King Cake

Celebrate Mardi Gras with a King Cake. Everything you need to know to whip up a traditional New Orleans King Cake.

What is in a King Cake?

Celebrate Mardi Gras with a King Cake. Everything you need to know to whip up a traditional New Orleans King Cake.A King cake is eaten to celebrate Mardi Gras during carnival season and is a favorite at Mardi Gras parties.  The King Cake’s circular shape represents the path the three kings took to find Jesus in Bethlehem and or the shape of a king’s crown. The sugar topping is in the traditional Mardi Gras colors of purple (Justice), gold (Power) and green (Faith).  The colorful sugar topping also represents a jeweled crown in honor of the three Wise Men who visited Jesus on Epiphany.

What does it mean to get the baby in the King Cake?

A plastic baby is hidden in the cake, symbolizes the Christ child. The person who gets the baby is supposed to have good luck for a year and is to buy the next king cake, or in some cases, host the next king cake party.

When do you eat a Mardi Gras King Cake?

A king cake is eaten between January 6, otherwise known as King’s Day or Twelfth Night, and Fat Tuesday. Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras Day or Shrove Day) is the day before Ash Wednesday. It is a day when people eat all they want of anything they want before Ash Wednesday starts. Ash Wednesday is the beginning Lent, the long fasting period for Christians.

King Cake Recipe

What Does a King Cake Taste Like?

While I think my King Cake turned out well and tasted really good, I have never eaten the real thing! What does a King Cake taste like? Mine tasted like a soft cinnamon roll.  However, the taste will vary by where you are celebrating. In France, the cake is called Galette des Rois or Gâteau des Rois and in Spain and Latin America, it’s Roscón or Rosca de Reyes (King’s Ring). In the United States, it is made from a braided, sweet, cinnamon-flecked brioche dough, baked in an oval shape ring, and topped with white glaze and purple green and gold sanding sugar. Some are even filled with a cream cheese filling. If you celebrate Mardi Gras with a King Cake—please give us some details!

Find the small plastic babies at cake decorating store or party store. It does seem wrong to hide something in a cake that clearly says choking hazard on the package! If it worries you to bake the plastic, just shove it inside the cake after it is baked but before you frost the cake.

package of king cake babies

King Cake Ingredients


  • 1 pckg package active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm milk
  • 4 Tablespoons sugar
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter softened, cut into pieces
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg


  • 2/3 cup packed light brown suga
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter softened


  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons milk add milk 1 tablespoon at a time until the glaze reaches desired consistency. About 2 tablespoons.
  • sanding sugar green, purple, and yellow for decorations on top of the glaze

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  1. I’m a New Orleans native and have many king cakes when I was a child, the cakes were very simple and we’re basically a ring shaped cinnamon bread. Plastic babies didn’t exist so a dry bean or a coin was placed tin the cake. Later, king cakes got sophisticated and had various fillings like cream cheese or apples. Some king cakes are savory with a boudin sausage or a crawfish filling. The baby is never baked in the cake. The hostess always places in the cake before serving and cutting. That way she knows where the baby is and doesn’t cut through the baby.

    As they say in New Orleans- laisez le non temp roulee – let the good times roll’

  2. I made two of these yesterday, and it was an exercise in patience, that’s for sure. King Arthur Flour’s instant chat held my hand and that helped tremendously. I had to let my dough rise for hours, and it still didn’t really double. Next time, they suggest having the eggs be at room temperature, that may have slowed things down a lot. Also, mine were not done in 35 minutes, maybe because there were 2 sharing oven space? I don’t know, but then I let them bake way too long and they were dry.

    Still, the flavor of the dough was wonderful and I will try it again, but not soon. 🙂 I think they’d be wonderful for brunch, minus the colored sugar.

    Also, I try not to heat plastic in cooking at all, we’ve had some issues with estrogen and I just don’t go there, so I just tucked my babies in after they were baked. Worked fine.

    I love your blog.

  3. I made mine yesterday and posted it with a link to you! Mine was not NEARLY as pretty as yours and it was a little dense and dry…oh, well. It was fun!

  4. Your recipe looks pretty good! I’ve made several & that’s pretty close. I’ve eaten several different kinds from bakeries, too. I miss all the hoopla! 🙂

  5. I double checked the recipe and it shows the amount of liquid I used. Did you dissolve the yeast in 1/4 warm water? The dough is really dense—-and I didn’t think it rose very much. I couldn’t say mine actually ‘doubled’ in size. However, it seemed to bake and taste fine. I did have to tent the bread to keep it from getting too brown before the dough was baked.

  6. There must be a mistake in your recipe. There doesn’t seem to be enough liquid. I had to add close to the entire can of evaporated milk to get it to a soft dough consistency, ie, something that would rise. Make sure you tent the cake after 15 minutes and you may have to reduce the cooking time to 27 minutes.

  7. I really like the cream cheese filled kind and here is the quick and easy recipe I always use.

    2-8oz packages Cream Cheese, softened
    1/2-1 cup Confectioners’ sugar, depending on sweetness desired
    2 eggs, separated
    1 t. vanilla or almond extract
    2 cans (8 oz each) refregerated crescent rolls
    1/2 can pie filling, your choice

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat cream cheese, sugar, egg yolks, and extract together until smooth. Remove rolls from cans and arrange pieces around cookie sheet with points toward the center. Push the dough together, leaving the center open. Spread cream cheese mixture on dough. Top with pie filling. Fold dough over mixture and seal. Brush with beaten egg whites. Bake 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Drizzle with glaze (Confectioners sugar and milk with a little vanilla) and sprinkle with colored sugar.

  8. your king cake sounds like the original thing! now you can get all kinds of fillings and donut cakes and such. so bad-i really like them all and indulge for mardi gras every year. hope you have a great “fat tuesday”!!

  9. i’ve had several different “flavors” of king cake. most have had a lemony cream cheese filling, some have tasted like cinnamon rolls, and one very naughty one was filled with chocolate…mmmm

    i’m making one on monday so we can celebrate fat tuesday at work!

  10. Your cake is beautiful! I live in Baton Rouge and I know a good King Cake when I see one. It really is a fun and tasty tradition.

    As far as the choking hazard goes, you’re right…it could happen I guess, though most people know to “look” for the baby. Lots of bakeries stopped putting the babies in the cakes for that very reason. Now most places just include a little cello bag with a pair of beads, a baby and the history. I guess they figure you can insert the little guy at your own risk.

  11. I have been to New Orleans once, and I would love to go back.

    Your cake looks great! I really want to make one too! Thanks for the inspiration- I’ll let you know if I do!

  12. I have visited new orleans, several times and I have friends that have been to Mardi Gras lots, and this sounds like so much fun. Thanks for the great idea. pamela

  13. When I lived in mexico, they had a similar tradition….the Tres Reyes (3 Kings) cake which was served on January 6th, I believe. Whoever got the baby had to host a party during lent I think. The baby sort of reminded me of Casper the Ghost.

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