HISTORY OF KING CAKES
In European countries, the coming of
the wisemen bearing gifts to the Christ Child is
celebrated twelve days after Christmas.
The celebration, called Epiphany,
Little Christmas on the Twelfth Night,
is a time of exchanging gifts and feasting.
All over the world people gather for the festive Twelfth
Night celebrations. One of the most popular customs is
still the baking of a special cake in honor of the three
kings... "A King's Cake."
Tradition has now evolved through time to obligate the
person who receives the baby (inside every King Cake) to
continue the festivities by hosting another king cake
King Cakes were originally a simple ring of dough with
little decoration. We have developed our own special
recipe as a signature item to become "The King"
of King Cakes.
The King Cake is made with a rich Danish dough, baked and
covered wth a poured sugar topping and decorated with the
traditional Mardi Gras-colored sugars (also available
with flavored fillings).
The end result is a delicious and festive cake
in traditional Rex colors:
Purple, representing justice;
Green representing faith;
Gold representing Power.
Hundreds of thousands of King Cakes are consumed at
parties every year, making the
King Cake another fine Louisiana tradition.
In fact, a Mardi Gras party wouldn't be
a Mardi Gras party without a King Cake.
Traditional New Orleans Recipe
1/2 cup warm water (110 to 115 degrees)
2 packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar
3 1/2 - 4 1/2 cups flour unsifted
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 cup warm milk
5 egg yolks
1 stick butter cut into slices and softened,
plus 2 tablespoons more softened butter
1 egg slightly beaten with 1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1" plastic baby doll
Pour the warm water into a small shallow bowl, and
sprinkle yeast and 2 teaspoons sugar into it.
Allow the yeast and sugar to rest for three minutes then
Set bowl in a warm place, for ten minutes or until yeast
bubbles up and mixture almost doubles up in volume.
Combine 3 1/2 cups of flour, remaining sugar, nutmeg and
salt, and sift into a large mixing bowl.
Stir in lemon zest. Separate center of mixture to form a
hole and pour in yeast mixture and milk.
Add egg yolks and using a wooden spoon slowly combine dry
ingredients into the yeast/milk mixture.
When mixture is smooth, beat in 8 tablespoons butter, 1
tablespoon at a time and continue to beat 2 minutes or
until dough can be formed into a medium soft ball.
Place ball of dough on a lightly floured surface and
knead like bread.
During this kneading, add up to 1 cup more of flour (1
tablespoon at a time) sprinkled over the dough.
When dough is no longer sticky, knead 10 minutes more
until shiny and elastic.
Using a pastry brush, coat the inside of a large bowl
evenly with one tablespoon softened butter.
Place dough ball in the bowl and rotate until the entire
surface is buttered.
Cover bowl with a moderately thick kitchen towel and
place in a draft free spot for about 1 1/2 hours, or
until the dough doubles in volume.
Using a pastry brush, coat a large baking sheet with one
tablespoon of butter and set aside.
Remove dough from bowl and place on lightly floured
Using you fist, punch dough down with a heavy blow.
Sprinkle cinnamon over the top, pat and shake dough into
Twist dough to form a curled cylinder and loop cylinder
onto the buttered baking sheet.
Pinch the ends together to complete the circle.
Cover dough with towel and set it in draft free spot for
45 minutes until the circle of dough doubles in volume.
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
Brush top and sides of cake with egg wash and bake on
middle rack of oven for 25 to 35 minutes until golden
Place cake on wire rack to cool.
If desired, at this time, you can "hide" the
plastic baby in the cake.
Green, purple, & yellow paste
12 tablespoons sugar
Squeeze a dot of green paste in palm of hand.
Sprinkle 2 tablespoons sugar over the paste and rub
Place this mixture on wax paper and wash hands to remove
Repeat process for other 2 colors. Place aside.
3 cups confectioners sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 - 6 tablespoons water
Combine sugar, lemon juice and 3 tablespoons water until
If icing is too stiff, add more water until spreadable.
Spread icing over top of cake.
Immediately sprinkle the colored sugars in individual
rows consisting of about 2 rows of green, purple and
Cake is served in 2" - 3" pieces.
KING CAKE WITH CREAM CHEESE
AND FRUIT FILLING
BASIC KING CAKE
1 envelope dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup milk
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
2 whole eggs
4 cups, approximately, unbleached flour
Mix the yeast with the warm water.
Stir 1 teaspoon of the sugar and 1 teaspoon of the flour
into the yeast and set aside.
By the time you have measured the other ingredients, the
yeast should be beginning to bubble and show signs of
Bring the milk to a boil and stir in the butter and the
Pour into a large bowl; the mixture should be lukewarm.
Beat in the egg yolks, whole eggs and the yeast.
Beat in approximately 2 cups of flour, until the dough is
fairly smooth, then gradually add enough additional flour
to make a soft dough that you can form into a ball.
Knead it, by hand or machine, until smooth and elastic.
Lightly oil a bowl, turn the dough once or twice in it to
grease it lightly all over, cover with a cloth and leave
to rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 1 1/2
to 2 hours.
Pat the dough down and cover the bowl with a damp towel,
plastic film over that and refrigerate until the next
This recipe makes enough dough for two king cakes.
Extra dough may be frozen, or make two king cakes and
Thaw frozen cake and reheat 10 minutes in a 375-degree
1/2 recipe king cake (above)
1 (16-ounce) can cherry, apple
or apricot pie filling
8 ounces cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 dried bean
(to bake in the cake as per tradition)
Colored sugars or confectioner's sugar
and food coloring
Remove dough from refrigerator and with well-floured
hands, while it's firm and cold, shape it into a long
Using a floured roller on a floured surface, roll out the
dough into a 30-by-9-inch rectangle as thin as pie crust.
Let dough rest.
If necessary, drain extra juice from pie filling.
Mix the cream cheese with the sugar, flour, egg yolks and
Spoon an inch-wide strip of fruit filling the length of
the dough, about 3 inches from one edge.
Spoon the cream cheese mixture alongside the fruit, about
3 inches from the other edge.
Brush both sides of dough with egg wash.
Insert the bean.
Fold one edge of dough over the cream cheese and fruit,
then fold the other edge over.
Gently place one end of the filled roll onto a greased
pizza pan or large cookie sheet.
Ease the rest of the roll onto the pan, joining the ends
to form a circle or oval.
Cover and let rest for 30 minutes.
Brush again with egg wash and cut deep vents into the
Sprinkle with colored sugars if desired.
Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until cake is well risen
Cool before icing with confectioner's sugar mixed with
enough water to make a spreadable paste and tinted
purple, green and gold.
Make one cake that serves 10 to 12 people.
If using a plastic baby instead of the bean, insert it
into the bottom of the cake after it is cooked.
Go back to the Mardi Gras page.