Parent & Kid Friendly Recipes: King Cake
The King Cake is a tradition in New Orleans that involves a pastry, a small plastic baby, and a party. The party that this cake usually revolves around is known as Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras is French for “Fat Tuesday” because it’s a day for feasting before a religious holiday known as Lent, where people fast or give up certain foods for a period of 40 days.
The King Cake is baked with a tiny plastic baby hidden inside, and the person who gets the slice with the baby in it has to host the next party. However, if it’s just you and the kids at your “Mardi Gras party” this year, you can change the prize to something more applicable or forgo any type of reward other than enjoying the delicious cake together!
This classic bread-like cake is filled with a nutty, buttery filling and decorated with a bright myriad of colorful sugar and toppings. It’s not only fun to make, but it’s fun to eat! We love this unique tradition and celebrate the creativity behind it. We’ve put together a traditional King Cake recipe so that even your little ones can join in on cooking up all of the flavor. Keep reading for our easy King Cake recipe.
Now, it’s prep time to kick off the season of Mardi Gras activities. As the French would say—"Laissez les bons temps rouler"—let the good times roll!
- ½ cup milk
- ⅛ cup butter
- 1 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
- ⅓ cup warm water
- ¼ cup white sugar
- 1 egg
- ¾ tsp salt
- ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
- ⅔ cup chopped pecans
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup melted butter
- 1 cup confectioners' sugar
- 2-3 Tbsp water
- A small toy baby doll figure
- Green, purple, and gold-colored sugar
- Candied cherries
To Make Pastry:
- Bring the milk to a boil, remove from heat and stir in the butter. Allow mixture to cool to room temperature.
- Dissolve yeast in the warm water in a large bowl with ½ tablespoon of white sugar. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. When the yeast mixture is bubbling, add the cooled milk mixture.
- Whisk in the egg. Stir in the remaining white sugar, salt, and nutmeg. Beat the flour into the milk/egg mixture in 3 parts. When the dough has pulled together, turn it onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes.
- 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.
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease a cookie sheet or line one with parchment paper. Make sure you have this prepared when you are ready to bake.
To Make Filling:
- Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, pecans, and flour. Pour ½ cup melted butter over the cinnamon mixture and mix until crumbly.
- Roll dough into a large rectangle (approximately 10x16 inches or so). Sprinkle the filling evenly over the dough and roll it up tightly like a jelly roll, beginning at the broad side. Bring the ends of the roll together to form an oval-shaped ring. Place the ring on a prepared cookie sheet. Let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
- Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes until golden brown. Then push the doll into the bottom of the cake once it’s cool enough to touch.
- Finally, whisk together the confectioners' sugar in a small bowl with 2 to 3 tablespoons of water. Frost the cake while warm and decorate with purple, green, and gold sugar, pecans, and/or candied cherries. Enjoy!
- Be sure to tell everyone to inspect their slice of King Cake before they begin eating it. To be extra careful, use a plastic toy baby that is too large to swallow, or hide an orange wedge inside the cake in place of the toy baby doll.
- You and the kiddos can decorate your King Cake any way you want, but the traditional design, which represents a King’s crown, is as pictured!
- If you’re planning to decorate with colored sugar, make sure to sprinkle it on the frosting right after you pour it. Otherwise, the frosting will cool, and the sugar won’t stick.
- If you don’t have purple, green, or gold sugar, you can always add a little bit of food coloring to some of the frosting or white sugar for an easy recipe. For the full recipe, click here.
- This is a sweet cake packed with flavor, fun, and good luck. Whoever the lucky person at your Fat Tuesday Party is to find the baby in the King Cake - they deserve an extra slice!
- If you have a picky eater on your hands, let them know that some even call it a “Cinnamon Roll King Cake.”
- For nutritional information and allergy information, be sure to check out all of your baking ingredients beforehand.