Mardi Gras King Cake

Mardi Gras King Cake Recipe on Barbara Bakes

It’s Mardi Gras time! Mardi Gras conjures up images of fun, frivolity and feasting and no Mardi Gras celebration would be complete without a colorful King Cake. A brioche or sweet roll dough is braided, baked in a circle and decorated with icing and purple, green and gold sugars. Kind of like a crown shaped cinnamon roll all dressed up for a party.

My sister lived in Louisiana for many years and she talks about all the fabulous King Cakes she’s had over the years. So when Betty Crocker offered me the opportunity to develop a Mardi Gras King Cake recipe for their site, it was the perfect opportunity for me to finally bake this scrumptious bread/coffee cake.

My recipe uses Quick Rise yeast which eliminates the time consuming first rise in many brioche recipe. My cake is filled with a traditional cinnamon sugar filling, but would be fabulous with a cream cheese or fruit filling as well.

Mardi Gras King Cake

Yield: 12 Servings

Mardi Gras King Cake


  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) Quick Rise yeast
  • 1 cup milk (120º to 130º)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, cut into 12 pieces
  • Cinnamon Filling:
  • 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • Icing:
  • 1 cup powdered (confectioners) sugar
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • Decoration:
  • dark green, purple, and yellow or gold sugars
  • miniature plastic baby


Mix 2 1/2 cups flour and yeast in mixing bowl, using the paddle attachment, on low for about 30 seconds.

Heat milk, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat until sugar is dissolved and milk is between 120º to 130º.

With mixer on low, pour in liquids and mix until incorporated. Add eggs one at a time. Continue mixing until a shaggy dough forms. Clean off paddle and switch to dough hook. Mix in the remaining 1 cup flour a little at a time, adding more or less flour as needed to make a soft dough. Add the softened butter, a piece at a time, kneading until each piece of butter is absorbed.

Knead for eight minutes on low. The dough should completely clear the sides of the bowl. If it is too sticky, add additional flour 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing in thoroughly before determining if more flour is needed. If the dough seems too dry, spritz with water from a spray bottle a couple of times, mixing in thoroughly before determining if more water is needed. Every 2 minutes, stop the machine, scrape the dough off the hook, and then continue kneading.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times by hand to be sure it’s smooth and elastic. Form the dough into a ball. Place dough into a greased bowl. Turn once so greased surface is on top. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

While the dough is chilling, make cinnamon filling. Combine the brown sugar and ground cinnamon. Combine butter with cinnamon mixture and mix well.

Roll the chilled dough into a 10 x 20 inch rectangle. Spread the filling on half of the long side of the dough. Fold the dough in half covering the filling. Pat dough down firmly so the dough will stick together. Cut dough into three long strips. Press the tops of the strips together and braid the strips. Press the ends together at the bottom. Gently stretch the braid so that it measures 20 inches again. Shape it into a circle/oval and press the edges together. If desired, hide the miniature plastic baby in between the ends of the circle before sealing together in a ring. (You can also make a slit in the bottom of the cake and put the baby in after the cake is baked.)

Transfer the ring to a parchment lined or greased baking sheet. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rise until doubled, about 1 hour. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 350º. Bake the cake until it is golden brown, 20 – 35 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool 10 minutes on baking sheet and then place it on a cooling rack to cool completely before icing.


In a small bowl, mix powdered sugar, milk and vanilla until smooth (add additional milk if mixture is too thick or powdered sugar if too thin).

Spoon icing over top of the cake. Immediately sprinkle on colored sugar, alternating between the three colors.


Tips: - Use a pizza cutter to easily cut dough into strips. - The cake can also be made without braiding. Just roll up the dough jelly roll style after spreading the filling.

No Mardi Gras celebration is complete without a colorful King Cake

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    Leave a Comment:

  1. ChefNeo says

    Mam i don’t know you or where your from but this recipe is the bomb! We are all tearing into it as we speak. I couldnt wait until the morning to give you kudos so im doing now. KUDOS! KUDOS!KUDOS! And P.S, im from New Orleans so I know what its supposed to taste like and this is definitely it! Thank you so much for sharing honey you have a blessed day!!

