King Cake

As a New Orleans native, this is by far my favorite King Cake recipe. Of course, I may be slightly biased since this is the recipe that my parents always made, but it still gets rave reviews! I personally prefer the purple/green/gold sugar topping, but you can also make a cinnamon roll type icing to drizzle on top as well. Enjoy!


  • Cake
  • 1 stick plus 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2/3 cup 99% fat free skim evaporated milk
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 packages dry yeast (Fleishmann’s is best and check the date of expiration)
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
  • 2 tablespoons grated orange rind
  • 5 cups flour
  • 1 cup flour, set aside
  • Filling:

  • ½ cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • Topping:

  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup sugar, colored (1/3 cup each of yellow, purple and green)
  • 2 plastic babies (3/4 inch) or 2 lucky beans (dried fava)


In a saucepan, melt 1 stick butter, milk, 1/3 cup sugar, and salt. Cool to lukewarm.

In a large mixing bowl, combine 2 tablespoons sugar, yeast, and water. Let stand until foaming, about 5-10 minutes. Beat eggs into yeast; then milk mixture and rinds. Stir in flour, ½ cup at a time, reserving that last 1 cup to flour kneading surface.

Knead dough until smooth, about 5-10 minutes. Place in large mixing bowl greased with 1 tablespoon butter; turning dough once to grease top; cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 ½ to 2 hours.

For filling, mix sugars and cinnamon. Set aside.

For topping, tint sugar by mixing food coloring until desired color is reached (for purple use equal amounts of blue and red food coloring). A food processor aids in mixing and keeps the sugar from being too moist.

When dough has doubled, punch down and divide in half. On a floured surface, roll half into a rectangle 30 X 15. Brush with half of melted butter and cut into 3 lengthwise strips. Sprinkle half of sugar mixture on strips, leaving a 1 inch lengthwise strip free for sealing. Fold each strip lengthwise toward the center, sealing the seam. You will now have 3-30 inch strips with sugar mixture enclosed in each. Braid the 3 strips and make a circle by joining the ends. Repeat with other half of dough.

Place each cake on a 10 X 15 baking sheet, cover with a damp cloth and let rise until doubled, about 1 hr.

Brush each with egg and sprinkle the top with colored sugars, alternating colors.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake 20 minutes.

Remove from pan immediately so sugar will not harden. While still warm, place 1 plastic baby in each from underneath.

*To freeze: Wrap cooled cake tightly in plastic. Before serving, remove plastic and thaw.

Comments (5)


This recipe was a winner in the Times Picayune (spelling) Recipe Contest Booklet in the 1970's. It is a great recipe and when we moved to Florida in 1980, I made it during Mardi Gras season ---it gave us the feeling of being back in Louisiana. When my son took Humanities in high school, I made this for his cultural project and he told the story of the King Cake. Great recipe-a little challenging getting the strips to hold together but don't let that discourage you, it turns out fine. Yummy!!! Thanks for sharing and bringing back sweet memories.



As a former resident of NOLA, can you tell me if this would resemble any of the bakeries down there? I always loved McKenzies King Cake best. :)


Thank you sooo much for sharing this recipe! My home is South Mississippi, but currently live in South Florida, so no king cakes here!!! If Floridians only knew what they are missing...... Can't wait to make this!!!


I have heard of, but have never seen a king cake. What is it and what does it taste like? I believe it is served during Mardi Gras or Christmas but am not sure.