BestReviews baking expert teaches you how to bake a king cake for Mardi Gras


There are many ways to celebrate Mardi Gras, including colorful decorations, festive music, exciting parades and fun costumes. If you are looking for a way to experience a traditional flavor of the carnival celebration, BestReviews baking expert suggests baking a king cake. 

Andrea Boudewijn’s experience as a Cordon Bleu-trained pastry chef makes her the perfect pro to teach you how to make this traditional treat that has special meaning beyond its delicious flavor.    

In this article, Boudewijn offers tips along with her favorite king cake recipe.

In this article: KitchenAid Classic Series Stand Mixer, the Chefmaster Liqu-Gel  Food Coloring Set and the Dalstrong Serrated Bread Knife.

All about king cakes

Thought to have been brought to New Orleans from France in the 1870s, baking a king cake has been a tradition during Mardi Gras for generations. Boudewijn explained the significance of the classic dessert. 

“King cakes are a long-standing New Orleans tradition made to celebrate the three kings in the story of the birth of Jesus Christ,” she said. “It’s typically served during Mardi Gras and consists of a delicious ring of gold, green and purple-glazed brioche dough filled with flavors like cinnamon, chocolate and cream cheese.” 

She added that the cake traditionally conceals a special surprise. 

“The eating of a king cake is only half the fun: A small token like a bean (the “feve”) or tiny baby figurine is hidden somewhere in the cake, and whoever finds the token in their piece gets to be king or queen for the day.”

What does king cake taste like?

In addition to the special meaning and decorative design that goes perfectly with the Mardi Gras celebration, Boudewijn said that a king cake also has a memorable flavor. 

“Typically, it’s sweet like a cinnamon roll, but every baker likes to add their own twists to the dessert,” she said. “I like to fill mine with Nutella and ganache. I’ve also had wonderful ones with almond filling, like an almond croissant.”

King cake recipe

“There are many variations to king cake recipes,” said Boudewijn. She provided one of her favorite recipes, which includes ingredients for the cake, filling and glaze, plus the steps for turning them into a king cake. 

For the cake:

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2/3 cup warm water 
  • 1/2 cup white sugar, divided
  • 2 quarter-ounce packages of active dry yeast
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

For the filling:

  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup currants
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup melted butter

For the glaze, make a royal icing:

  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar (powdered sugar)
  • 1 egg white
  • A few drops of lemon juice to thin and flavor the icing
  • Food coloring, if you’re coloring the icing in the traditional gold, purple, and green
  • The baby figurine or bean


1. Make the dough: Slightly boil the milk over medium heat. Next, take it off the heat, add your butter and let it cool.

2. Mix some of the ingredients: In a bowl, stir the warm water, 1 tablespoon of white sugar and yeast. Let the mixture rest for about eight minutes until it’s creamy.

3. Prepare the dough: Add the cool milk mixture to the yeast mixture and whisk in the eggs. Stir in the remaining white sugar, salt and nutmeg. Beat in the flour one cup at a time. When the dough comes together, turn it onto a floured surface and knead it until it’s smooth and elastic. This takes about eight minutes. Don’t overwork the dough or the cake can become tough.

4. Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl: Cover it with a damp cloth and let it rise in a warm place until it doubles in volume or about two hours. When it has risen, punch down and divide the dough in half.

5. Prepare to bake: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Oil two cookie sheets or line them with parchment paper.

6. Make the filling: Combine the brown sugar, pecans, flour, currants and cinnamon in a bowl. Pour melted butter on top and mix it until crumbly, then divide into two equal portions.

7. Form the cake: Roll each piece of dough into a 10- by 16-inch rectangle. Distribute the filling evenly over the dough and roll it up tightly beginning with the wide side. Bring the ends of each roll together to form two oval rings.

8. Place each ring on a prepared cookie sheet: With scissors, make cuts a third of the way through the rings at one-inch intervals. Let it rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, which takes about 45 minutes.

9. Bake the cake: Place it in the preheated oven and bake it until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. This takes about 30 minutes.   

10. Make the glaze: Stir together confectioners’ sugar, egg white and lemon juice. If you’re coloring your glaze, divide it into three bowls and add purple food coloring to one, gold or yellow to the second, and green to the third.

11. Glaze the cake: Push dough into the bottom of one warm cake. Let the cakes cool, then drizzle glaze(s) over both cooled cakes.

Boudewijn’s favorite products for making a king cake

Best AmazonCommercial Silicone Spatula Set

AmazonCommercial Silicone Spatula Set

Silicone spatulas serve many purposes, from stirring batter to scraping bowls. This versatile set includes four spatulas and two sizes. 

Sold by Amazon

Best KitchenAid Classic Series Stand Mixer

KitchenAid Classic Series Stand Mixer

Boudewijn recommended a KitchenAid stand mixer, as it’s made by a trusted brand and built to deliver impressive results. It’s a go-to favorite for mixing dough for all types of recipes. 

Sold by Amazon

Best HomeArray Stainless Steel Mixing Bowl Set

HomeArray Stainless Steel Mixing Bowl Set

You’ll need a large bowl for your king cake dough when it’s time to let it rise, Boudewijn said. A set of stainless steel bowls are ideal for this, as well as many other tasks in the kitchen. 

Sold by Amazon 

Best Harringdons Kitchen Dish Towel Set

Harringdons Kitchen Dish Towel Set

Don’t forget a fresh dish towel to cover your dough as it rises. This quality set includes 12 towels that are made of 100% cotton. 

Sold by Amazon 

Best Chefmaster Liqu-Gel Food Coloring Set

Chefmaster Liqu-Gel  Food Coloring Set

To give your king cake the classic colors, you’ll need food coloring. The BestReviews baking expert recommended a set like this one that includes hues to turn the icing gold, green and purple. 

Sold by Amazon

Best Fox Run Polished Marble Rolling Pin

Fox Run Polished Marble Rolling Pin

Made of nonstick natural marble, this rolling pin is constructed to roll out dough to perfection. It comes with a solid wood cradle for keeping it secure while you work. 

Sold by Amazon

Best Reynolds Parchment Paper.jpg

Reynolds Parchment Paper

If you plan to use parchment paper when you make your king cake, you can’t go wrong with a roll made by Reynolds. It’s a durable and eco-friendly choice that’s unbleached and compostable. 

Sold by Amazon 

Best Wusthoff Stainless Kitchen Shears

Wusthoff Stainless Kitchen Shears

Every home baker needs a pair of kitchen shears. Made of rust-resistant stainless steel, this pair is built to last and tackle numerous jobs in the kitchen. 

Sold by Amazon

Best Dalstrong Serrated Bread Knife

Dalstrong Serrated Bread Knife

Crafted of forged German steel, this serrated bread knife is one of our favorites for its strong 10-inch blade and balanced build. Chances are you’ll find it useful for cutting and serving your delicious king cake. 

Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

  • If you plan to transport your king cake, Joey’z Cake Carrier will help ensure that it arrives safely. 
  • You can pour the icing on your king fast and effectively with the OXO Good Grips Nylon Ladle that holds up to six ounces at once. 
  • Boudewijn said that it’s easy to manipulate dough while you knead it if you use a pastry scraper like this one by Spring Chef. 
  • An All-Clad saucepan will come in handy for numerous tasks, including making a king cake.
  • Don’t forget a metal whisk like this one by KitchenAid for whisking the eggs for your cake, Boudewijn advised. 

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Jennifer Manfrin writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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