Mardi Gras King Cake

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No Mardi Gras celebration would be complete without this traditional dessert.

If you can’t make it down to the Big Easy for Mardi Gras this year, no worries! Bring Mardi Gras into your own home and kitchen! This basic yeast cake is layered with delicious cinnamon and then topped with a sweet lemon icing and then topped with the classic Mardi Gras colors. Whip up a batch of authentic gumbo and then serve this for dessert!

An overhead view of a circular Mardi Gras King Cake that is covered with shiny bright purple, green, and gold edible glitter and is surround by Mardi Gras beads.

How to Make Mardi Gras King Cake

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The Ingredients You Will Need

There are three main components to this cake. First, is the cake itself which is a basic fluffy yeast cake. Next is the filling which is a butter cinnamon mixture. And then finally the toppings which are sweet and colorful!

For the Cake

Milk – Whole, warmed in the microwave until a digital thermometer reads between 110 – 120°F.
Sugar – Granulated.
Yeast – Active dry or Instant.
Butter – Unsalted, melted, and cooled.
Eggs – Preferably room temperature.
Flour – All-purpose.
Cooking spray – Or a little oil to grease your proofing bowl.

For the Filling

Butter – Unsalted, softened.
Brown sugar – Light is recommended.
Cinnamon – Ground.

For the Icing, Toppings, and Baby

Powdered sugar – Also known as confectioners’ sugar.
Butter – Unsalted, melted.
Lemon juice – Freshly squeezed is great, but bottled is just fine.
Vanilla extract – Go with a good-quality brand.
Milk – Whole is recommended.
Glitter sugar – Purple, Gold, and Green. Order online or find them at craft stores such as Michael’s or Hobby Lobby.
Baby – To hide in the cake. We stick it in one of the folds after it’s baked. Some folks bake the baby with the cake, but, we prefer to insert it after it’s baked. You can order them online.

EXPERT TIP: When rolling out the dough, you’ll need to make a rectangle that’s at least 24 inches long and about 4 to 6 inches wide. This will make a long braid that will make forming a circle easier.

Three images with the first being two rectangular pieces of dough with a cinnamon mixture on them, and then the dough rolled into a braid and then finally the braid made into a circle.

Tips for Making a Perfect Mardi Gras King Cake

Ensure the Dough Rises Properly – This is critical. Allowing the dough to proof twice, before the braid is rolled out and then after. The dough should proof in a warm, draft-free area until doubled in size which could take anywhere from 1 to 2 hours.

Don’t Skimp on the Filling – Sprinkle the cinnamon filling over the rolled-out dough, making sure to spread it evenly to achieve a flavorful and aromatic filling in every bite.

Carefully Seal the Edges of the Dough – This will help to prevent the filling from leaking out during baking. However, the usually is some leakage, which is normal. Sealing the dough minimizes this issue.

Let the Cake Cool – Before you add the icing, you must allow the cake to completely cool. If you don’t the icing will melt and fall from the cake.

A person using a flat-edge spatula to smear white icing over the top of a braided cake.

How To Serve

Once formed, a king cake takes up a decent amount of space and most likely won’t fit on a standard cake plate.

We recommend placing the decorated cake on a serving platter (flat) and then carefully cover with plastic wrap until ready to serve.

Legend has it that whoever gets the piece of cake with the baby, that person will have good fortune for a day or a year, depending on which tradition you believe in. The history of the King Cake is fascinating.

If you do include the baby in the cake, be sure to let your guests know so no one will be surprised and possibly swallow it!

A close-up view of a piece of Mardi Gars King Cake that is half eaten and a small baby is resting against the side of the piece of cake.

Other Classic Louisiana (including Mardi Gras) Recipes To Try

We just love the cuisine across the great state of Louisiana. From Cajun to Creole, to New Orleans, it’s all steeped in tradition from an array of culinary influences and is just delicious on so many levels. Here are some of our favorites that we’re certain you and your loved ones will love, too!

Shrimp and Okra Gumbo
Sausage and Chicken Gumbo
Authentic Jambalaya
Classic Dirty Rice
Red Beans and Rice
Crawfish Etouffée
Fried Catfish Po-Boy
Authentic Muffuletta
Creole Chicken and Rice
Cafe du Monde Beignets

These are all classic in their own way. But, in the meantime, isn’t this glorious cake calling your name?

A close-up view of a slice of Mardi Gras King cake with glitter green icing on top and a circular cinnamon filling is visible.

If you’ve wondered if a cake that is so colorful and so festive in appearance can actually also be delicious, we’re here to tell you without a doubt: YES!

Somewhere between a brioche and a cinnamon roll, the cake is not too sweet but is airy and delicious. The icing and sugar topping is a perfect sweet match to the simple cake.

Celebrate Mardi Gras with one of the most delicious (and gorgeous) cakes you’ll ever serve and eat!

A straight-on view of a colorful Mardi Gras King cake that has a slice missing where the cinnamon filling is visible and a large knife is next to the cake.

Ready to make the best dessert this side of the Big Easy? Go for it!

And when you do, be sure to take a photo of it, post it on Instagram, and tag @HowToFeedaLoon and hashtag #HowToFeedaLoon!