  2. Jillian says

    Hi Barbara! I’m so excited to try this recipe for king cake! I was born and raised in Nola and moved to California 4 years ago. I was wondering…if I only have active dry yeast, will it make a huge difference in the results of my king cake? This is my first time making a king cake, and I don’t want to mess it up! Thanks!!!

      • Jillian says

        Hi Barbara,

        I just wanted to let you know that I made 2 of your king cakes and brought them to my office in San Francisco for Mardi Gras day. They were a HUGE success! My boyfriend even told me that they taste just as good, if not better, than the king cakes he’s had in New Orleans! I just want to say THANK YOU again. I will never use another king cake recipe other than yours!! Thanks again for making this NOLA girl feel like she had a piece of home!

        • says

          Hi Jillian – thank you so much for taking the time to let me know how much you and everyone loved my recipe. I’m glad that I could be a little part of your celebration. One day I’ll have to spend Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

  3. Taylor Brantley says

    My son’s birthday is tomorrow and so I went today to get all the ingredients to make this gem! Your directions are amazing and judging by others comments I will not be disappointed! I was born and raised in Louisiana and now live in Japan so buying one is not an option, sadly. But what’s better?! I get to make this cake! Thank you so much!

  4. Cristin says

    So, I made this today and it is delicious, BUT I lost half the filling oozing out the sides while it baked… Where did I go wrong? Help!!!

    • says

      Thanks Cristin – so glad you enjoyed it. You probably didn’t do anything wrong. Whenever you make cinnamon rolls, a lot of the filling bubbles out of the bottom of the rolls. It does help if you press the dough firm together before cutting it in to strips.

  5. says

    I tried this recipe today, first time ever making a king cake, and it’s amazing. I didn’t give it a chance to cool because I just had to taste it! I can’t say enough, just how delicious it is. Thank you for this wonderful recipe!

  6. Suzette says

    On my hunt for a king cake recipe I ran across this one and decided to make it. The brioche dough was amazing and the directions were so easy to follow. I’m a chef and lived in New Orleans for twenty five years and this honestly was just like the ones ( if not better) from the Big Easy. Because I’m used to having a king cake with a filling I follow the directions from this blog for a praline and cream cheese filling.
    With doing the filling I couldn’t braid it but it still tasted and looked amazing.
    It was such a huge hit with my family, co-workers and my native New Orleans friends I’ve made four of them. Thank you for taking the time to perfect this recipe. It a keeper!!!!!!!!

  7. says

    What a beautiful King Cake. I’m making my first this year – baking right now. I used the LAT recipe, but wish I’d seen yours first! I’m thinking I need to make your cake next week!

  8. Pete says

    Simply delicious! I was going to order a cake on line but after seeing the price tag of $50.00+shipping to get it here in CA, I decided to search online. WOW, it came out great. Lasted 2 days at the house and I’m making my second one tonight….this time with apple filling. Thanks…now my kids get to experience a little taste of what I grew up on. Native & left the city 25 years ago…but get back twice a year!

    • says

      Thanks Pete! Your comment put a smile on my face. So glad it tasted like you remember growing up. I’m sure your apple version will be fabulous. I am going to New Orleans for the first time in April. Suggestions?

  9. says

    Barbara, one of my absolute favorite things must be a cinnamon-sugar-filled yeast coffee cake and yours looks perfect! And the colors on top do make it so festive. Yum! I must start this tradition in France, too, for Mardi Gras!

  10. says

    I made a King Cake this year too. However I love the braided look of yours! I also left off the sprinkles, so I love your color.

  11. says

    A king cake for Mardi grass sounds wonderful.
    I love u used the rapid rise yeast , which one is good?
    If i use rapid rise yeast for breads too , i can do the same way and save time on the first rise?
    It sure looks good.
    And the cake is sooo cute and pretty too.

  12. says

    I heard of The King’s Bread. And there’s also King’s Cake? They look quite alike though. With sweet & colourful topping. Thanks for sharing anohter wonderful recipe. Hope you’re having a great day.
    Cheers, Kristy

  13. says

    Barbara – Not only is your King Cake beautiful – each time I stop by your site it gets better looking! You’re a Renaissance woman my dear – photographer extrodinaire, web mistress and fantastic chef!