Mardi Gras King Cake Recipe

Mardi Gras King Cake Recipe

King Cake is a Mardi Gras tradition! This buttery enriched dough is filled with a fragrant blend of pecans and cinnamon. Colorful sugar adorns the cake for a festive presentation, and a tiny plastic baby is tucked into the cake after baking for one lucky guest to find. (Tradition dictates that whoever finds the baby has to bring a King Cake to the next celebration!)
3 hours 30 minutes
30 minutes
1 Cake
Mardi Gras King Cake Recipe
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 packet instant yeast
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 3/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup melted unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2/3 cups chopped pecans
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup confectioner's sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon plastic baby (or use our mini gingerbread man cookie cutter!)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  •   Sanding Sugar Recipe

First, order a plastic baby from Amazon to hide in the cake after baking for one lucky guest to find.

Heat milk in a saucepan until just before boiling. Add in 1/4 cup of butter and remove from heat. Wait until mixture has cooled to room temperature.

Stir 1/3 cup warm water, instant yeast, and 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar into a large mixing bowl. Wait 5-10 minutes until mixture is frothy.

Once yeast mixture is frothy, whisk in the cooled milk mixture. Beat in the eggs, 1/4 cup (less the one tablespoon used earlier) granulated sugar, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon. When the eggs are fully incorporated, add the flour 1 cup at a time (up to 2 3/4 cups) until the mixture comes together into a ball.

Turn out dough onto a floured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes until dough is elastic and bounces back when pressed.

Mardi Gras King Cake Recipe

Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover in plastic wrap. Place in a warm area and let rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours.

To make the filling, combine brown sugar, chopped pecans, 1/2 cup flour, and 1 tablespoon cinnamon until incorporated. Pour 1/4 cup melted butter over the mixture and mix until crumbly.

Remove the dough from the bowl and gently roll & stretch it out on a lightly oiled surface until it is a 10 inch by 16 inch rectangle. Be gentle with the dough so that it maintains its light and airy structure.

Mardi Gras King Cake Recipe

Using a rubber spatula, gently spread the filling on the dough, leaving about a 1" border around the edges.

Roll the dough firmly over itself with the filling on the inside, like you would a jelly roll or cinnamon rolls.

Once the dough is rolled, bring each end to meet each other to form a circle. Lightly press the dough together so that it stays.

Mardi Gras King Cake Recipe

With kitchen scissors or a sharp knife, score the dough, making 1" deep cuts every 2-3" around the cake.

Cover lightly with a towel and let rise in a warm area for 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper. Make an egg wash by mixing 1 large egg with 1 tablespoon of water.

Lightly brush the cake with the egg wash--this will help it to develop a deep golden-brown crust.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Make green, yellow, and purple colored sugar.

You can use either sanding sugar or regular granulated sugar.

Cool the cake slightly on a wire rack. As it is cooling, make the glaze by combining 1 cup confectioner's sugar with 1 tablespoon of water. Pour the glaze over the still-warm cake.

While the glaze is still wet, sprinkle the colored sugar onto it. The classic design is stripes of yellow, green, and purple.

Push the doll or cookie cutter into the bottom of the warm cake. Before eating, be sure that everyone is carefully checking their slices of cake to avoid choking on the doll or cookie cutter. Whoever finds the baby is the King, and they have to bring a King Cake to the next Mardi Gras party.

WATCH: Learn how to make colored sugar for your Mardi Gras King Cake here:

Sanding Sugar Recipe


  •  White sanding sugar (granulated sugar will work in a pinch)
  •  Food coloring gel of your choice

Prep Time: 5 minutes.


Put the quantity of sanding sugar needed in a sandwich-sized Ziploc bag. If you do not have sanding sugar, you can also use granulated sugar in a pinch.

Using a toothpick, scrape off a pinhead-sized amount of food coloring gel from the tube. You need very little food coloring to color the sugar, and remember that you can always add more!

Deposit the food coloring into the bag using the toothpick. Seal the bag, and using your hands, gently massage the bag until all of the color is distributed. If you need to add more, follow the process above.

Pro Tip: If you accidentally use too much food coloring and your sugar is wet and clumpy, spread the sugar onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake in the oven at 120 degrees Fahrenheit for 5-8 minutes, until sugar has dried out and is loose again. Be sure to keep an eye on the sugar as it is drying. If it gets too hot, it will melt. If making this recipe with granulated sugar, leave in the oven for 3-6 minutes.

WATCH: How to Make Sanding Sugar