Mardi Gras King Cake

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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 Mardi Gras King Cake. Make your own, better-tasting King Cake this year. 

Mardis Gras King Cake with beads and Mardi Gras Napkins

What is a Mardi Gras 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 has 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 bake this scrumptious bread/coffee cake.

collage of Mardi Gras King Cake after baking

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

Traditionally a King Cake has a tiny, plastic baby figurine hidden inside the cake. Tradition says that whoever finds the baby in their piece,  must host the party next year.

photo collage showing one photo of an unbaked King Cake and one photo of a King Cake after baking.

Just like when you bake cinnamon rolls, some of the filling will leak out onto the bottom of the pan. Be sure and bake it with some parchment paper or a Silpat underneath it, so it’s easy to clean up.

If you have questions about how to braid the King cake, be sure and watch the video.

Mardi Gras King Cake with gold, green and purple beads

What Is Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras in French means “Fat Tuesday.” Mardi Gras is a decadent celebration before Lent, a six-week-long religious fast before Easter. Carnival celebrations start on January 6, a date referred to as the Twelfth Night because it marks the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas. Mardi Gras ends on Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday and the first day of Lent. This year Tuesday, February 25, 2020,

Sliced Mardi Gras King Cake with gold, green and purple beads

Of course, you don’t have to live in Louisiana to enjoy this Mardi Gras King Cake. It’s been nine years since I first posted the recipe, and I’ve had comments from people all across the US, many who have Southern roots and celebrate with a King Cake this time of year.  Mel said:

I’m from New Orleans but live in a different city at the moment. I was really missing home during this Mardi Gras season and had never made a king cake before I found this recipe. Tried it and it was AMAZING! Thank you so much for this authentic recipe. You not only helped me make a bomb king cake, but allowed me to share it with my out-of-town friends and brought back some MG memories through this perfect recipe.

I hope you’ll give it a try too! I’ve added a video to show you how easy it is to make.

More Celebration Desserts You Might Like:
Pithivier (Galette De Rois / King Cake), Barbara Bakes
Easy Beignets, Barbara Bakes
Mardi Gras Cupcakes, Java Cupcake
Pull-Apart Mardi Gras King Cake, Joy the Baker

Mardis Gras King Cake with beads and Mardi Gras Napkins
Yield: 12 Servings

Mardi Gras King Cake

Prep Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Additional Time 1 hour
Total Time 2 hours 50 minutes


  • 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


  • 1 cup powdered (confectioners) sugar
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla


  • dark green, purple, and yellow or gold sugars
  • miniature plastic baby


  1. Mix 2 1/2 cups flour and yeast in mixing bowl, using the paddle attachment, on low for about 30 seconds.
  2. Heat milk, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat until sugar is dissolved and milk is between 120º to 130º.
  3. With mixer on low, pour in liquids and mix until incorporated. Add eggs one at a time. Continue mixing until a shaggy dough forms.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. While the dough is chilling, make cinnamon filling. Combine the brown sugar and ground cinnamon. Combine butter with cinnamon mixture and mix well.
  8. 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.
  9. Cut dough into three long strips lengthwise. Press the tops of the strips together and braid the strips. Press the ends together at the bottom.
  10. 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.)
  11. 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.
  12. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 350º. Bake the cake until it is golden brown, 20–35 minutes. (It should feel firm to the touch, and have an internal temperature of about 190°.) Remove from oven and let cool 10 minutes on baking sheet and then place it on a cooling rack to cool completely before icing.
  13. 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.

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Mardis Gras King Cake with beads and Mardi Gras Napkins
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