An overhead view of a circular Mardi Gras King Cake that is covered with shiny bright purple, green, and gold edible glitter and is surround by Mardi Gras beads.

Mardi Gras King Cake

This cake is quintessential Mardi Gras. Decadent, showy, and sinfully delicious. The cinnamon filling is the perfect match to the yeast cake and the sweet sugar icing and glitter sugar topping. Bring Mardi Gras into your own kitchen and make this glorious cake from scratch. It's easy and so much fun!
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Course: Breakfast and Dessert
Cuisine: New Orleans
Keyword: best King Cake recipe, how to make an authentic King Cake
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Proofing: 2 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours 20 minutes
Servings: 8
Calories: 826kcal



For the Filling

  • 8 tbsp unsalted butter 1 stick, softened
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp cinnamon ground

For the Cake

  • 1 cup whole milk warmed to 110 - 120°F
  • cup sugar
  • tsp active dry yeast or Instant
  • 8 tbsp unsalted butter 1 stick, melted and cooled
  • 2 whole eggs room temperature, divided (you'll use one for an egg wash before baking)
  • 4 egg yolks room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • cups all-purpose flour
  • cooking spray

For the Icing, Sugars, and Baby

  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter melted
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup whole milk
  • glitter sugar purple, green, gold
  • baby for inserting into baked cake


Make the Cinnamon Filling

  • Place all of the filling ingredients in a medium bowl and use a fork to combine them completely. Set aside.
    8 tbsp unsalted butter, 1 cup light brown sugar, 2 tbsp cinnamon

Make the Cake

  • In a small bowl, add the warm milk. Whisk in the sugar and yeast until combined. Let rest for 7 to 10 minutes, until foamy. (If it doesn't get foamy, your yeast is dead, you'll need to start over).
    1 cup whole milk, ⅓ cup sugar, 2¼ tsp active dry yeast
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the melted butter, 1 egg, egg yolks, vanilla, and yeast mixture. Add the paddle attachment and mix until combined, about 30 seconds.
    8 tbsp unsalted butter, 2 whole eggs, 4 egg yolks, 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • With the mixer on medium speed, gradually add the flour until completely combined. Remove the paddle attachment and replace it with the dough attachment. Knead the dough on medium speed for 7 minutes. The dough should pull away from the sides of the bowl and become elastic and not overly sticky.
    3¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • Remove the dough from the bowl and dough attachment and use your hands to form it into a smooth ball. Spray a large bowl liberally with cooking spray (or vegetable oil). Turn the dough over in the oil and place in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a non-drafty, warm area until the dough has doubled in size, anywhere from 1 to 2 hours.
    cooking spray
  • Preheat oven to 375°F.
  • Remove the risen dough from the bowl and place on a lightly floured surface. Use a knife or a bench scraper to divide the dough into two equal parts. Roll each dough into a rectangle that is approximately 24 inches in length by about 5 to 6 inches wide.
  • Spread the cinnamon filling on each dough, leaving about 1 inch of no-filling around the edges. Roll each dough tightly, lengthwise, sealing the seams with your fingers. Braid the two rolls and then form them into a circle and seal at the ends (see video for reference).
  • Place the unbaked cake on a large baking sheet that is lined with parchment paper.
  • In a small bowl, whisk 1 egg with 1 tbsp of water. Brush the egg wash over the top of the dough. Place in the oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, covering with foil after about 15 minutes (to prevent the top from getting too brown).
  • Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool completely before icing.

Make the Icing and Finish the Cake

  • To prepare the icing, place the sugar, melted butter, vanilla extract, and milk in a medium bowl. Use an electric hand mixer (or a wooden spoon) and mix until smooth and spreadable. The icing should be thick and not too thin. It should hold to an inverted spoon. If too thick, add a little more milk until the correct consistency.
    3 cups powdered sugar, 3 tbsp unsalted butter, 1 tbsp lemon juice, 1 tsp vanilla extract, ¼ cup whole milk
  • Once the cake is cool, press the baby into one of the folds from the braided cake. Next, use a spatula to smear the icing all over the top of the cake. Liberally sprinkle on the glitter sugar, alternating purple, green, and gold. Serve at once or gently cover with plastic wrap until ready to serve.
    glitter sugar, baby


See the video near the top of the blog post for visual guidance. If you liked the video, please subscribe to our YouTube channel. 
Make sure you allow your dough to double in size for the first round of proofing. This could take anywhere from 1 to 2 hours. Spray the top of the dough with cooking spray or brush with oil to keep the dough from drying out. 
Some of the butter-cinnamon mixture may leak out of the cake. Sealing the dough as best you can helps to minimize this. But, some leakage is normal and won't create a problem for the cake. 
The cake can be made 1 to 2 days in advance. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap until ready to serve. Leftovers will keep (covered) for up to 5 days. 


Calories: 826kcal | Carbohydrates: 129g | Protein: 10g | Fat: 27g | Saturated Fat: 15g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 8g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 174mg | Sodium: 33mg | Potassium: 196mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 81g | Vitamin A: 1029IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 119mg | Iron: 3mg
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