the recipe (didn’t use the butter in the dough cause I wasn’t sure how to incorporate it) but it turned out GREAT! So easy and yummy! I’ll definitely be making it again. It can “moonlight” as a breakfast bread for any occasion.Thanks!

  4. 5 stars
    This is such a fun tradition! I love the story behind it! It totally looks like it’s right my alley taste-wise, as well!

  5. 5 stars
    What a beautiful king cake! I have never known until now what the mardis gras colors representated. Thanks for that info and a fabulous recipe!

    1. I tried this recipe twice with no luck! I had to add quite a bit of extra flour to get it to a dough consistency, and then it didn’t rise. I thought maybe I didn’t let the milk cool enough the first time, so I made sure it was the correct temp the second time, but still had the same results. I’m not sure where I went wrong! Any pointers would be appreciated!

  6. This is so beautiful! I think I should make this and serve it with Gumbo for a special celebration! Thanks for the recipe.