Mardi Gras King Cake: Recipe & History

pancake-amazing-cream-king-cake-decorating-idea-with-orange-green-purple-sprinkles-adorable-king-cake-decorating-ideasThe sweetest tradition of Mardi Gras is the vibrant, multi-colored King Cake. January 6th kicked off the Mardi Gras season for 2015. Staying true to Mardi Gras culinary tradition one must bake and serve this colorful, nut-filled wonder each year.

Similar to coffee cake, this ring-shaped confection is as rich in tradition and history, as it is in color and taste. Trademark sugars in the royal colors of purple (justice), green (faith), and gold (power)–honor the three kings who visited the Christ child on Epiphany, the 12th day after Christmas.  Modern tradition also allows for a bean or a small plastic baby to be put in the cake before serving. The person who finds the baby or Christ child has to buy or bake the cake for next year’s celebration.

Also known as King’s Day, Mardi Gras marks the start of merrymaking that continues until the grand finale on Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday.



1 cup milk

1/4 cup butter

2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast

2/3 cup warm water

1/2 cup white sugar

2 eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

photo source:goodiegodmother


1 cup packed brown sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

2/3 cup chopped pecans

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup melted butter

image (9)
photo source: eatrunread


1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 tablespoon water

Purple, yellow & green food coloring & course colored sugars.


  1. Scald milk, remove from heat and stir in 1/4 cup of butter. Allow mixture to cool to room temperature. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in the warm water with 1 tablespoon of the white sugar. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
  2. When yeast mixture is bubbling, add the cooled milk mixture. Whisk in the eggs. Stir in the remaining white sugar, salt and nutmeg. Beat the flour into the milk/egg mixture 1 cup at a time. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  3. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 2 hours. When risen, punch down and divide dough in half.
  4. Preheat oven to 375* Grease 2 cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.
  5. To Make Filling: Combine the brown sugar, ground cinnamon, chopped pecans, 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup raisins. Pour 1/2 cup melted butter over the cinnamon mixture and mix until crumbly.
  6. Roll dough halves out into large rectangles (approximately 10×16”)
  7. Sprinkle the filling evenly over the dough and roll up each half tightly like a jelly roll, beginning at the wide side. Bring the ends of each roll together to form 2 oval shaped rings. Place each ring on a prepared cookie sheet. With scissors make cuts 1/3 of the way through the rings at 1 inch intervals. Let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
  8. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Push the doll into the bottom of the cake. Frost while warm with the confectioners’ sugar blended with 1 to 2 tablespoons of water. Sprinkle same colored sugar over frosting. Or use white frosting with colored sugars.

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